Show Me The Way Blog

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A medal shines for Country education

Story courtesy Koori Mail

Yorta Yorta Elder Dr Wayne Atkinson has received the 2017 Faculty of Arts T.G.Tucker Medal for Outstanding Achievement at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Atkinson has taught On Country Learningon Yorta Yorta territory in northern Victoria for the past 15 years.

The subject involves an immersive experience for a group of students over an intensive period and the positive feedback on the course has seen it nominated for awards. The subject brings together analysis of Indigenous nations and culture with politics of land and in particular, the Yorta Yorta native title case.

During the award ceremony, Dr Atkinson talked about the influence on his life of his great grandfather Thomas Shadrach James, who studied medicine and education at the University of Melbourne before the turn of the 19th Century.

“The power of the voice, the spear of the pen and collective organisation are the key strategies that granpas teachings instilled,” he said. “It was in the Scholars Hut away from the vagaries of mission life and exclusion that granpa inspired his students and those of our generation to see the value of education as an empowerment tool. 

“Education was the pathway to community empowerment and the means by which the principles of self determination, reconciliation and greater understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians could be achieved.  And it must be remembered that he was able to do this against overwhelming odds and disadvantage of the time.”

Dr Atkinson’s work on a major native title claim has placed him in the forefront of Aboriginal experience of bringing native title claims through the courts (in the post-Mabo case era). This work has informed his research output, which has been published in books and journals concerned with Australian Aboriginal affairs. He has been frequently invited to address international audiences seeking to put Indigenous debates in a comparative light. His work covers Indigenous land and heritage rights, the Indigenous political struggle, Indigenous land management practices, cultural resource management and protection, and the use of oral knowledge in Indigenous local history.

With a background in community development and a Diploma of Social Work, Mr Atkinson also gained a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, a PhD and has held academic teaching posts at the University of Melbourne since 1997 He has also taught at Deakin, Victoria, Monash, La Trobe and Australian Catholic Universities and has written many publications.

Dr Atkinson won a University of Melbourne Award for Excellence and Innovation in Indigenous Higher Education in 2013 and he has been a visiting Indigenous scholar at the National University of Ireland in Galway since 2006.

Because of his leadership and inspiration, On Country Learninghas become a Jewel in the Crown of the Melbourne Bachelor of Arts program.

Dr Wayne Atkinson receives his medal.

The Koori Mail is a media partner of Show Me The Way.

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