Esteemed educator accepts UK fellowship

Prominent Aboriginal educator Professor Lester Irabinna-Rigney is set to take up a fellowship at leading research university Kings College in London.

The University of South Australia professor is the recipient of an inaugural Aboriginal and Contemporary Australian Studies Fellowship at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at the London institution.

The fellowship comes as a result of a new partnership between UniSA and Kings College, Europe’s leading centre for Australian studies.

Before taking up the post, Professor Rigney will next month fly to London to deliver a lecture on poor educational outcomes for Aboriginal children and the need for new teaching methods.

“Despite Australia promising to fix the ‘curriculum alienation’ and teaching methods, learning outcomes for Aboriginal children have not improved since 2008,” he said.

“The 2017 Closing the Gap report shows that Australia has failed on six out of seven key measures to bridge the gap between Indigenous children and other Australians, including child mortality, early childhood education, school attendance, employment and students’ reading and numeracy skills.

“The great academic divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal student success at school is an urgent international problem in the Pacific yet there has been no comprehensive review of the teaching methods.

“This is despite a growing body of evidence that shows culturally responsive teaching improves academic success for Indigenous people in countries such as the US, Canada and New Zealand.”

A descendant of the Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples of South Australia, Professor Rigney has worked in Aboriginal education for more than 20 years.

He is based at UniSA’s Centre for Research in Education and was formerly Dean of Indigenous Education at the University of Adelaide.

Meanwhile, respected Narungga-Kaurna elder Kevin O’Loughlin has been acknowledged for his contribution to Aboriginal education over 50 years with an honorary doctorate from UniSA.

Mr O’Loughlin has been a champion for cultural understanding and the value of Aboriginal knowledge.

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd said the university was proud to recognise Mr O’Loughlin’s outstanding achievements.

“Kevin is well-known and loved for his generosity in teaching of Aboriginal culture to students and staff,” Prof Lloyd said.

“He is a vast ‘storehouse’ of traditional cultural knowledge, contributing to many educational resources and publications, and has been a distinguished and influential cultural ambassador in South Australia since the 1960s.”

Mr O’Loughlin said the honorary doctorate meant a lot to him and his family.

“Like many Aborigines, I came from humble beginnings – a poor family who persisted despite the inequities we faced,” he said.

“I had to leave school at 14 and teach myself to read and write.

“Receiving this award means a lot to my family, and I hope the recognition gives hope and courage to all Aboriginal Australians.”

Wendy Caccetta


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