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Outstanding Achievement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education

Diane McNaboe

Diane McNaboe was placed in OA classes all through her school career and received a Year 10 certificate. She commenced studies at university in her late thirties after raising her family and gained a Bachelor in Teaching. In 2007, she completed her Masters in Indigenous Languages and runs Wiradjuri language classes in numerous communities from Dubbo to Lithgow, at schools, TAFE and now the Charles Sturt University Campus in Dubbo. She is recognised by the Wiradjuri Elders Council for her contributions as a junior elder in her contribution to the Wiradjuri language revival.

Jilda Simpson

Jilda Simpson is the mastermind behind the UNSW Indigenous Winterschool. The Winterschool program started in 2005 with eight students. The 2009 Winterschool saw 150 students from all over the country go to UNSW for one week to experience university and realise the many opportunities that university can provide for individuals and their communities. Students returned to their communities inspired and motivated to continue and complete their high school studies and, potentially, attend university.

As a result of Jilda’s work in the Winterschool and the support offered to Indigenous students, UNSW has the highest retention rate of Indigenous students in Australia. Jilda was the 2008 University Indigenous Education Partnerships Award Winner for her work on the Winterschool program. Jilda is also an inspiring teacher, teaching Indigenous and non-Indigenous students about Indigenous cultural heritage, popular culture and identity in a way that is uplifting and positive.

Professor Mick Dodson

Professor Dodson is currently a Director of Dodson, Bauman & Associates Pty Ltd – Legal & Anthropological Consultants. He is formerly the Director of the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of NSW, Kensington.

Mick Dodson was Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity. He served as Commissioner from April 1993 to January 1998.

Born in Katherine, Northern Territory, Mick was educated in Katherine, Darwin and Victoria. He completed a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and a Bachelor of Laws at Monash University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Technology Sydney in 1998.

He also holds an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of NSW. He worked with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service from 1976 to 1981, when he became a barrister at the Victorian Bar. He joined the Northern Land Council as Senior Legal Adviser in 1984 and became Director of the Council in 1990.

From August 1988 to October 1990 Mick was Counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He has been a member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Advisory Council and secretary of the North Australian Legal Aid Service. He is a member and the current Chairman of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. He is the former Chairman of the National Aboriginal Youth Law Centre Advisory Board. He is a former member of the National Children’s & Youth Centre Board and is a former member of the Advisory panels of the Rob Riley and Koowarta Scholarships.

Mick is presently a member of the Publications Committee for the University of NSW Indigenous Law Reporter. He is a member of the New South Wales Judicial Commission and a former special commissioner with the Western Australian Law Reform Commission. He is a board member and Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia and a board member of the Lingiari Foundation. He was a founding member and chairman of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre.

Mick Dodson has been a prominent advocate on land rights and other issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He is a vigorous advocate of the rights and interests of the Indigenous Peoples of the world. He was the Co-Deputy Chair of the Technical Committee for the 1993 International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. He was also chairman of the United Nations Advisory Group for the Voluntary Fund for the Decade of Indigenous Peoples. He served for five years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Indigenous Voluntary Fund. In January 2005 Prof Dodson took up a three-year appointment as a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He was recently reappointed for a further three years to December 2010.

Mick participated in the crafting of the text of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations and the Inter-sessional Working Group of the Human Rights Commission adopted overwhelmingly in 2007 by the United Nations General Assembly.
This Australian of the Year has made an impassioned plea for a decent education for all Australian children.

Professor Mick Dodson said the issue would define his work in 2009, the year he holds the honour. It comes in the context of the Australian Government’s promise of an education revolution in Australia, but amid continuing rancour over the best approach where the most disadvantaged – Aboriginal children – are concerned.

May O’Brien

Born into the traditional life of the Wongatha people of WA and educated on the remote Mount Margaret Mission, Aboriginal author and educator May O’Brien has profoundly influenced Indigenous education. May became the first female Aboriginal teacher in Western Australia, fulfilling her dream and returning to the mission to teach.

As an educator over 25 years, May fought for Aboriginal rights and helped create opportunities for her people, bridging the gap between cultures. She helped establish Aboriginal committees on education around WA and worked on the first report into Aboriginal education. In 1984 she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study programs on Indigenous issues in the US, Canada and Great Britain, and went on to hold senior positions in the Department of Education. Since retiring, May has been writing children’s books that include Aboriginal language. As an ambassador for numeracy and literacy, she remains involved in a wide range of community activities.

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