A selection of First Nations Students’ Writing from the Library’s collection is now on display on level 3 of Fisher Library. All works are written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and some staff from across the University of Sydney.
These cabinets showcase Black Excellence that has existed for decades and only continues to grow. Many of these items represent Indigenous-led writing and editing processes that are quite rare within the publishing industry.
Over the last 60 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and enrolment has been a small but strong cohort who have navigated an often difficult environment that is the University. There are many leading First Nations scholars and workers who have spent time at the University – and potentially in the Library – who are now working uniquely with research and cultural practices.
One cabinet features covers and excerpts from the student magazines Honi Soit and the Gazette, written by First Nations students and/or about First Nations topics and issues. Both magazines, but Honi Soit in particular, have a distinct legacy of social justice and champion student writing and creativity. You will see the second Indigenous Edition (2015) which was curated, edited and contributed to by First Nations students. The display also features poems by student Ken Howard Brown, as featured in Issue 15 from 1990.
In the other cabinet, you will see the research from First Nations students whilst they have been studying as well as First Nations Alumni. Reflections by students of the Aboriginal Education Assistant Program in the late 80s in the works “Pukuda Multhi Puthala, Dreamtime all the time” and “Wiimpatjai Bulku Pipinja : Black Fellas’ Message” are a combination of poems, essays, reflections, Dreaming Stories and illustrations.
Next to this is the first edition of “Black on Black” which brings together a series of academic essays from Aboriginal Students at the University in 1998. Accompanying these works are publications from past Alumni and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, including Peter Minter, Leah Lui-Chivizhe and Noel Pearson. The students and staff themselves reflect the complexities and richness of First Nations communities from right across Australia.
We are inspired by what we see and how we are represented. When we are already a minority at the University and often come into this environment not as the conventional student, we are wanting to stay connected to our communities and be apart of a community on campus.
Writing, art, poetry and cultural expression can form that community. This has been an interesting project and it has been lovely working with Anne, Charlotte, Julie and Emily in Rare Books and Special Collections aswell as Uma at the Wingara Mura Resource Centre. I look forward to more displays in the future.
– Pippa Herden (Gomeroi), Indigenous Engagement Officer, University of Sydney Library