University of Wollongong has collaborated with former UOW staff member Samantha Hill to create the Acknowledgment of Country flame tree artwork which is now displayed all over campus.

UOW has become a leader in Indigenous advancement with their recognition and respect for Indigenous culture displayed visibly across all campus locations through their ‘Yulungah’ welcome signage, Indigenous names for campus accommodation, the Woolyungah Indigenous centre; and now the acknowledgment of country flame tree.

According to the project manager of Indigenous advancement, Tammy Small, UOW is the only university in NSW to display traditional language on their welcome signage, a step that she hopes other universities and schools will soon take after as UOW continues to integrate Indigenous culture within the university and increase visibility; specifically with the recent addition of the flame tree across campus.

Yulungah welcome signage at UOW. Credit:UOW.

“I have seen a whole great deal of changes over my time here at UOW,” Ms Small said.

“We are now looked at as a leader of this space of Indigenous strategy, and not only am I seeing these visible changes, but they’re actually moving out through the sector and other people are really getting to see what we’re doing here at UOW.”

According to Ms Small, the university’s focus remains on increasing the visibility of respect towards Indigenous culture and the vice chancellor, Patricia Davidson has been an integral part of the change.

“She walks alongside us during a process of advancing reconciliation at UOW and it is one of the most important things because we wouldn’t be able to get anything done without the endorsement backing of our vice chancellor,” Ms Small said.

“The first thing she did when she got here was she endorsed that Acknowledgment of Country collectively across all campuses which has really set the forefront of what she wants to do here at UOW.”

It was also noted that approximately 80 per cent of the flame tree artworks have been paid for by the university, using centralised funding instead of the Indigenous budget, further displaying the UOW’s support and stance on Indigenous advancement within the university.

UOW Indigenous student Tallon Smith of the Wiradjuri nation, said that UOW is doing well to represent Indigenous culture and introducing these flame tree signs and stickers is a positive way forward for the community.

“I think it’s a really good move to add these stickers and the prominence that comes with that,” he said.

“Educating people about our culture is a really positive step and it’s showing that they care for our history and that we’re properly acknowledging it which hasn’t happened in the past.

“It’s how we move forward in reconciliation.”

Ms Small said the stickers enable a conscious conversation about recognising and acknowledging the country that we stand on and it is just one of many big projects happening throughout UOW, with more still in the planning stages for the near future.

“We will be rolling out Yulungah welcome signage across all campus locations and there will be a consultative approach with those local communities to make sure the language is correct, so yeah, big things coming,” she said.