Jan Aitken – first nations


Many of you may know Jan Aitken as a long term volunteer in the local community. She is a strong supporter of the NAIDOC cause and has been a member of the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group (NRG) for many years, so she is well qualified for her new role, tutoring our First Nations Group.

It wasn’t indigenous studies that first took Jan’s attention when, in 1999, she moved to Eltham – her interests then were in music. Jan joined our U3A in 2012 and immediately enrolled into our Recorder Group and then Noel Butterfield’s Shakespeare Studies and Play Readings Literature courses in 2015. As well as continuing in the Recorder Group, Jan is also a member of our Painting & Drawing Group.

She says “I came to Nillumbik when I retired from a psychotherapy practice near where I lived in Richmond. I wanted a ‘bush change’ – bush, trees and proximity to Yarra Valley.

During Jan’s career her “work experience included running workshops and therapy groups and lots of meetings with people.” All this helps, she says, with what is needed to tutor a group at U3A.

When the tutor role for the First Nations Course tutor’s position became vacant, she volunteered, she says, because of her intense interest in Aboriginal history and issues, their significance for our national identity and the government response to their requests for representation – the Uluru Statement being the latest.

So what does the course entail? “This year we are not having a really structured programme. Rather, we take up issues that are current and understand the history and the problems that have led to a particular issue eg Close the Gap Report, Australia Day, Captain Cook.

Jan says that the group will also welcome guest speakers and they will also visit places in the area of interest. “Last term we went to Witton’s Reserve and Brushy Creek, where William Barak is said to have been born – a special women’s area. This flexible system allows us to find matters of interest and to insert them into the course. It also allows for the interests of class members to be incorporated.