New Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans has been given a spectacular welcome to Griffith by the University’s Council of Elders and traditional owners of the lands where Griffith’s Gold Coast’s campus reside.
In keeping with tradition by the Kombumerri people and Griffith’s Council of Elders, Professor Evans was handed her totem of a Wise Owl signifying knowledge and wisdom during a colourful welcome ceremony watched by around 100 guests including former Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, and City of Gold Coast Councillor Dawn Crichlow OAM (Division 6).
Uncle Graham Dillon OAM, a Kombumerri elder and Co-Chair of Griffith University’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Council of Elders said it was fitting that Griffith now has its first female Vice Chancellor and President.
“To us Kombumerri land is matriarchal country and that means the women are in charge,” Uncle Graham remarked.
Professor Evans, who began her role as Griffith’s fifth Vice Chancellor and President on February 4th, was overwhelmed by the reception.
“Your welcome means so much to me and it feels like I begin with a very strong foundation for the journey ahead with your kind words of wisdom.
“I am also incredibly proud to join a university that is internationally renowned for its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students and community and also being the first Australian institution to establish an Elders Council,” Professor Evans said.
After a traditional smoking ceremony signalled the start of proceedings, cultural dancers from the Kombumerri-Nunukal and Moondarewa Dance troop entertained the captive audience with a series of vibrant and colourful performances.
The ceremony also saw the official unveiling of a statue of the Giant Dreaming God ‘Jabreen’ which will house a hive of native Australian stingless bees.
The hand-carved statue made from eucalyptus wood (below) represents the dreamtime story of the region’s heritage and acts as a marker for the Kombumerri’s culture.
A minute’s silence was also observed during the ceremony for the recent passing of Aunty Anne Leisha, a long-serving Council of Elders member.