The University of Tasmania this month made a historic apology for its role in wrongdoings towards Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
The University’s strategic plan starts with honouring our first people and their ongoing contribution to lutruwita/Tasmania.
These documents stress the importance that any conversation about place in Tasmania needs to start with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners and their deep history with these lands and waters.
Since the 1803 establishment of Risdon Cove, Tasmania’s history has been scarred by the evidence of wrongdoings committed against the palawa (Aboriginal) people of lutruwita (Tasmania), including: invasion, frontier war and even the denial of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community’s existence.
The University Council resolved to publicly apologise for the part played by the University in that history of wrongdoing towards Aboriginal people.
On December 4, more than 600 people, including Aboriginal elders, leaders and community members, gathered at the original home of the University – Domain House. The apology was made by Chancellor Michael Field and Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black.
Professor Black told attendees that the University had been built on the proceeds of war and dispossession. Over the history of the University, Aboriginal bodies and artefacts had not been treated with the respect they were due.
“For too long the histories we taught hid the true story of war and genocidal behaviour. For too long the wisdom of Aboriginal people was not thought worthy of our academy,” Professor Black said.
“Today we also acknowledge that this has taken far too long. Here we are in the twenty-first century. Apologies have been far too long in coming. This is unacceptable and we come today to put that right.”
Chancellor Field and Professor Black made the formal part of the apology in both English and palawa kani, the Aboriginal language painstakingly pieced together from historic records and recordings.