Canada’s University of Victoria has partnered with a number of Australian universities to deliver a unique program for Indigenous students to participate in a student exchange.
The Indigenous International Work-Integrated Learning Exchange Program is delivered in partnership with Macquarie University, University of Newcastle and RMIT University.
Since 2015, Indigenous students from the University of Victoria have participated in international co-operative education placements at Australian universities, and Indigenous students from Australia have attended University of Victoria’s LE,NONET program.
University of Victoria student Kennedy Rolston is a proud member of the Métis Nation of Greater Victoria and is currently on exchange at Macquarie University’s Walanga Muru. She described her exchange program as “life changing”.
“The experience of cross-cultural sharing, learning about each other’s histories and supporting each other is something that I will hold with me for the rest of my life,” she said.
“It is so incredible to talk to someone from the other side of the world and realize just how much we have in common as Indigenous people in our respective countries.”
As well as acknowledging the benefits of international exchange for students, the program recognises the value of Indigenous education, sovereignty and voice.
While thousands of kilometres apart, Canada and Australia have many shared links, including being home to two of the oldest cultures in the world.
Students are given the opportunity to share their Indigenous worldviews from home and learn from Indigenous host communities abroad.
University of Victoria student Sophia Speier is Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw from Kingcome Inlet, which is part of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. She is also currently on exchange at Macquarie University.
Sophia echoed that while on opposite sides of the world, Indigenous communities in Canada and Australia share many connections.
“This exchange has been an incredible opportunity to connect with the community here and share our lived experiences and histories as Indigenous peoples from different continents,” she said.
“It’s amazing to see the similarities we share in terms of resilience and beliefs towards reciprocity, community, and respect for our lands, also known here as Country.”
The exchange program identifies students as leaders and highlights community engagement and Indigenous governance.
Executive Director of the University of Victoria’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services Andrea Giles said that the university is proud to contribute to this collaborative, community-building program that celebrates Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
“Through this partnership, Indigenous students engage in knowledge sharing with Indigenous communities from both sides of the globe, which leads to extraordinary learning experiences for everyone,” she said.
Executive Director of the Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement (IACE) Kundoqk Jacquie Green, said that the team at University of Victoria is pleased to support Indigenous students through this exchange program.
“The power of building connections through sharing culture and teachings creates an international Indigenous community that is better able to support one another.”
Dr. Leanne Holt is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous strategy at Macquarie University and acknowledges the way the program changes how students see the world professionally, academically, culturally and personally.
“The reciprocal sharing of experiences and knowledge is invaluable to all involved in the program,” she said.
“I feel very privileged to have been a part of the program since its inception at the University of Newcastle and now at Macquarie University. The students are inspiring as they use this experience to grow, to become our future Indigenous leaders.”
High Commissioner of Canada to Australia Mark Glauser said the program is a great example of international collaboration between our countries.
“This innovative program recognises the power of culturally grounded education, and how Canada and Australia can come together to exchange knowledge and skills.
“Both Canada and Australia are committed to Reconciliation by acknowledging the truth, learning from the past, and walking alongside our Indigenous communities. Initiatives like this one strengthen our path towards reconciliation, by identifying Indigenous students as leaders.”
Representatives from the University of Victoria in Canada recently travelled thousands of kilometres to Australia to present alongside their Australian university partners on the success of the program at the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education in Adelaide.
The conference provided an opportunity for Indigenous people from Canada, Australia and the world to engage in important dialogue to share success and strategies for culturally grounded education. University of Victoria’s Associate Director of Indigenous and International Strategies (Co-operative Education Program) Karima Ramji also spoke about the program at the recent ACEN conference in Melbourne.