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Reconciliation Week at WEHI 

31 May 2024
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Professor Ken Smith delivering an Acknowledgement of Country

WEHI has marked National Reconciliation Week 2024 with a special seminar about writing and delivering a meaningful Acknowledgement of Country.

At the event hosted by WEHI’s Reconciliation Committee, staff and students heard from a panel of First Nations staff, students and allies about the purpose and practice of delivering an Acknowledgement.

Director Professor Ken Smith opened the seminar with a personalised Acknowledgement of Country, sharing his own perspectives on connection to land and drawing on his experiences growing up on Victorian farmland.

WEHI Reconciliation Committee co-chair Dr Anna Coussens reflected on this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme in her opening address, and what that means for progressing reconciliation at WEHI and beyond.

“The theme for this year ‘Now More Than Ever’, underscores the urgency and necessity of our efforts toward reconciliation,” Dr Coussens said.

“It is a call to action, a reminder that our commitment to justice, healing, and unity needs to continue against a background of chequered progress.

Following the presentation of a video by First Nations leader Shelley Reys AO (a Djiribul woman of far north Queensland), a panel of First Nations staff, students and allies shared their thoughts on the ritual of Acknowledgements of Country at WEHI and took questions from the audience.

Dr Jason Brouwer led an education session, diving deeper into the importance of “Reason, Research and Reflection” when writing and delivering an Acknowledgement of Country.

WEHI Reconciliation Committee co-chair Dr Anna Coussens

Delivering on reconciliation commitments

WEHI launched its third Reconciliation Action Plan in 2023, building on the institute’s deep commitment to broaden and strengthen reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

The “Innovate RAP: June 2023 – June 2025” supports WEHI’s vision to be purposeful, visible and bold in its efforts to take tangible steps toward reconciliation, with more than 70 practical actions focused around three themes: 

  • building working relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities 
  • delivering WEHI’s research activities with a more strategic approach to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 
  • demonstrating leadership in the medical research sector 

WEHI welcomed First Nations school students from across the country for the first WEHI DeadlyScience Pathways Program in 2023, as part of a three-year partnership with not-for-profit DeadlyScience to foster the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scientists. 

Since 2014, WEHI has been hosting students through CareerTrackers, a national non-profit organisation that creates internship opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students. 

WEHI was honoured with the Partnering for Excellence Award at the 2023 CareerTrackers Awards, for going “above and beyond” in its efforts to create opportunities for students through the program, while a former WEHI CareerTracker student was awarded Intern of the Year. 

Dr Jason Brouwer led an education session
Dr Jason Brouwer led an education session
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