From the dusty Outback to the vast plains of the Arizona desert, Bond University student Dennis Braun’s interest in Indigenous culture and criminology has taken him a long way.
A respected Elder of the Arrentre Nation around Alice Springs, Dennis, 61, is one of four Indigenous students to graduate from Bond in June 2014 after completing their studies.
The first Indigenous student to complete a Diploma of Criminology at Bond, Dennis enrolled two years ago after working on the Bush Court circuit in the NT providing paralegal support for Aboriginal people.
His desire to support troubled Aboriginal youth saw him research youth rehabilitation undertaken by the Native American people of Arizona, the Navajo people, visiting their reservation in August 2013 with the support of Bond University.
“I wanted to compare Navajo Indians with the Australia Aboriginal people,” Dennis said.
“Their approach to rehabilitation is totally different – the way they treat their youth in detention centres is they don’t lock them up.
“Instead they take the kids out bush and do things like canoeing, hunting, swimming, abseiling and talk with the Navajo Elders around the campfire at night about Navajo history, with the elders telling them by undertaking criminal activity they’re disgracing Navajo culture.
“I’d really like to see us take a similar approach over here. It’s better than just locking the kids up like we do.”
After graduating, Dennis is determined to use his Diploma to fight spiralling levels of youth suicide and addiction in the communities around his home town of Katherine.
Bond University Nyombil Indigenous Support Centre Manager Jason Murray said Dennis would be missed around campus.
“We are really proud of Dennis, he should be really proud of himself,” Mr Murray said.
“Dennis always had a view of the bigger picture where he could go back and help his community.
“He is an Elder and for us that was a really good learning experience as well – he had all this wisdom to share.”
Opened two years ago, the Nyombil Centre provides academic, cultural and social support for Indigenous students on campus. There are currently 46 students enrolled at Bond, including 15 students on scholarships.
“The success rate of our students has been fantastic,” Mr Murray said.
“Academically, our Indigenous students are performing as well as any other cohort in the University and I think that is something that Bond should be really proud of.”
Other Indigenous students graduating in June include Hanna Ross (Bachelor of Business), Meryl Alley (Bachelor of Counselling), Karen Corden (Graduate Certificate in TESOL).