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Five minutes with... Dr Noel Nannup

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

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When Dr Noel Nannup was offered the role of ECU’s Elder in Residence, he wasn’t sure if he should take the job. He told David Gear how he got some encouragement from an unexpected source.

Q. How did you come to take the role of ECU's Elder in Residence? 

A. When I was asked to become the Elder in Residence I said I would have to take some time to make a decision. So I went out into country, near to where Edith Cowan was born around Geraldton to think. I sat under some beautiful sheoak trees, and as I was sitting there I heard the voice of Edith in the rustling of the wind. She said to me that she wanted me to take the position and that I had something to offer. So here I am. 

Q. How has your own life experience informed how you fulfil the role of Elder of Residence? 

A. The person I loved most in my life growing up was my mother. And I actually had my mother, which most Aboriginal people of my ilk did not, and that’s one of the problems we have now. I have no doubt that it was my mother, along with my father’s teachings, that have made me who I am. They gave me a peace of mind that meant I didn’t have to concern myself with all the frustration and anger that was going on outside. 

Q. What makes a good Welcome to Country? 

A. It was my mother who introduced me to public speaking at quite a young age. She was a wonderful speaker, and she taught me that words are precious. We shouldn’t waste them. There’s a power in words. You can’t weigh words, or touch them, but you can feel them. It’s also important to give space and pauses to give people the chance to think about and reflect on what you have been saying. 

Q. What's your relationship to the land ECU's three campuses are built on?

A. I see the three campuses as one. There is a story called The Carers of Everything. In that story a spirit woman walked across the land and as she walked she collected spirit children that had been placed in the landscape. And as she wandered across the land, she walked right past where the South-West (Bunbury) Campus is located. She also wandered right through here (Mount Lawley) on her way north to Joondalup, which is named after her. Her hair was called Joondal‑Joomba, and Joondalup is named after the place for the spirit woman’s hair. So all the campuses are one. They are all on the same Dreaming Trail. 

Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of your role as Elder in Residence at ECU? 

A. What I get the biggest buzz out of, apart from family, is taking people out to country. I love seeing how the place changes them and changes how they think. It makes them start asking different questions, which is important, because if we’re not asking the right questions we will never get the answers we need.

There are Elders in Residence based at ECU's Joondalup, Mount Lawley and South West (Bunbury) Campuses. They are available to meet with staff and students on Wednesdays. Email Kurongkurl Katitjin for an appointment.

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