Posted by: DSprockett | March 16, 2013

International Student Reception with Sydney’s Lord Mayor

This past Tuesday, Andrea and I met at Sydney’s spectacular Town Hall to participate in the Lord Mayor’s Annual International Student Reception. International students from six different institutions were invited, including University of Sydney; University of Western Sydney; University of Technology, Sydney; University of New South Wales, University of Macquarie; and Australian Catholic University, giving us the opportunity to mingle with graduate students from all over the world. They opened with a ceremonial welcome and a traditional Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony.

 

Smoking Ceremony at Sydney's Town Hall

Preparing for the Smoking Ceremony at Sydney’s Town Hall

From The Museum Victoria:

Land has become increasingly harder to access for Aboriginal people. In urban areas, its appearance and use have been changed from what it was initially created for. Aboriginal people are concerned for the land and wish to be part of the healing process. This can be done by being actively involved in land management or by conducting ceremonies.

The Smoking Ceremony is an example. Green leaves from plants used by the group that conducts it are placed on a small fire. The smoke is used to cover the participants’ bodies, ridding them of what is not needed. It also cleanses the area. The group feels that it is leaving behind troubles and beginning something new. Reasons for holding the rite are then discussed. The ceremony ends with entertainment, such as dancing and singing.

 

The smoking ceremony is a purification ritual and represents renewal.

The smoking ceremony is a purification ritual and represents renewal.

Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, has long been a strong advocate for international students and the recognition of Sydney’s diversity and multiculturalism.

 

Clover Moore speaking at the Lord Mayor's International Student Reception

Clover Moore speaking at the Lord Mayor’s International Student Reception

Clover Moore’s speech was pretty much exactly what you’d expect, and student representatives from each university also spoke. However, the crowd was getting quite rowdy at that point, waiting for the bar to re-open. They had a good selection of Australian beers, although the paltry hors d’oeuvres didn’t quite measure up considering there were several hundred hungry grad students in attendance. After the speeches concluded, Andrea and I led a group of new found international friends to a cafe across the street to sample Australia’s national dish, the meat pie.  I thought it was quite fitting, considering this week we also celebrated Pi Day.

Speaking of celebrations, this week was also the centennial celebration of Australia’s capitol city, Canberra. One morning talk show celebrated by listing several interesting Canberra facts, my favorite of which was that Canberra is named after the indigenous word for a woman’s cleavage. However, considering that Canberra is located between Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain, this might not be the most generous interpretation. Wikipedia also reports that the name is derived from the word Kambera or Canberry, meaning “meeting place” in the local language. So take your pick, I guess.

Today we are headed to Manly Beach with some of Andrea’s friends from school. Apparently Manly is the beach where the locals go to get away from the crowds of tourists. We’ve heard a lot really good things about the Manly area, so we’re definitely looking forward to it!

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