The Two-Way Project is a ground-breaking initiative designed by a stellar team led by Dr Kirrily Jordan with Dr Annick Thomassin (CAEPR), A/Professor Alison Alder, Adele Cameron (SOAD) and Denise Angelo (SLLL) alongside Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service to creatively build bridges between ANU and Indigenous women in the ACT and surrounds. It reduces barriers to inclusion and promotes equal opportunity for Indigenous women by transforming the way the University operates, reaching out to otherwise ‘hard to reach’ disadvantaged women through arts and culture programs on and off-campus. By developing this novel and grounded approach to equity and diversity, the team has engaged and celebrated the women’s diverse skills in ‘two-way learning’ that recognises their vast cultural and community knowledges on a par with academic expertise. It simultaneously creates sustained benefits for Indigenous women through skill acquisition, art production, and potential pathways for participation in ANU programs. Former ACT Chief Minister, and advisor to Winnunga’s board, Jon Stanhope AO describes the project as being of ‘inestimable value’.
The programs were skilfully crafted by the team in recognition that art practice offers a unique method of genuine two-way conversation, skill sharing, recording of cultural knowledge and education of audiences. On campus, this involved screen-printing workshops with local Indigenous women at SOAD. Dr Jordan and Thomassin, who are recognised internationally for their commitment to collaborative decolonising research and practice, initiated these workshops in close collaboration with Winnunga. A/Professor Alder’s deep history of using visual art practice as a tool for social justice and equity was invaluable in workshop design and delivery, as was Adele Cameron’s vital technical assistance.
The team delivered its outreach program through Winnunga’s Women’s and Mums & Bubs Groups and the Alexander Maconochie Centre. This included storytelling sessions – supported by Denise Angelo’s longstanding expertise in Indigenous language ecologies – and Possum Skin Cloak making – a highly significant form of knowledge production that records and shares the invaluable cultural knowledge of the region’s Indigenous women. The project also works with female detainees at AMC through Culture Inside, a weekly arts and culture program that assists Indigenous women in reconnecting with traditional cultural practices.
The Two-Way Project promotes an inclusive environment that values and utilises the contributions of people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. It engages the expertise of Aboriginal facilitators Amanda Jane Reynolds, Ronnie Jordan and Larry Brandy alongside the ANU team. This reflects its commitment to two-way learning that challenges academic norms by recognising the equal importance of Indigenous traditional knowledges, and builds ANU’s capacity to engage in inventive cultural practices that support Indigenous knowledge production and cultural reclamation. The participants’ outstanding work will be exhibited at SOAD in 2021, sharing this unique two-way exchange with a diverse ANU audience.
This important female-centred project rests on the quiet determination, expertise, and dedication of the team nominated for this award, including HDR, ECR and established academics. Their work aligns with ANU’s Strategic Priorities of increasing impact and engagement with Indigenous communities. It truly embodies ANU’s values as an inclusive, open and respectful University which recognises its responsibilities to First Peoples in Canberra and beyond.*
* Text by Professor Denise Ferris, Head of School, ANU School of Art & Design