31 March 2021

Purkarninthi Speak: What Is the Future of Aboriginal Education?

Aboriginal Elders

Since its founding, the University of South Australia has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to Aboriginal engagement and education through its founding act and important initiatives such as the Aboriginal Taskforce, Australia’s first Aboriginal Tertiary Program, and Aboriginal Studies programs.

UniSA was also the first university in South Australia to have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), a guiding document to advance reconciliation across the organisation.

To continue this strong focus on Aboriginal education, this month saw a gathering of UniSA’s Purkarninthi, Elders in Residence group, to delve into the future of Aboriginal education, the local and national issues of significance surrounding, and the extensive work of the feature panellists to inform public knowledge and awareness.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and the Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, the panel moderated by Professor Irene Watson the Pro Vice Chancellor: Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, David Unaipon Chair and Professor of Law, included several members of Purkarninthi, UniSA Elders in Residence, Uncle Kym Kropinyeri, Aunty Lynette Crocker, Dr Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien AO FUniSA, Uncle David Rathman AM PSM FIML, Aunty Roslyn Weetra, Uncle Frank Wangutya Wanganeen, and Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney AM, Professor of Education, Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion.

These local Aboriginal Elders and community leaders in Aboriginal education, have been at the forefront of the fight for the right to a culturally appropriate education, and have tirelessly worked for change in the education system over the last 50 years.

Their fight now is for a fair and equitable education process that is inclusive of international standards, and in particular the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 14 for the provision of an inclusive education for all young people, whatever their capability and diversity.

UniSA Video

In this Elders Speak panel discussion, they share their thoughts and hopes for the younger generations of Aboriginal children and youth, particularly those who are being left behind. They also discuss the need for a two-way education system that recognises and respects the cultures, languages and identities of Aboriginal children and young people.

UniSA aspires to be the University of Choice for Aboriginal students, and has long been committed to supporting Aboriginal education. This is evident in the inspiring support of the Gavin Wanganeen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship.

The Scholarship was established in 2005 with the simple goal of supporting First Nations students undertaking a university degree, particularly those with a strong desire to succeed and give back to their community.

Gavin Wanganeen (centre) with recent scholarship recipients Skye and Hayley.
Gavin Wanganeen (centre) with recent scholarship recipients Skye and Hayley.

16 years on, more than 50 students have been awarded the Scholarship thanks to the support of generous donors. Brownlow Medallist, premiership player, five-time All-Australian, Port Power best and fairest and first Aboriginal Australian AFL Life Member, and Scholarship ambassador, Gavin Wanganeen, has seen firsthand the power of such support.

"Football has given me some wonderful opportunities, a strong sense of achievement and an understanding that role models can make a difference to people's lives. I believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids need a range of role models – some in sport but also other careers,” he says.

“When I see the impact – Aboriginal students taking hold of their future and achieving their goals – I feel so proud, and I am truly moved by the generosity of people who have backed this project.”

When you give a gift to the Gavin Wanganeen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship, every dollar goes to empowering our students and changing their lives. 100% of your gift will have an impact. The University of South Australia is a deductible gift recipient.

If you would like to learn more about how to support or apply to the Gavin Wanganeen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship visit the website here.

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