News

University of Sydney talks recognition for National Reconciliation Week


27 May 2011

The Sea of Hands will cover the University's Front Lawn during Reconciliation Week.
The Sea of Hands will cover the University's Front Lawn during Reconciliation Week.

The University of Sydney will show its support for reconciliation as it hosts a range of free, public events to mark this year's Reconciliation Week.

National Reconciliation Week commemorates the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, which saw more than 90 percent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the national census. The national theme for this year's event is 'Let's Talk Recognition'.

The advancement of Indigenous participation, engagement, education and research is a key feature of the university's current Strategic Plan.

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, says: "As one of the country's foremost universities, we are committed to playing a leading national role in the process of reconciliation, and, through education, to help bridge the economic and social divides that persist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians."

This major commitment was made clear with last month's appointment of the first Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), Professor Shane Houston.

"Some of the most important gains in Australia's relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been driven by partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians," Professor Houston says.

"Reconciliation Week gives us all as a University community an opportunity to take another significant step towards a fair and compassionate Australia."

An Indigenous Acknowledgement Plaque installation has recently seen two identical signs installed at the Camperdown and Darlington campus entrances at University Avenue (from Victoria Park) and Cadigal Green.

(L-R) Professor Shane Houston and Dr Michael Spence.
(L-R) Professor Shane Houston and Dr Michael Spence.

The design of the plaques was chosen from a field of entries by selected Indigenous artists, and reads:

'The University acknowledges, with great respect, the connection to this land for the Cadigal People of the Eora Nation'.

A flag-raising ceremony will officially launch the Reconciliation Week events, for the first time raising the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on the University's iconic Clocktower. The ceremony will be attended by local community members and university leaders, with Professor Houston acting as master of ceremonies. It will also feature a performance from celebrated Indigenous singer Emma Donovan, accompanied by the Darlington Public School Choir.

Other events will include the construction of the Sea of Hands public artwork in the Quadrangle, a lecture by Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, a photographic exhibition and a tour of Indigenous art and artefacts at the university.


The full program of events will include:


  • Flag-raising ceremony

Dr Michael Spence, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney will join local community members as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are raised on the Clocktower flagpole. This will be followed by a performance by celebrated Indigenous musician Emma Donovan and the Darlington Public School Choir. A free barbecue lunch will be provided.

When: 12.30pm, Monday 30 May

Where: Clocktower, University Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Professional photographs will be available upon request after the event



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mr Mick Gooda.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mr Mick Gooda.

'Effective engagement: the tonic for a reconciled nature' will be the topic of a special Sydney Ideas lecture by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mr Mick Gooda. He will argue that without effective engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the reconciliation movement will stall.

When: 6pm, Monday 30 May

Where: Great Hall, University Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Bookings required 



  • Sea of Hands

The University's iconic Quadrangle will play home to one of Australia's largest public artworks to show support for reconciliation in Australia. Members of the public are invited to sign their name on a plastic hand to include in the installation, contributing their voice in the growing number of Australians supporting reconciliation and Native Title. This year's design was created by Maryke McGrath, a Bachelor of Visual Arts Honours candidate and print media student at Sydney College of the Arts. Hands will be arranged in the shape of a head, which represents an individual's responsibility and ability to take action and spread the message of awareness and support for social issues in Australia.

When: Monday 30 May to Friday 3 June

Where: Front Lawns, University Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Professional photographs will be available upon request after the event



  • Indigenous Heritage Tour

Indigenous Heritage Curator Matt Poll will lead a one-off tour of the university's Macleay Museum, showcasing the 'Outlines' exhibition of Indigenous art and artefacts from New South Wales and the Pacific region.

When: 2 to 3pm, Monday 30 May

Where: Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane, Camperdown Campus

Bookings required 


'Let's Face It', a photographic exhibition documenting survivors of the Kinchela Boys' Home.
'Let's Face It', a photographic exhibition documenting survivors of the Kinchela Boys' Home.


This exhibition by photographer Sarah Barker documents survivors of the Kinchela Boys' Home (KBH), which was the home of between 400 and 600 Aboriginal boys forcibly removed from their families between 1924 and 1970. The photographs are portraits of some of the men who were stolen in infancy, forbidden from speaking their Indigenous languages, brutalised as children, and sent into the world without family or complete education. Presented with the support of members of the KBH Aboriginal Corporation.

When: Tuesday 24 May to Friday 24 June

Where: Fisher Library, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus



Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 9351 2261, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au