Imagining a uniquely Australian university

Photo of Adam Miller and Simone-Cherie Holt

Health Sciences student Adam Miller with Indigenous Student Support and Recruitment Officer Simone-Cherie Holt at the Yooroang Garang centre in the Faculty of Health Sciences

The relationship between the past and the future is a puzzle placed in the hands of the present. The responsibility held by the present is the careful stewardship of the resources and opportunities at hand, the identity and knowledge we inherit from our past, and the possibilities and aspirations we hold for the future. It is a responsibility fuelled by imagination and hope; the intention, recognition, understanding and vision that refuses to accept the circumstances as they are now, in favour of what should be.

Individuals and institutions in our society, including universities, share this stewardship responsibility. Neither can be just an interested spectator if we are to fulfil our obligations to the future; institutions and individuals are interdependent.

At this university engaged and hopeful students, staff, alumni and supporters each help us realise the vision we have for our institution and our society. The University, in turn, empowers students, staff, alumni and supporters to keep us focused, to keep the hope and vision alive. This interdependence sets up ripples that extend beyond the University to the wider circle of life in the Australian and international community.

This Integrated Strategy provides the University community with a scaffold of imagination that helps us manage our responsibilities and focus our efforts. It creates for the University a vision of the future that safeguards the valued past, and equips the present with the tools that enable it to fulfil its role as steward, ethically and actively.

The scaffold seeks to support our vision for Sydney as a uniquely Australian university. But, in an increasingly global community is there anything that makes us uniquely Australian, and what roles does a university play? The 23 million Australians are not of a single culture, nor are they of a single history. What is a uniquely Australian university and how is it imagined into reality? For this strategy, the answers rest in giving no preference to any one set of stories, values or behaviours in our education, research and values and practice. The strategy rests on an Australian and a University vision that values the complex range of Australian relationships, histories, cultures and aspirations and through education, research and engagement weaves them respectfully into a richer, complex but coherent Australian narrative and identity.

This strategy specifically focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and peoples. It frames an approach that will see change in the fabric and substance of individual and institutional relationships, reflection, effort and organisation at Sydney. The strategy will influence governance and standards, teaching and learning, community and stakeholder engagement, research, and the cultural and built environment of the University community.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the strategy recognises and encourages connections with cultural, historical and symbolic representations and challenging realities. It also creates the opportunity and capabilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians to share, to think and learn, and to contribute to the other.

Aboriginal culture and experience offers a broad framework that allows Aboriginal peoples to understand each other and the world we each live in. It provides the tools for us to learn, to know and act in a manner that respects our responsibilities to our past, present and future. This strategy employs this framework, as the foundation for the scaffold of imagination.

The transition between past and future that the present now confronts will be made more inclusive and more stable because of this strategy. Because of our leadership and commitment to this strategy we will build a reputation as a uniquely Australian institution. We will be uniquely Australian because we will have created a richer, more embracing understanding and representation of Australians, and have brought it into the core of who we are.

We will be exceptional, distinctive and outstanding.