First Nations students at Flinders University have been given a fresh sense of belonging thanks to the unveiling of a stunning new mural in the Indigenous student lounge.
Stretching from floor to ceiling in the Adelaide campus’ Yunggorendi Tjilbruke student lounge, the vibrant mural was created by local Adelaide Indigenous artist, Elizabeth Close.
Renowned both Australia-wide and internationally for her public art, Close is a proud Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara woman and a Flinders University alumna.
Close said the flowing walls of the mural told a story of many journeys and represented the various places and landscapes the students called home—from rolling hills to coastal communities and rocky landscapes.
“This is a space where students from all corners of the continent and the Islands come together,” she said.
“Their journeys are all different and not linear. Yet there is a sameness across them all, which is the desire to come here and learn and take that knowledge back.”
Speaking broadly of a shared connection to Country, Close said the reaction to the lounge’s new bold look has been “really positive” so far.
“Both in person and on social media, I think it’s had a great reaction. I think [the students] love the space now and what comes from it and how it’s all tied together,” she said.
Flinders University Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur, said the mural aimed to make students feel welcome, with the diversity of cultures reflected in its intricate patterns.
“For this prominent lounge feature we wanted the artist to speak to the importance of belonging and community, and to visualise their story and journey into higher education from an Indigenous perspective,” said the Associate Professor.
Close said it meant a lot for her to be a part of such an important movement at Flinders University, especially given her personal history as an alumna.
“I use art as a means and a vessel to talk about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. Art is a great vessel to push for change, it’s all about acknowledging different perspectives.”
Unveiled on September 1, the mural opening coincided with the announcement of Flinders University’s newest Senior Elder-On-Campus, Uncle Lewis Yarluburka O’Brien.
Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis will be based in the Yunggorendi Tjilbruke student lounge when on campus.
His appointment, alongside the mural, is part of a larger initiative that aims to engage the university community with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Aligning with Flinders University’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the initiative focuses on enhancing Indigenous perspectives across education and research, and enriching support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff.
By Imogen Kars