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Posted on September 8, 2015

By: UVic’s Community News Source

When UVic student Kimberly Hanton packed her bags for her work term in Australia last month, she carried words of encouragement from the local Indigenous Elders. Hanton recently embarked on the university’s first Indigenous co-op exchange after attending a departure ceremony at First Peoples House in her honour.

This unique co-op exchange saw Hanton travel to the University of Newcastle in Australia in August, while UVic will welcome Australian Indigenous student Cristal Walters to campus this fall.

Hanton, an Indigenous student studying political science, will be working with Australia’s leading Aboriginal historian, as well as contributing to the University of Newcastle’s Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre team. Walters will take part in the LE,NONET program, take some Indigenous Studies courses and complete a multi-week internship in Victoria.

“I am excited and greatly thankful for this upcoming passage of my life,” says Hanton. “I hope that I will make a positive difference with my work and will keep close the words of encouragement from the Elders. Thanks to their blessings, I certainly know I will be safe on my journey.”

Both students will be supported by local Indigenous Elders and will participate in cultural ceremonies that will protect them on their travels and keep them connected to their Indigenous homeland. Hanton was guided by Elders May Sam, Skip Sam and Skip Dick during a departure ceremony at First Peoples House on Aug. 19, while Walters will be given a traditional welcome to the local Lekwungen territory and the opportunity to learn about the culture and protocols of the Coast Salish Peoples when she arrives in September.

This exchange program was established through the CANCOM-COOP project, as a result of funding from the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program. UVic’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services received the funding in March.

“It’s a unique initiative, as the students will support each other during their exchanges and will spend time working together on a community engagement initiative here in Canada when Kimberly returns to campus,” says Dr. Norah McRae, executive director of UVic’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to share knowledge and to connect Indigenous students from Canada with other Indigenous communities across the world.”