In 2029, given the total takeover of the University sector by corporate interests, the few white academics like myself who are still driven by altruistic interests find ourselves in this Working Group at the doors of the newly formed BLAKFULLAS University, both literally and metaphorically.
It is difficult for this group – many of whom identify as White Australians – to navigate the transition from the empty acknowledgments of country to the real acknowledgment that it is now BLAKFULLAS who hold the institutional-intellectual ascendency, through the creation of a university that actually cares about thought, change and humanity (and non-humanity), a welcome shift in which an institution has come to focus on land and connection rather than money and exploitation. Our own Universities, many of which have resisted calls for Indigenous tenure have become little more than corporate research centres – whether the two events are connected or not, we don’t yet know.
The tension of where and when to contact Elders was ongoing through the 2020s. As noted by a Working Group member in this morning’s session, depending on the density of concerned artists on any given Country, the response of the Elders varied from one of openness to one of exhaustion. But somehow this new University changed all that by becoming a hub of enquiry – led and driven by Indigenous people. At least that’s the perception, looking in from the outside. Because in the end, the onus now falls on this group to decide what is the best way to step forward and respectfully collaborate. In their own scholarly drive, BLAKFULLAS University has left that question open …
Making tacit demands, like new feel-good colonialists, is a poor approach to genuine action, given the hollow behaviours of the last ten years. Knocking on the door with an acknowledgement and a request for money to do something nice for blackfellas is not going to cut it anymore. This new mood has been forged by Indigenous leaders this past decade. For instance, sports hero Adam Goodes’ national call for more effort in connecting with Elders, while Professor Zena Cumpston’s instruction to whites to back off and figure it out themselves. This presented a challenge, which this Working Group must meet.
For instance, as proposed in yesterday’s session, is it time for the creation of a sister Whitefella University that attempts to connect with the BLAKFULLAS University in a type of constructive, symbiotic relationship? To build colleges devoted to reading the scholarly texts and insights of Indigenous academics, as part of the process of white culture reforging their own culture, which has now become destructive and redundant (exploitation is always a short-lived enterprise). After all, we were all First Nations at one point. Why not acknowledge this by trying to reconnect with those ancient resonances within? This seems a worthy, if difficult, goal.