As we enter National Reconciliation Week 2021, Trinity College’s First Nations student committee, Kumergaii Yulendji, shares their mission as leaders within our community – including the significance of their name in Boon Wurrung language, the initiatives they have already accomplished this year, and what’s still to come.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of what is now known as Australia represent the oldest living culture in the world. First Nations communities have long celebrated culture, language and country as powerful sources and instruments of authority, identity, strength, spirituality and healing.
As members of Kumergaii Yulendji, Trinity College’s first official First Nations student committee, we are honoured to begin paving the way for First Nations people to be proud of their culture and to fulfill their true potential as the nation’s first peoples.
Here at Trinity College, we are driven by providing strong leadership and our collective goal to achieve social justice, in which First Nations people can thrive alongside all students.
Our name, Kumergaii Yulendji, was gifted to us by Aunty Carolyn Briggs, a Boon Wurrung elder and important member of our Trinity community. The name means ‘knowledge arising’ in Boon Wurrung language and is fitting for our committee, as we strive to share knowledge about our culture and build real and genuine relationships and partnerships while committing to the ongoing development of our college community.
The committee was established by Trinity alumni Jasmine Thompson and Jordan Holloway-Clark, with the intention of creating a platform to promote and empower First Nations students’ voices and experiences to be strong and respected within Trinity College.
So far, this goal has been achieved through weekly meetings in which we discuss any concerns other members of Trinity’s First Nations community may have and upcoming plans for important events throughout the year, such as National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week. This has been a fantastic way to regularly touch base with each other and ensure we are continuing along the path we set for ourselves in the early days of starting this committee.
We intend to raise awareness of these two weeks and connect to culture and country by hosting activities such as weaving, playing traditional games like edor and buroinjin and screening the films ‘Bran Nue Dae’ and ‘In My Blood It Runs.’
We have also had the opportunity to host a fireside chat with the theme ‘You Can’t Ask That’. This encouraged participants to explore topics they have questions about, but perhaps didn’t feel comfortable seeking answers to without an anonymous survey.
The fireside chat provided three Kumergaii Yulendji panelists the space to reflect on and open up about their personal thoughts on each question. Some of the themes covered included how allies can best support Indigenous students, preferred terms of address, and why having a First Nations committee at Trinity is so important.
Everyone who attended the event showed a genuine interest in working towards an increasingly respectful community and developing strategies to make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students feel that they, along with their cultures, are valued.
Cultural identity supports the development of our sense of self, by giving us meaning and purpose in our life. A strong cultural identity is essential for emotional and social wellbeing and establishes a sense of belonging and security.
Our committee is best placed to provide a genuine First Nations perspective and creates a space where we must have respect for and understanding of cultural differences, all the while building our own resilience when we are often faced with discrimination, racism, disadvantage and hardship.
Inaugurating this committee was especially important for each of us as individuals, as we are all firm advocates for a person’s culture being an integral part of their identity. As such, it is necessary to establish a community that not only encourages acceptance among peers, but endeavors to share knowledge of culture, and actively works towards these goals.
We, as Kumergaii Yulendji, hope to accomplish this over the course of 2021 and in the years to come.
Written by the Kumergaii Yulendji committee and coordinated by Alistair Bates.