Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous)

A Message from Professor Jacinta Elston

Monash has a demonstrated commitment to fostering an environment that respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and knowledges, and works towards addressing the legacies of the past.

We know that history is continuous, and it is with this understanding that we recognise those who strove for change, uplifted communities and took a stand against injustice.

The establishment of the William Cooper Institute honours a past leader and activist of extraordinary principle and foresight. Born into a dispossessed and displaced people in Yorta Yorta Country, 1861, William Cooper led a life of bravery and activism. He grew to adulthood on stations and missions around the Murray. In the beginning of the 20th century, William was a member of the Australian Workers Union and an avid spokesperson for Aboriginal workers. In 1933, he famously petitioned King George V with a call for parliamentary representation for Aboriginal people.

Amid his activism on behalf of Indigenous Australians, William Cooper also took a stand against the persecution of Jewish people by the Nazi government. William argued that Australia could not honestly fight fascism and Hitler’s discriminatory treatment of minorities in Europe, while it was still oppressing its Aboriginal minority.

By establishing this institute in his name, we hope to enable a new generation to carry William Cooper’s legacy into the future.

In 2019, Monash endorsed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Framework. The William Cooper Institute will endeavour to bring this framework to life by:

  • increasing the participation and success of Indigenous students by encouraging more Indigenous students to apply to the university and supporting them once they are here
  • embedding Indigenous perspectives and content into curriculum – equipping all Monash students with an understanding of Indigenous knowledges, cultures and contemporary issues
  • growing research contributions to address and serve the needs of Indigenous peoples and communities
  • upholding traditional knowledge and respecting Indigenous students, staff and communities
  • creating purpose fit on-campus spaces for Indigenous support and engagement

Moving forward, I’m very excited about the contributions that Monash will make for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, along with the partnerships we will continue to build with Indigenous communities across Australia.

Professor Jacinta Elston
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous)