History of the Koori Centre
In 1975, 23 Aboriginal Teachers Aides were appointed by the NSW Department of Education. While NSW had been slow to appoint aides, it was the first state to require training as a condition of appointment, and for this training to be undertaken in a university. The Aboriginal Teachers Aides Training program began officially that year in the Department of Adult Education at the University of Sydney.
With the disbandment of the Department of Adult Education in 1983, the training program was relocated in the Department of Education, later the Faculty of Education, where it was known as the Aboriginal Education Assistants Program. It had become clear that the provision of training alone was an insufficient response to the needs of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students on campus.
In 1989, the Faculty of Education established an Aboriginal Education Centre and, in 1990, the Centre received substantial Commonwealth Government funding enabling it to provide a full range of support services. It also developed Aboriginal Studies programs in the University, drawing on the resources of the Sydney College of Advanced Education, one of the University’s amalgamating institutions.
The name of the Aboriginal Education Centre was changed to the Koori Centre in 1992, to better reflect its purposes and community association. In 1994, the Koori Centre left the Faculty of Education and became a mainstream University initiative. It also moved from the Mackie Building to the Old Teachers College, a site in the heart of the Camperdown campus.
Sydney’s Aboriginal History
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the world’s oldest living civilisation; they have inhabited the land of Australia for over 60,000 years. In their time as custodians of this land, Aboriginal peoples across the country have developed a sophisticated, diverse, rich culture involving complex kinship systems, languages, laws, rituals and spirituality; each inextricably linked with their commitment and connection to the land, its flora and fauna.
The numerous campuses of the University of Sydney are located in the home country of many Aboriginal peoples.
The traditional owners of the Sydney city region are the Cadigal people, whose land stretches south from Port Jackson inland to Petersham. Some of our largest campuses are located in this country, including Sydney’s Camperdown campus. It sits at a traditional Aboriginal gathering and hunting place known as the ‘Kanguroo Ground’ along an arterial walking route between the fresh waters of the Cooks River through to the fishing and trading grounds of the Harbour and Botany Bay; at the site of the ancient Blackwattle Creek, a marshy, vegetative, tidal watercourse that extended from Glebe towards Redfern whose vestiges can be traced to the duck pond in Victoria Park, directly in front of the University Quadrangle.
The Conservatorium of Music also stands on Cadigal land within the Eora nation, close to a ceremonial initiation site in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens near the camping and trading grounds of renowned Aboriginal explorer Bowen Bungaree, his mother Queen Cora Gooseberry and their family from Broken Bay; east of the place Sydney College of Arts now stands in Rozelle on the land of Bennelong and the Wangal people who danced, fished and hunted on the south side of Parramatta River prior to encountering the European settlers in 1788.
The University of Sydney acknowledges these peoples and the traditional owners upon whose ancestral lands each of its campuses stand:
- Cadigal and Wangal of the Eora nation (Camperdown and Darlington campuses, Burren and Mallet Streets, the College of Art, Rozelle, and the Conservatorium of Music, Sydney);
- Wangal and Deerubbin (Lidcombe campus)
- Tharawal (Camden and Cobbitty Campuses)
- Ngunnawal (Canberra Campus)
- Wiradjuri (Dubbo Clinical School)
- Gamilaroi (Moree and Narrabri Campuses)
- Bundjulong (Lismore Campus)
- Wiljali (Broken Hill Campus)
- Gureng Gureng (One Tree Island Research Station)
As we share in the long tradition of teaching and learning on this land, Sydney pays its respects to Elders past and present who maintain their eternal relationship and spiritual connection with their country, their people and their Dreaming.
The University of Sydney’s Reconciliation Statement demonstrates our commitment to Aboriginal reconciliation and the self-determination of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The University of Sydney’s Integrated Strategy, Wingara Mura – Bunga Barrabugu reflects our pledge to honour our obligation to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation, engagement, education and research, both at the University and in the wider Australian society.
Taking Our Place: Aboriginal Education and the story of the Koori Centre...
Taking Our Place: Aboriginal Education and the story of the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney
by Ms Janet Mooney and Dr John Cleverley, was published in 2010.
Purchase a copy from Sydney University Press here.