Monash launches Indigenous institute

Monash University will deliver improved opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous people and communities through a new Indigenous institute, being launched in Melbourne on Friday, 6 December.

The William Cooper Institute is named in honour of the late Aboriginal elder and activist, who on December 6, 1938, marched to Melbourne’s German Consulate as a stand against the persecution of Jewish people by the Nazi government. The institute brings together a shared vision for social justice and creates a platform for reconciliation.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), Professor Jacinta Elston, said the William Cooper Institute personifies a new chapter in Monash’s Indigenous history, which will deliver improved opportunities and outcomes for Indigenous people and communities nationally and internationally.

“Monash is committed to fostering a society that respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and knowledges, and works towards addressing the legacies of the past. Through our teaching, research and community engagement, the William Cooper Institute will make substantial contributions to reconciliation, fostering mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous peoples and communities,” Professor Elston said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Education), Professor Susan Elliott AM, said: “Monash was the first university in Australia with a dedicated Indigenous centre, and for almost 55 years we’ve engaged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to improve their lives through our education and research. We’re proud of this legacy, but we know we can, and must, do more.

“The William Cooper Institute will connect research, learning and engagement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, further embedding our commitment to Indigenous advancement into the fabric of our University.”

Increasing participation of Indigenous students, and supporting their success, will be a key focus of the William Cooper Institute.

“We’re committed to elevating Indigenous access in higher education through engagement programs with secondary schools and Indigenous community organisations,” said Director of Indigenous Engagement Jamil Tye, a Yorta-Yorta man and direct descendent of William Cooper’s sister, Ada Cooper.

“Through these strengthened connections, we hope to build greater awareness of the educational offerings, pathways, scholarships and support services offered at Monash, and nurture both prospective and existing Indigenous students to reach their potential.”

Aboriginal Elder in Residence, Aunty Diane Singh, who’s been associated with Monash for close to 30 years, said: “I’m incredibly proud of how far Monash has come in its endeavour to provide an education and research experience that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, histories and cultures.

“I’m greatly looking forward to our future contributions to the Indigenous community through the newly-established William Cooper Institute.”

In December 2018, Monash announced the establishment of the William Cooper Indigenous Scholarship generously funded by Gandel Philanthropy, which provides comprehensive financial support to two high-achieving Indigenous Australians starting their degrees at Monash.

The transformational gift forms part of the Change It. For Good. campaign, which is the largest public fundraising initiative in Monash’s history.

The William Cooper Institute’s official launch is at 3.30pm on Friday, 6 December, followed by the 18th Symposium on Indigenous Music and Dance at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, which will be opened by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Wyatt.