Cultural Diversity at UON

Melissa Wilson takes a closer look at the cultural diversity here at the University of Newcastle

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When you’re walking between lectures or getting lunch in one of the many eateries around campus, it’s impossible to ignore the cultural diversity we’re in the midst of here at UoN.

The university boasts a large international student community, which exists in harmony with local and indigenous students. In fact, the Australian Education Network found that in 2014 there were 5,904 international students at the uni, making up a total of 16.2% of all students.

The university is also proud to educate over 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, with enrolments of Indigenous students increasing each year. Additional to this, the University of Newcastle boasts the highest number of indigenous staff members of any university in Australia.

Part of what makes UoN one of the country’s leaders in indigenous education is a result of the guidance provided by the Wollotuka Institute. The Institute is situated on the Hunter side of the Callaghan campus as well as at the Ourimbah and Port Macquarie campuses.

With a name meaning ‘the eating and meeting place’ in local Awabakal language, the institute has made a great contribution to ‘shaping and developing a locally defined set of cultural standards’ within the greater surrounding community of the University.

University of Newcastle indigenous graduate turned ABC News Darwin cadet Elliana Lawford reflects on what Wollotuka meant to her during her studies,

‘Wollotuka really helped me during my degree because the people that work there are so supportive and they’re all black fellas too so they know the issues we face at home and can help us through that stuff.’

The Wollotuka Institute also offers academic enabling programs which are aimed at indigenous students aged 17 and over, allowing a pathway into further study.

Elliana says she benefitted most from the cultural connection she felt every time she visited the Wollotuka institute, ‘All the staff and students became like family for me and that made me really want to go to uni everyday.’

Image: Melissa Wilson