Introduction

Introduction from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence

We started this journey together in 2008. The review of indigenous education very clearly put before us the need for Sydney to think anew about the way we approach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, research and engagement, and how we take into our core business the commitments we make in this important area.

The University’s Green Paper pushed the University to set new benchmarks in excellence in this area. The White Paper affirmed our resolve to improve Aboriginal visibility and recognition on campus; participation and success; awareness and curriculum; Aboriginal involvement in decision-making and our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We have not been idle since the three senior Aboriginal academics handed me their review report in 2009. The University has already acted on a number of key themes and recommendations:

  • recruiting to a senior Aboriginal leadership role
  • finding new partnerships with Aboriginal and other community service organisations
  • investing in new cross-cultural training for staff
  • adding our world-class research talent to efforts to address the wicked problems Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples confront.

This integrated strategy collects these recommendations, insights and commitments and brings them together in a coherent story, direction and purpose. It establishes a vision for the University of Sydney as a uniquely Australian institution, one that is shaped by and helps shape our national story and identity. It creates an opportunity for us to appreciate the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture as a part of that story and identity.

There are challenges in the pathways ahead. But we will not be swayed or defeated by them. The University of Sydney has a rich history of giving life to new ideas and offering new opportunities to those who have had too few. The strategy has four main elements:

  • imagining a uniquely Australian university
  • our stories, our future
  • our pathways, our future
  • realising our future.

Together, they direct the action that we will take to place our University first in the minds of Australians, as their university.

Michael Spence
Vice-Chancellor and Principal


Introduction from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Photo of Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Human rights provides us with a set of minimum legal standards which if applied justly to all people establishes a framework for a society that fosters dignity and equality of all citizens.

The global community is committed1 to education “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups2, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace”.

Our respect for the diversity of the human family has been strengthened by a global agreement upholding that Indigenous peoples: are equal to all other peoples, while recognising the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such, and further that “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their right.”3

These declarations provide a roadmap to the realisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights in an inclusive, tolerant, diverse and respectful Australian society. They inform the role the University can and should play in this endeavour. These guideposts help the University of Sydney promote equality and respect for difference. The challenge for the University is to be open to different ways of working, that tackle the uneven playing field, all the while maintaining a commitment to a quality education.

This integrated strategy declares a commitment to a reconciled future and sounds as a clarion call to Australians and to Australian universities. everyone should heed the call.

Mick Gooda
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner


1. United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, 1948
2. Emphasis added
3. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007