Issue 1, Semester 2
By Tyson Holloway-Clarke
I remember getting my first campus tour around Parkville. There were a lot of construction sites and it was all very confusing. I was 16 and wasn’t a huge fan of brutalism. In time I have grown fond of it. Back then I thought the St Lucia University of Queensland campus was much nicer. It had a ridiculous amount of sandstone, lots of sporting fields and plenty of space.
A few years later I am getting my first black tour of campus. I was shown around Murrup Barak. They let me know where the closest KFC was. I was taken past the Indigenous Office up in Union House. The old Indigenous Office is where the current President’s Office sits. I made the switch in 2016 to give Indigenous more space. Later on the tour I was told about Richard Berry and the skeletons in his cupboards. Berry was a famous Eugenicist who collected hundreds of Indigenous skeletons in an attempt to prove that white people were more intelligent, because of their different skull size.
I wasn’t surprised at all but I was still disappointed to find that this university had supported the research of a person such as Berry. But it still sucked. I was proud of myself for making it here but I felt like this place was too big for me, it didn’t care about blackfellas and we were just a blip on the radar.
Another couple of years later I am standing out the front of the Richard Berry Building, home to the to mathematics and statistics’ department, with Odette Kelada calling for the name to change. It was just us and a Fairfax photographer. The story hits The Age both in print and online. The following few weeks I run a radio, television, and print junket sharing my views on the situation. I accept every outlet, even if I know they are trying to set me up. One morning I sat in my underwear at 6:30 am waiting to get on 3AW for my chance to walk into the open arms of right wing talkback callers. I knew from the outset that I’d get lured into a false sense of security, then I’d be on the receiving end of a bouncer. How I dealt with it would be how this over was remembered. Instead of swaying or ducking, I opted for the hook shot and sent the presenter for 4 runs. The interview was rushed to an end and the call-back part of the morning begun. I didn’t hear what the callers said but later on there were whispers that I was probably a communist and hated white people.
Five years after my first campus tour I am sitting down for the first time as a University of Melbourne Councillor. It was the 4th of October and I was three days into my term on University Council. I was the first Indigenous member of Council, the first student member of Council in years, and I was in my final months as President of UMSU. Looking down at the very long agenda I read ‘B04 Renaming a University Building on the Parkville Campus’. Today was the day Richard Berry would become Peter Hall.
There was more work in changing the name than you would believe. The simple three page document before me represented decades of disappointment for blackfellas, years of work for Indigenous activists, and careful months of planning from the University. We still are waiting for public recognition of Berry’s transgressions from the University in some official capacity. Berry was a man who advocated for the holocaust before Hitler did, yet we never even got a plaque. The news passed through rather quietly in the end.
Berry isn’t the only founding father of the University with a chequered history. Nonetheless I know blackfellas were surprised. It was one of the most heavily liked posts in our secret Facebook group. Some were happy, some were relieved. It made national news and we had a lot of people reach out in congratulations. All the noise aside one story rang through. For me it was a soft but deliberate message; we can see you, we can hear you, we were wrong, you were right.
We had been recognised.