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.
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