Connecting with Indigenous culture on National Sorry Day

Connecting with Indigenous culture on National Sorry Day

RMIT students across all disciplines and walks of life were recently taken on a guided walking tour of the Number 16 Beach Dunes in Rye, to acknowledge National Sorry Day and learn about Indigenous history and ecology.

Every year on 26 May, National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations’.  

At RMIT, our commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a core value of who we are, and this On Country experience was a chance for students to learn more about Indigenous culture and ecology.  

Students were guided through the tour by Uncle Lionel Lauch, a proud Gunditjmara Kirrae Wurrung-Bundjalung man, residing in his home country on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Walking mindfully through the bush tracks with Uncle Lionel, students stopped to learn about the different plants and their uses ranging including medicine, cooking ingredients, rope making, art-making and natural chewing gum. Uncle Lionel also shared his traditional knowledge of plant management, in which the plants are treated like animals each one having its own parents, children, and extended family that are all connected to the larger system. 

Nearly everything Uncle was talking about was new to me. It’s so amazing to learn about all the Indigenous plants I had taken for granted prior. - RMIT student Zavia  
Students on beach posing for photography and looking at plants. Students learnt about the vital importance of Aboriginal history and ecology with Uncle Lionel on Number 16 Beach dunes, Rye.

Arriving on a rocky cliff top students meditated together accompanied by Uncle on his Yidaki, and after were invited to take part in a healing process to help remove stress before finishing the tour with lunch and a sandcastle competition.  

“The Indigenous tour guide told us very impressive stories from the first people and how these people respect this land and nature. It was also very special to have a meditation and healing by the Indigenous instrument (Yidaki) on the hill facing to the blue sea, feeling the wind blowing, sea waves crashing and birds chirping. It was very peaceful and refreshing, and I feel like [we] get energy from the nature,” said RMIT student Yu.  

“As an international student I wanted to learn more about the traditional owners of Australia, especially today as it’s National Sorry Day, and it’s also Reconciliation Week. I feel like as a visitor in Australia I really need to learn more about the traditional owners and learn more about their land and their culture,” said RMIT student Michelle.  

The tour was arranged by Drew Paten, RMIT's Indigenous Global Experiences Coordinator and proud Krowathunkooloong man of the Gunai and Kurnai nation in Gippsland.  

Drew is a Deadly Alumni and returned to RMIT where he now coordinates a range of On Country opportunities for students to learn and experience the living history and culture of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. 

“It was really rich to be able to have Uncle’s insight and his knowledge, and he shared with us some of his dreamtime stories from the coastline here.  

“We finished up with a meditation, it was really beautiful and I think for some of the students here it exposed a lot of reality and what the history was here so many years ago, and what it very much is now,” said Drew.  

Story: Ellen Sigleton

01 June 2022


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.