03 July 2017

Professor James Ward with UniSA Professor Peter Buckskin.With its roots steeped in the importance of Aboriginal education and empowerment, the University of South Australia is proudly celebrating NAIDOC week in 2017 and supporting a scholarship that rewards academic contribution.

Welcoming the theme ‘Our Languages Matter’, UniSA Pro-Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, Professor Irene Watson says the national celebration of Aboriginal cultural and intellectual contributions to the nation, is important for UniSA.

“One of the ways we mark the week is as a key sponsor of the SA Aboriginal Scholar of the Year awards,” Prof Watson says.

“I am delighted to congratulate, this year’s winner, Professor James Ward from the South Australian Medical Health Research Institute, whose research career has been deeply connected to addressing real health problems in Aboriginal communities.

“In 2014 he was appointed as the Head of Infectious Diseases Research Program - Aboriginal Health at SAMHRI, under the leadership of Prof Steve Wesselingh.  

“In the past five years he has progressed research in the areas of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), blood borne viruses (BBVs), vaccine preventable diseases and offender health – with a goal to improve health outcomes across the Aboriginal community.” 

Prof Watson says Prof Ward’s drive and success are an inspiration for all Aboriginal students and the right kind of example for others to follow.

“At UniSA our goal is to become the University of Choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and through true partnerships with Indigenous communities and organisations, we want to strengthen the pipeline from high school through to postgraduate studies by encouraging and supporting the best and brightest young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“In 2017 we’re expanding our commitment to providing respect and opportunities for Aboriginal people and cultures, through the development of a “stretch” Reconciliation Action Plan, where we will commit to the objectives of the new Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy.”

The 2017 NAIDOC theme showcases the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and as Committee co-Chair Ann Martin says “languages are the breath of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“They are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything:  law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food,” Martin says.

“Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law.”

In that spirit, Prof Watson says UniSA has acknowledged the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains by naming buildings and services in language – including Yungondi building at City West and the Wirringka student service centre for Aboriginal students. 

“We want to take even more opportunities to encourage wide use and understanding of Aboriginal languages in the future and our Vice Chancellor has made a point of learning the Kaurna welcome in Kaurna as a mark of respect for the owners of the land.

“These steps not only help to preserve culture but also ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students know that at UniSA their culture and knowledge is respected and valued.”

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli mobile 0418 823 673 email michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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