Good morning to Marta Fernández, Executive Director RMIT Europe and Inés Crosas, Project Officer, Partnerships and Communication also at RMIT Europe. Thanks so much for joining us this rainy Melbourne evening. I’m hoping you are having some sunshine there in the morning in Barcelona. I’m going to kick off with a question to you, Marta. I’d like to know how your commitment to reconciliation manifests in your leadership approach with your team.
Thank you very much, Andy, for the question. We do have a sunny day starting here in Barcelona. But to your question, we-- you know, we always in the world and everyone that joins in RMIT Europe has a level of awareness about reconciliation. You know, we need to acknowledge that we are an Australian institution, and we need to have an understanding of the culture and how reconciliation, what does it mean for the University?
And the other angle is that we like to also-- I like to extrapolate it, so that we can reflect on what it means for us here in Barcelona. And how that has an impact on how we relate to the local culture and how it relates to how we need to acknowledge what’s surrounds it here and appreciate it and respect it. And in the last year, we started doing a lot more with reconciliation. And one of our colleagues, Inés here, is participating in the Ngarara Reconciliation Committee meetings and has brought in a number of initiatives to the team. So, Inés , would you like to share with the team some of those activities that you brought to RMIT Europe and, you know, how you are—how you are leading them?
Of course. Thank you very much for the invitation and for having me here. So, at RMIT Europe, we are increasingly embedding reconciliation in our day-to-day practice. And also, we are trying to involve Australian Indigenous communities as much as possible in our opportunities in Europe.
In terms of how we are building our capability on reconciliation and in relation to reflexivity, I would like to highlight that in the last year we started incorporating Australian Indigenous language by renaming some of our regular meetings and forms of communication. In order to reflect on these changes, for example, I organised an interactive activity with the team in which they had to answer two questions regarding on how important is their mother tongue and why is so important to recognise the many different languages that were spoken in Australia for thousands of years before British occupation? And we actually did the visual representation of the key answers using Indigenous methodologies. Another example is the creation of our team’s channel called Yabber, which means talk. In this channel, what we do is we share a page, we share relevant information, and we encourage the team to participate and share ideas related to Indigenous topics.
In terms of professional development activities, I think that it’s interesting to mention the lunch and learn that we organised with the Indigenous engagement team as part of NAIDOC week. And the aim of this-- of this session was to somehow bring Australian Indigenous context closer to Europe, to understand and understand the true meaning of celebrating history, culture and the achievements of the first peoples. And actually, it was very interesting, because this session opened a discussion on how we should apply Acknowledgement of Country and in our local context. So, these are some examples of activities that we have been doing with the aim to try to drive transformational change by listening and learning from Australian Indigenous community.
Wow, such a fantastic range of activities that you’ve organised. I think there’d be a lot of teams here in Melbourne who would be keen to actually adopt some of those themselves, thanks so much for that summary. Fantastic. Marta, what does RMIT’s commitment to reconciliation mean in the context of Europe and how do you carry it as a value that differentiates RMIT from other universities?
Thanks, well Europe has a very rich history and, you know, it has very different rounds of colonisation, conquering, reconquering. So, reconciliation means something different here. Europe is certainly very proud of its history and it’s celebrated, and you have plenty of monuments and festivals and so on that celebrate that rich history. So, what we’ve done is kind of translate it to this acknowledgement of place, the place where we are. RMIT Europe is grounded in Barcelona, in Catalonia. And in terms of differentiating ourselves, we should actually be exemplar on how we show that respect and that understanding of the local culture of wherever we are.
So, one of the things that we’ve done, as well as we-- you know, we have this as something that is different to us. We tried to bring in that understanding of Indigenous cultures to the work we do in research and innovation. So, we have submitted a couple of research proposals that are also bringing in Indigenous activities from other areas of Europe.
Wow, again, fascinating insight into how, you know, across sort of continents and time zones there is some sort of common ground that we can find and the work that we’re doing at RMIT. Again, that’s wonderful to hear. A question for you now, Inés , you’re a Catalonian national embedded in a multicultural team working for an Australian university. How have the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people’s self-determination and sovereignty been inspiring to you?
Very good question. So, working for RMIT Europe and being the reconciliation champion for the team has given me the opportunity to learn and understand the true history of Australia. For me, it has been the first time that I have done an Acknowledgement of Country. And also, learning what is an Acknowledgement of Country for me has been very inspiring. In my opinion, it’s an absolutely relevant practice to show respect and awareness to the traditional owners of the land. And even though the Spanish context is very different, and we don’t have Indigenous communities, we do have many communities that have been displaced from their homes due to social and economic inequalities. So, we can have—find some similarities and it’s an example to follow through in terms of acknowledging these accordingly.
Secondly, I think it has been very inspiring to me to learn more about Aboriginal knowledge systems. And I’m trying to recommend them, and I have learned-- come across very interesting learning techniques such as story sharing, the visual representation show-- using, sorry, using symbols and images. And I think the fact of trying to intersect different knowledge systems and creating new knowledge is something very powerful and enriching.
And finally, just from a sustainability perspective, I think that Indigenous thinking is key. In the case of Australian Indigenous communities, we are talking about the oldest, continuous cultures on earth. So, I think this is absolutely important to work with and learn from Australian Indigenous communities, particularly even more in the current context of climate emergency.
It’s fantastic to hear. There are so many parallels and so much that resonates with what you are saying with some of the conversations we are having here in Australia. So, it’s really nice to see those parallels and fantastic to hear in the context of RMIT Europe and what we’re doing here. I’ve got time for one last question to you, Marta. What has been your experience to date in relation to knowing more about the true history of Australia and the place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture and heritage have on this country?
Yeah, that’s a very good question. And I wasn’t aware of any of the movement in Australia for reconciliation or what RMIT was doing until I joined the institution. And the first thing I did, after I joined an event where there was an Acknowledgement of Country, was to actually go and research who are the Kulin Nation and what are these language groups and what is the unceded lands and why? You know, so I did my own bit of investigation to actually understand what we were-- what was being said. And another maybe memory as-- you asked the question that I have is one other event where one of the colleagues from RMIT showed the map of Australia and how it was before. It was absolutely shocking to me. It did look like a map of Spain, you know, with all the regions and how could it go from that to what it is today? That was really very impressive.
You know, step further that RMIT has gone to not only recognise that 3%, but to actually transform that 97% of people. So, we have that understanding. You know, those for me have been key points that have helped me understand more of that. And as you can see, you know, we have Inés is a tremendous champion and is fantastic that she keeps on reminding us that we are part of this organisation that is taking such a strong stance. And we feel tremendously proud of it. So, we look forward to continuing engaging with the Ngarara Reconciliation Committee and, you know, carrying that flag from Europe.
Thank you so much to Marta Fernández and Inés Crosas at RMIT Europe. Hopefully, we will talk to you again soon, thank you.
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