DR STAN GRANT: ‘BE­ING INDIGE­NOUS IS NOT ABOUT BE­ING NAR­ROWLY DE­FINED’

Jour­nal­ist Stan Grant drew on his own jour­ney to in­spire the CSU com­mu­nity last week, telling stu­dents and staff about the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, and that he sees the at­ti­tude of the Aus­tralia com­mu­nity chang­ing for the bet­ter.

Dubbo Photo News - - Front Page - By JOHN RYAN

AWARD-WIN­NING re­porter Stan Grant looks like an Indige­nous jour­nal­ist, but he’s not, he’s a pro­fes­sional and award-win­ning jour­nal­ist – he said he won’t let his Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage de­fine him.

He made these re­marks as he was about to ad­dress stu­dents at Dubbo’s Charles Sturt Univer­sity (CSU) cam­pus dur­ing an his­toric dou­ble, the an­nual Stu­dent Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence and the in­au­gu­ral Indige­nous Stu­dent Con­fer­ence.

“I think one of the things (the Indige­nous stu­dents) are go­ing to face, and I faced it in my own ca­reer, is the idea that you will be put in that box; you tick that Indige­nous box and that’s where you’ll for­ever re­main. So you may be a lawyer but you’ll be the Indige­nous lawyer, or you’ll be the Indige­nous doc­tor or the Indige­nous ar­chi­tect or the Indige­nous engi­neer,” Dr Grant said.

“I strug­gled against that idea of be­ing the Indige­nous jour­nal­ist – I was a jour­nal­ist, I wanted to be seen as a pro­fes­sional in my own right. I was as in­ter­ested in Rus­sian his­tory and Chi­nese pol­i­tics and mid­dle-east af­fairs as I was in any­thing else and I de­manded that.

“I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to go and to live that life and to re­port those sto­ries and it’s changed me as a per­son.

“It re­ally ex­panded my ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ca­pac­i­ties as a pro­fes­sional as well, and that’s what I would urge them to do, you know, chal­lenge those la­bels, push out of those boxes. Some­times the best thing you can do for your own com­mu­nity is to be your­self and to de­mand ex­cel­lence of your­self,” he said.

As well as be­ing a long-time ABC jour­nal­ist, Stan Grant is also Chair of Indige­nous Af­fairs at CSU, and he feels right at home in Dubbo.

He said he feels very heart­ened by the large num­ber of Indige­nous stu­dents who sat the HSC in Dubbo this year, mostly at the Dubbo Col­lege Se­nior Cam­pus which is right next door, and has es­tab­lished many links with its neigh­bour­ing univer­sity.

“I’m a Wi­rad­juri per­son and a lot of CSU cam­puses are on my fa­ther’s coun­try, my own an­ces­tral coun­try, so it’s re­ally im­por­tant that a univer­sity like this has those con­nec­tions to com­mu­nity and cre­ates those path­ways for peo­ple. Uni­ver­si­ties are part of a com­mu­nity and they’re an ex­ten­sion of that com­mu­nity,” Dr Grant said.

“Be­ing Indige­nous is not about be­ing nar­rowly de­fined, it’s about be­ing free to ex­press all of your­self, to ex­press your­self as an in­di­vid­ual, ex­press your­self as part of an Indige­nous com­mu­nity but also part of a wider world and they are re­ally con­fronting things. Some­times you’re go­ing to find peo­ple be­ing very un­com­fort­able about that, but you owe it to your­self – we owe it to all of our­selves – to ask those ques­tions.

“I think ed­u­ca­tion gives you op­tions, ed­u­ca­tion gives you a chance in life, and to Indige­nous peo­ple it’s the same as any­one else – we need to seize that and to make the most of that, but to be aware that it will lead you into places that are po­ten­tially much more un­com­fort­able,” he said.

Dr Grant said he was heart­ened to hear that many of the lo­cal co­hort of Indige­nous school leavers were ex­pected to not only fin­ish Year 12 but also con­tinue on to univer­sity – these were their own ex­pec­ta­tions as well as that of their fam­i­lies and friends.

He said it’s a great in­di­ca­tor of how times have changed.

“It’s cer­tainly dif­fer­ent from my time when I was grow­ing up and I was go­ing to school. Back then, the ex­pec­ta­tion was that you wouldn’t even fin­ish school and that wasn’t just the ex­pec­ta­tion from us, it was the ex­pec­ta­tion from oth­ers. The school sys­tem it­self was very hos­tile to­wards us – I ex­pe­ri­enced it my­self. There were no path­ways, what they called the ‘big­otry of low ex­pec­ta­tions’, that near enough will be good enough. (It was) like we were some sort of a good deed or a char­ity case, I cer­tainly ex­pe­ri­enced that grow­ing up,” Dr Grant said.

“To hear these kids now say­ing, ‘I’m ex­pected to do well, I’m ex­pected to com­plete Year 12, I’m ex­pected to go to univer­sity,’ is an in­di­ca­tion of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that have come from the strug­gles of par­ents and grand­par­ents, the Abo­rig­i­nal po­lit­i­cal strug­gle where it’s opened up that space for us; there’s the strug­gle to ex­press our rights and our place in this coun­try and now it’s the chal­lenge of those kids to take that fur­ther.”

Cathy Magin­nis heads up Dubbo’s CSU cam­pus and said the chance to hear from and in­ter­act with Stan Grant is an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity.

“It’s so im­por­tant. It’s in­spi­ra­tional for a lot of peo­ple within the univer­sity – for the stu­dents – to see some­one of his stature, es­pe­cially when it comes to these lead­er­ship con­fer­ences. “(Ev­ery­one here can) see what he’s been talk­ing about – that he’s not an Indige­nous jour­nal­ist, he’s a jour­nal­ist, so the Indige­nous side doesn’t need to de­fine who you are with what you choose to do,” Cathy said.

“For non-indige­nous stu­dents, it’s just as fan­tas­tic to see this amaz­ing per­son who’s achieved so much in his life.”

Brenton Hawken was one stu­dent who was thrilled to have the chance to hear Dr Grant speak. The 22-year-old from Parkes is the first in his fam­ily to at­tend univer­sity, study­ing for his Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion at CSU’S Wagga cam­pus.

“It’s very in­spi­ra­tional and in­flu­en­tial to see where he’s come from and what he’s achieved, and to see where I can go and what I can achieve in life,” Brenton said.

“My fam­ily’s very proud of me, I’m the first in my fam­ily to go off to univer­sity. My mum dropped out in Year 10 so for her to see me pur­sue my dreams and goals, she’s very proud along with my fam­ily.

“I’m very proud to at­tend a univer­sity that has so many Indige­nous stu­dents – to have that sup­port is what gets us through,” he said.

“It’s very in­spi­ra­tional and in­flu­en­tial to see where he’s come from and what he’s achieved, and to see where I can go and what I can achieve in life...” – CSU stu­dent Brenton Hawken

“Ed­u­ca­tion gives you op­tions, ed­u­ca­tion gives you a chance in life... (Indige­nous peo­ple) need to seize that and to make the most of that, but to be aware that it will lead you into places that are po­ten­tially much more un­com­fort­able...” – Dr Stan Grant

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