The South Pacific comes to the University of Western Sydney

Date: 14/11/2002

The UWS Campbelltown Campus will come alive to the people and ancient ceremonies of the South Pacific as part of a Pacific Island Forum being held on Friday 15 November.

The Forum aims to develop links between the University of Western Sydney and the Pacific Island community in Campbelltown - the biggest in Australia.

Bringing together senior University representatives, local politicians, Campbelltown community members, local police and Pacific Island leaders, the forum will explore ways to encourage members of the Pacific Island community to engage with the University.

The event will also celebrate the Pacific Island culture with elders conducting a traditional 'Powhiri' - a symbolic gesture which will see a warrior chief challenge the Campbelltown Provost, Professor John McCallum, on behalf of the local Pacific Island community.

"The University of Western Sydney prides itself on its level of engagement with the local communities of the West," says Professor McCallum.

"We have over 600 Pacific Island students at UWS, however they are probably under-represented relative to the size of the local community.

"I expect the 'Powhiri' will be a major cultural event which will be discussed in local families so that the University will be seen as an accessible place for Pacific Islanders in western Sydney."

One of the event's organisers, Ms Mollie Thomas, is a member of the Campbelltown Pacific Island community and a postgraduate student at UWS. She says the event sends an important message to her fellow Pacific Islanders.

"The Pacific Islander community of Campbelltown is the fastest-growing ethnic community in south-west Sydney. Over the years we have had some social problems such as juvenile crime which can often come from a lack of motivation and sense of personal worth.

"Education is a way of breaking this cycle. This forum is the first step in encouraging more Pacific Islander youth to attend university and to instill a sense of pride and ownership of UWS among young people and their families.

"We want to show them that studying at their local University is opening a door to a lifelong educational journey that not only results in increased knowledge and opportunities, but also personal development and self-fulfillment."

The event begins at 4.30pm with a traditional welcome as part of the 'Powhiri'. The Forum discussion starts at 5.00pm.

A banquet will finish the evening at 6.30pm, which also includes traditional Pacific Island music and dance.

WHEN:Friday 15 November 2002
TIME:4.30pm start
WHERE:UWS Campbelltown Campus
Narellan Road, Campbelltown

For more information or requests for interviews:

Amanda Whibley
Senior Media Officer
Phone: (02) 9678 7472
Mobile: 0418 438 399