Lecturer - Riawunna Centre for Education | PhD Candidate
Returning full circle to education after many years working in community development and the performing arts as a singer-songwriter, Jodi Haines now brings her wealth of experience and passion for story into the Murina Program at the University of Tasmania.
Jodi started her own educational journey when she was encouraged to leave her home state of Tasmania to attend university in Canberra. Initially pursing her love of athletics and choosing an education degree as a PE teacher at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education - now the University of Canberra- and it is here she says the “world opened up for me.”
“It was not just at university but the world around me, beyond Tasmania, as I continued to connect with my family at Toomelah (an Aboriginal community on the NSW/QLD border), to understand my place in the world as a Gomeroi person” Jodi says.
Upon graduation, Jodi went to work at the ABC as a journalist reporting on grass roots issues at the Aboriginal embassy where she worked closely with the leading Aboriginal activists of the time.
“I was immersed in this experience as a young person, reporting, connecting with my family” she explains. “I was starting to write music and express myself. My focus became about finding my place in Australia, in this community, and what I could do to contribute.”
“I never saw myself as an academic, as a scholar and I still don’t and that’s okay. For me, it has always been about being hands-on, about story, how we connect and the value we bring to the stories of our families and the world around us”.
And this is what is shared in the Murina program, valuing where people come from and understanding, celebrating, and exploring those differences. It is about honouring lived experiences as critical and invaluable knowledge.
Riawunna’s Murina Program is a pathway designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to gain the skills and confidence to commence undergraduate studies and pursue other vocational goals.
Jodi has set up a strong partnership between the Murina Program and the University Preparation Program to strengthen students’ capacity. Acknowledging the students’ lived experiences and existing knowledge, the program also engages with Pakana elders and community members to share and invigorate the space, and to centre Pakana perspectives and understandings to inform students’ learning.
“It’s a rich exchange and we are always getting positive feedback from people who really value what we bring” Jodi says.
Elder Uncle Jim Everett, who is a regular in the program, prizes the ongoing respect and support he gets from the Murina Program.
“Sharing of knowledge and ideas has supported my thinking and scholarship for a master’s degree, along with bringing Aboriginal students into the perspectives of history and Aboriginal knowledge systems” he says.
Jodi believes this is why Aboriginal units around the country are important, as a landing place to encourage and support. She values what these units bring and how they bring it, and this is what motivates her in her role.
She does, however, believe that it is the whole of the University’s responsibility to engage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students so developing relationships is critical in the work the Riawunna unit does.
Currently undertaking a PhD in Education, Jodi is investigating the impact of the Murina program’s use of story-work through both Aboriginal and western perspectives to reimagine success that values connections, and centres on students’ voices.
She hopes to develop an Indigenous methodology that creates a narrative and outcome that is meaningful to everyone. A narrative that expresses the uniqueness of the Murina program and informs national and international Indigenous enabling scholarship about the value of higher education and how this can be shaped.
“We have a vision of moving forward and to do this we need partners, UTas partners and community partners and this I am doing organically, which is a really nice way of doing it,” Jodi says. “I am building relationships with people; they’re understanding what we do, and I am understanding what they do, and we are finding ways forward together.”
Encouraging everyone to develop their own personal relationships with Pakana people, Country and the history of the place we live in, Jodi feels the more we can bring community into our learning experiences, the richer understandings and exchange will be.
“I was born in Tasmania and grew up here but my Aboriginal ancestry is Gomeroi so I too am a visitor on Country and am always navigating this space and finding ways to pay respects and centre Pakana people and their story whilst finding my place in it.”