Leading Aboriginal educator to speak in Armidale

Published 12 October 2012

ooralahomeA distinguished Aboriginal educator will discuss the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in current debates over constitutional reform and “closing the gap” during a public lecture at the University of New England on Thursday 18 October.

Professor Peter Buckskin, Dean of Indigenous Scholarship, Engagement and Research at the University of South Australia, will draw on his personal experiences as a senior bureaucrat and academic to unpack the issues that continue, he says, to position Aboriginal people as “the object rather than the citizen”.

He believes education is the key to personal, family and community success, and is concerned that current practices of engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the discourse are problematic when building a sustainable relationship for the future.

When considering the current relationship between Australia’s First Peoples and other citizens, he asks whether Australians have learnt anything over the 45 years since the 1967 referendum that changed the Australian Constitution to guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people citizenship rights. “Everyone has human rights, and with them come responsibilities and reciprocity,” he says.  In suggesting a way forward, he will discuss who should be doing the “heavy lifting” if we are to leave a respectful legacy for the future of our nation.

Titled “Rights, responsibility and reciprocity . . .  Who does the heavy lifting?”, Professor Buckskin’s talk – the Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture for 2012 – will be at 7.30 pm in UNE’s Oorala Aboriginal Centre.  It will be followed by supper in the Oorala Centre’s foyer. Everyone is welcome to this free event.

Professor Buckskin is a Narungga man from the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.  As an educator and professional bureaucrat for more than 34 years, his passion has been the pursuit of educational excellence for Aboriginal students.

His international work has involved being appointed to the Australian National Commission to UNESCO for a term, and the 2009 Working Group of Experts to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He is currently an Executive Member of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.

In recognition of his work Professor Buckskin received the Commonwealth Public Service Medal in the 2001 Australia Day Honours, the Frank G Klassen Award for Leadership and Contribution to Teacher Education from the International Council on Education for Teaching in 2003, and the National Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education in 2005. In 2007 he was elected as a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators.

Professor Buckskin currently serves as Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium, Chair of the South Australian Aboriginal Education and Training Consultative Body, Co-Chair of Reconciliation South Australia, member of First Peoples Education Advisory Group, and member of the Australian Research Council’s Advisory Council. Recently the South Australian Government appointed Professor Buckskin as Convener of the Advisory Panel for Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal People in the SA Constitution Act 1934.

The Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture is an annual event held in honour of Mr Frank Archibald, a revered Aboriginal community member of the Armidale area. Frank Archibald was renowned for his knowledge of – and  interest in – all issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly education. The lecture is presented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speakers who are leading professionals in fields such as education, law, social justice, government, and the arts.  Over recent years, speakers have included Jackie Huggins, Pat O’Shane, Mick Dodson, Noel Pearson, the late Charles Perkins, Senator Aden Ridgeway and Rachael Maza Long.