University to establish Indigenous Studies Centre

In 2021 the University of Divinity will establish an Indigenous Studies Centre to advance education and research in theology and ministry, and to encourage greater participation and leadership from Indigenous peoples in theological education. The Centre will grow and strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the leadership of the University, an essential part of the journey towards reconciliation, and be a hub for all members of the University to engage with Indigenous knowledges and experience.

Two staff roles have been expanded to lead the Centre’s development from 2021. The Reverend Dr Garry Deverell will continue as the Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Indigenous Theologies. Naomi Wolfe, presently the Indigenous Liaison Officer, has been appointed to the new position of First Peoples Coordinator. Both Garry and Naomi are graduates of the University, and have served the University community in academic positions based at the University’s Colleges.

During 2021, Garry and Naomi will facilitate a consultation process with Colleges and Indigenous communities associated with the University’s partner churches.

Since 2015 the University’s Strategic Plan has included a goal on Indigenous Theologies which has given rise to the proposed Centre. The Centre is born out of the dreams of a consultation held with elders in 2017, and is supported by the continuing partnership between the University, Whitley College and NAIITS: An Indigenous learning community. This partnership has delivered a unique postgraduate program in Indigenous theologies that explores theology, history and the practice of ministry from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and world Indigenous perspectives. The first graduates of the NAIITS program received their awards in March 2019, and several students are now enrolled in the University’s PhD program.

Speaking about the development of the Centre, Garry said:

The vision of the Indigenous Studies Centre is to encourage the development of Christian theologies that have their roots as much in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imaginations as they do in those brought from Europe by colonists. It will seek to decolonise Christian traditions and to engage them anew, beginning with a uniquely Indigenous sense of relationship with country, waterway and sky.”

Naomi said:

It’s the culmination of a really long journey by Elders, community members and allies. The University of Divinity has a wonderful opportunity to continue to develop relationships, commitments and programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.”

Professor Peter Sherlock, the Vice-Chancellor, said:

The establishment of a Centre for Indigenous Studies is an historic opportunity for the University to step up to its obligations in reconciliation, through teaching and research in Indigenous theologies. I am delighted that Naomi and Garry will continue to partner with us in this journey and look forward to the privilege of working with them.”

Garry Deverell is a trawloolway man from lutruwita/Tasmania and the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Indigenous Theologies at the University of Divinity. Dr Deverell is is the author of Gondwana Theology (Morning Star Press, 2018) and The Bonds of Freedom (Paternoster, 2008). He is a graduate of the Melbourne College of Divinity, the University of Tasmania, and Monash University (where he completed doctoral studies in 2004).

Garry is an active contributor to the collaboration between Whitley College, the University of Divinity, and NAIITS to deliver a curriculum in Indigenous Theology for Australia. He is a faculty member of NAIITS: an Indigenous learning community for the development and teaching of Indigenous theologies, and a longtime member and contributor to the Australian Academy of Liturgy. Garry is an Anglican priest and a current member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council.

Naomi Wolfe is a trawloolway woman, and Academic Dean of the University of Divinity’s Indigenous Studies program with Whitley College and NAIITS: an Indigenous learning community. Naomi holds a Bachelor Arts and Bachelor of Teaching and is finalising a Masters of Philosophy (Research) degree at Australian Catholic University, writing about the lives of the Hasmonean and Herodian women of the Late Second Temple Period. She is a graduate of the University of Divinity, having received a Graduate Certificate in Divinity in 2019. Naomi will also remain an academic within the ACU Faculty of Education and Arts.

Naomi encourages a collaborative learning between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff and students at the University to break down barriers destroy stereotypes and to cultivate new relationships based on respect. She has a professional and personal interest in Indigenous cross-cultural training and awareness as well as Indigenous pedagogies and theology.

Support the Indigenous Studies Centre

You can help sustain a theologically diverse and rich culture of scholarship in Australia. By making a donation to the University’s Indigenous Theology Fund, your gift will support the establishment of the Indigenous Studies Centre and support Indigenous people to study, research, teach and provide academic and pastoral support in the University.

The University of Divinity is a higher education provider established in 1910 and is a registered charity. Donations of $2 or more are allowable deductions for income tax purposes in Australia.

To make a gift, please use the donation form available here:


Completed forms can be sent by:
Email: enquiries@divinity.edu.au
Post: The Office of the Vice-Chancellor, 21 Highbury Grove, Kew VIC 3101, Australia.

Thank you for your support.

1 comment

  • Congratulations to the University for this new initiative. The Revd Dr Garry Deverall and Ms Naomi Wolfe are two excellent people to lead this Centre and enable us us all to grow in understanding of what it means to be indigenous and incomer Australian Christians, both in our own particular histories and together.

About VOX

VOX brings members of the University, especially academic staff, into conversation with churches, the community and you. It publishes original material and may republish or link to items from blogs, social media and news media.