I had an exciting visit to the soon-to-be-opened Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre today! This new student centre was designed to be an inclusive, intercultural gathering place for the entire campus community. The building is a demonstration of the University’s ongoing commitment to Aboriginal engagement and student success.
After many years of watching from the bird’s eye view through my office window adjacent to the Arts Tower and the Centre, it was great to finally see inside. Somehow I think Lesya Ukrainka would also be impressed. The Lesya Ukrainka statue was relocated ahead of the commencement of construction to its current location between the Murray Building, Arts Tower, and the Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre. The statue takes centre stage in my bird’s eye, first-floor window view.
I am very confident that the newest building, and the surrounding spaces, are already intercultural gathering places. Just a few weeks ago, around mid-morning, I looked out my window to witness a silent vigil in front of the Lesya Ukrainka statue. I saw a medium-sized crowd of about 70 to 100 people holding candles and quietly praying before her statue. I am not exactly sure what the gathering was remembering, but it was a significant and moving moment to witness from my office window.
It was timely that my site visit to the Gordon Oakes Redbear Student Centre came in the week when I had my guided reflections meeting as part of my participation in our library employee development program Indigenous Voices – Library Edition. Somehow in a hectic week these two moments provided time to reflect on reconciliation and related matters. When the construction fence comes down, perhaps others will explore our newest intercultural gathering space.