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27 March 2013
The $12.2million refurbishment of the Institute of Koorie Education's building at Deakin University's Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus was officially opened today (Wednesday 27 March) by Minister for Employment Participation and for Early Childhood and Child Care, Kate Ellis.
A steady increase in student numbers (more than 600 students are currently enrolled) resulted in the Institute outgrowing the converted goods warehouse it had occupied since 1995.
Through a $1million donation from the Harold Mitchell Foundation and support from the Federal Government's Capital Development Pool, the previous building has now been refurbished and extended to provide the state-of-the art teaching spaces and facilities appropriate for the growing needs of the Institute, including a dedicated performance space to support the delivery of an expanded range of programs in the creative arts.
Deakin University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, said that the opening was a wonderful day in the University's history.
"We are very grateful to the Australian Government and to the Harold Mitchell Foundation for their support for this important project," Professor den Hollander said.
"It is a wonderful modern learning space and a fitting affirmation of Deakin's ongoing commitment to working with Aboriginal communities to improve education opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."
The Director of the Institute of Koorie Education, Professor Wendy Brabham, said that opening the new building marked another milestone in the educational accomplishments of the University.
"The new facility is built on the success of the teaching, learning and research programs we offer through the Institute. Our graduates are working in many professional areas nationally, regionally and locally. This building signifies the future development of successful outcomes in the higher education sector for Aboriginal and Torres Islander students, their local communities and the wider Australian community."
The success of the building, from the light that permeates throughout and the way all the floors are connected to having rooms named from the Victorian Aboriginal language groups and teaching and office spaces co-located to ensure the students and the staff are not separated, is down to the consultative approach taken to its design, explained Associate Professor Lisa Thorpe, the Coordinator of the Bachelor of Early Childhood, who has worked with the Institute for seven years.
"The building has been created on a whole lot of compassion and Aboriginal, students and community peoples' dreams," Associate Professor Thorpe said.
"Steve Vizard provided $46,000 to carry out a series of workshops with Aboriginal Elders and respected persons, students and staff to work on the design and to find out what we saw as important in a teaching, learning and research space. The architect has then done a wonderful job of working all of this information into this new space.
"What we had in the old building was good community connection and good connection with our students and we couldn't lose that with this building; that has absolutely been maintained."
For lecturer Brenda Brodie one of the exciting aspects of the new building is the technology.
"I enrolled with Deakin's Koorie Teacher Education Program [the program from which the Institute of Koorie Education was created] in 1987, graduated in 1991 and started working with the Institute 1992, so I have moved with its many locations on campus, from one room portables that were used for teaching and office space to the old warehouse and printery that has now been extended and refurbished to create this amazing building," Ms Brodie said.
"One of the exciting things with this building is that the rooms are fitted with state-of-the-art technology, something we didn't really have access to in the previous building. Shifts in digital technologies have brought exciting opportunities for teaching and learning, and we can now take full advantage of these technologies with our students."
Master of Public Health student, Sharon Clarke, was delighted by the new surroundings when she returned for her first classes after deferring for a year.
"This beautiful building is absolutely stunning. The old building served us well but it was past its use-by date and needed to be brought up to the standard of the rest of the University," Ms Clarke said.
"I love the way it is set out. The Victorian tribal names given to the rooms, the earthy tones on the walls, the fantastic learning tools and up-to-date technology, the computer labs and easy access to staff, all work together to provide an atmosphere that encourages us to achieve our higher education qualifications."
The Institute has been serving the Koorie Community for more than 25 years and now offers 20 courses that cover undergraduate and postgraduate programs. It was established in 1991, having grown from the Koorie Teacher Education Program (KTE) offered through Deakin from 1986. The Institute's community-based learning model provides a holistic approach to education. Community-based learning involves a combination of both on-and off-campus teaching, designed to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to study without being removed from their communities for substantial periods of time.
Together with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc, the Institute of Koorie Education has established itself as the leading provider of university education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Victoria, and the 'university of choice' for many throughout the country.
Deakin Media Relations
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