Truth in teaching wins respect and more

Indigenous activist and academic professor Judy Atkinson with her $25,000 Carrick Institute award.

Professor Judy Atkinson, head of Southern Cross Universitys Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, has taken out one of Australias top teaching awards from the Carrick Institute.She

said the $25,000 Neville Bonner Teaching Excellence in Indigenous Education award came as a total surprise.

While I am honoured, I dedicate this award to the staff and students at Gnibi because they represent who we are and what we do, said Professor Atkinson.

When asked to nominate the most important elements of her teaching style, Professor Atkinson said she started each new class by challenging students to answer two questions: Who are you? What is your life purpose?

It is crucial to not only focus on academic teaching but to also foster the personal development of each student and to help them build up their own personal inner resources and capacity to learn and grow, said Professor Atkinson.

Of her contribution to indigenous education, Professor Atkinson said that of all the affirming things said about her, nothing held more value to her than the words of Uncle Eric Walker, the most senior elder of the Bundjalung nation.

Judy Atkinson speaks the truth, Uncle Eric said. She encourages people to find their roots and gives them hope. They learn they are somebody first. Then they can do something to help their people.

Professor Atkinson plans to spend the money on reviewing the Master of Indigenous Studies (Wellbeing) program and deepening the academic and research elements of the course units.

Over the past 18 months she has been working with the federal government in the hope they would support an outreach project that would enable Gnibi to undertake work in diverse Aboriginal communities to facilitate change.

I firmly believe that education for early childhood development, education for life and education for healing are the only way forward in creating positive, sustainable change in Aboriginal communities, she said.

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