Commitment to Indigenous communities

garry purchase

The Three Pillars, Garry Purchase

Welcome from BJ Newton, Associate Dean Indigenous

My name is BJ Newton, and I’m a proud Wiradjuri woman of the Kalare (Lachlan) River region in Central Western NSW. My family’s ancestral ties to this Country predate colonisation, and for many generations my kin have moved between Cowra and Sydney. I was born and raised on Gadigal Country, and live and raise my children on Dharawal Country. Home Country is never far away, and we hold it in our hearts and spirit wherever we may be.

It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be the inaugural Associate Dean Indigenous at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. I have a long history with UNSW Sydney and have considered it my second home for many years. 

Arts, Design & Architecture is committed to creating a faculty where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff feel culturally safe and supported to pursue their dreams and goals. We’re equally committed to working meaningfully and collaboratively with Indigenous communities, organisations and stakeholders so the privileges that come with being connected to big institutions, such as universities, are shared and used in the pursuit of equity and social justice.  

Our Arts, Design & Architecture Indigenous Strategy will guide our initiatives and hold us accountable to our commitments and promises. It speaks directly to the UNSW Indigenous Strategy’s three pillars: Culture and Country, Grow Our Own and Give Back.  

Please contact us if you have any queries or comments. 


Our initiatives

  • The ADA Indigenous Strategy was released in August 2021. It was created in response to the UNSW Indigenous Strategy, and the need for ADA to formally commit to ensuring genuine equity, inclusion and a supportive faculty for First Nations staff and students.

    Read the ADA Indigenous Strategy.

  • Rebekah Torrens is our dedicated Indigenous Student Support and Engagement Specialist. She provides faculty and discipline-specific support and guidance to future and current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Arts, Design & Architecture.

    We have dedicated Indigenous student spaces across the Paddington and Kensington campuses, which students have 24-hour access to. These are culturally safe spaces where Indigenous students can study, relax, meet up and have a yarn.

    Arts, Design & Architecture also has a range of financial support offerings specifically for Indigenous students undertaking different programs in the faculty.

    For further information about any of our support offerings or to have a yarn with Rebekah, please contact

  • Indigenous students within the faculty may be eligible for prizes: 

    • Kookaburra Prize recognises best performance in the School of Arts & Media. 

    • Burbangana Indigenous Social Work Award recognises the academic achievements, leadership skills and extra-curricular activities of social work students within our faculty. 

    • Theresa Lindsay Hayward Indigenous Social Work Award supports an Indigenous student undertaking their third- or fourth-year field placement as part of the Bachelor of Social Work program. 

  • Winangala Gurrugurrubaa is the faculty’s Indigenous Student Shadow Board, which is made up of a group of Indigenous students in Arts, Design & Architecture. Winangala Gurrugurrubaa is where students meet regularly to provide strategic input and advice to the Dean. 

  • Our Indigenous researchers at UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture include:

Working with Nura Gili

Nura Gili, the Indigenous Programs Unit at UNSW, provides pathways for prospective Indigenous students to study in all UNSW faculties and programs. Nura Gili also provides a range of Indigenous student support services, tutorials and study spaces for enrolled students.


UNSW Indigenous Strategy

The UNSW Indigenous Strategy provides an overarching direction and framework for Indigenous education, employment and research at the university. The Indigenous Strategy framework underpins the commitment to truth and reconciliation, and to educating the next generation of First Nations leaders and advancing the rights and progress of Australia’s First Peoples.

Acknowledgement of Country

UNSW Sydney’s Kensington and Paddington campuses are built on Aboriginal lands.

We pay our respects to the Bidjigal and Gadigal peoples who are the Custodians of these lands. We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the First Australians, whose lands, winds and waters we all now share, and pay respect to their unique values, and their continuing and enduring cultures which deepen and enrich the life of our nation and communities.

As a community, UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have survived and thrived through centuries of systemic injustice, exclusion and erasure. As a new faculty, it’s our priority to collaboratively develop an Indigenous Strategy that’s productive and purposeful to affect long-term change in the educational outcomes of Indigenous students and the intellectual and cultural integrity of Indigenous teaching and research across the faculty. 

Read more about UNSW's Indigenous Strategy. Please get in touch to be part of these developments and stay tuned as we share more information about our Indigenous Strategy.