New branch of learning for Family Tree

Ms Bronwyn Dillon, Professor Marilyn McMeniman and Aunty Jeannie Burns at the graduation ceremony on North Stradbroke Island. Ms Dillon is holding a souvenir of appreciation from the graduates

Aunty Marion Close is a Quandamooka woman, one of the People of the Sand and Sea, and although her home is best known as North Stradbroke Island, she loves it as Minjerriba.

A proudrepresentative of a people whose long history flows through Moreton Bay,that doesn’t mean Aunty Marion is averse to the modern.

Recently, after completing an innovative learning program through Griffith University, she sent her first email.

No doubt she’ll send plenty more from now on. After all, Aunty Marion is only 91.

This weekend is one of celebration for Aunty Marion and her fellow graduates from the fourth intake of the Hands Up! Family Tree Project. Previous intakes have included the Gold Coast, Logan and the Griffith University Council of Elders.

On North Stradbroke Island, almost 40 people — including several Elders – successfully completed the project, a pre-tertiary learning program implemented by Griffith’s GUMURRII Student Support Unit and held over six weeks inthe Moreton Bay Research Station at Dunwich.

Director of GUMURRII, Ms Bronwyn Dillon, said the program was designed to build skills across the community and to offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the opportunity to launch their adult learning journey in a culturally appropriate and supportive environment.

“The Family Tree Project was launched in 2012 after collaboration between GUMURRII, Client Technology Services and Library and Learning Services,” Ms Dillon said.

“Weekly workshop sessions focus on providing learning skills on how to use a computer, how to use the internet and access online resources.

“After being introduced to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, each participant produces a personal Family Tree booklet of their own.”

Examples of the graduates’ work made for a moving backdrop at today’s (November 15) graduation ceremony at Dunwich.A valedictory dinner will be held at the Brisbane Sofitel tomorrow night.

Griffith University Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost, Professor Marilyn McMeniman AM, travelled to North Stradbroke Island and presented the graduation certificates.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and communities, this project supports them by helping to raise aspirations for further education,” Professor McMeniman said.

“It is a unique program andevidence of Griffith’s ongoing commitment to encouraging and enhancing education pathways for Indigenous Australians.”

Clearly, the North Stradbroke Island graduates agree. Testimonials gathered by the GUMURRII team included:

“Totally opened up my enthusiasm to want to keep learning.”

“This program has made me consider furthering my education. It has given me more confidence in knowing help is available … It has changed my feelings about going to university”

“Keep encouraging families to come together and share information. This just may be a big key to fixing community problems.”

And most heartfelt of all:

“I would like to say how extremely grateful I am to GUMURRII SSU for presenting this wonderful course on (Minjerriba) North Stradbroke Island. It gave a computer-illiterate person an opportunity of a lifetime to learn computer skills. I am a mature aged person and I have to say what a wonderful, supportive group of people assisted in every way they could … I know many more are keen to enrol.”

Indeed they are.Accordingly, the Family Tree Project’s fifth intake will again be based at North Stradbroke Island and will begin early next year.