2018 Award recipients

Recipients of the 2018 Charles Sturt University NAIDOC week awards are listed below by campus. Note: Port Macquarie and Orange recipients are yet to be announced.

Congratulations to all of this year's inspiring award recipients.


Liz Heta

Liz Heta is the Senior Advisor Aboriginal Engagement and Outcomes at the Department of Health and Human Services

Liz willingly gave of her time earlier this year to come and speak with the first year occupational therapy students (Albury Campus) about her thoughts on the impact of racism on occupational choice and engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Liz’s approach to the lecture achieved a balance of being factual, honest and confronting as well as being personal, considered and sensitive to the needs of first year students.

Liz requested that instead of being paid for her time that the money allocated for the session be used to purchase resources for a local preschool that provides education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.  The children and staff at Koori First Steps (Wodonga) have used the money to purchase a range of indoor plants to create a calming, natural environment and to assist in creating sensory play spaces that are inviting.

Aunty Nancy Rooke

Nancy Rooke is now in her late eighties but still plays an important part in the community as an Auntie and Elder.

She was born and raised on the Sandhills in Narrandera by her grandmother and experienced discrimination and hardship for a large part of her life. She was a pioneer in bringing the Aboriginal community of Albury into TAFE and is a passionate advocate for education with her people.

Because of her we can…..as non Indigenous people teach CSU students with confidence on how to connect with community.

Because of her we can….enjoy loving friendships with the community and encourage  students to do the same.

Because of her we can…….. contribute to positive movements such as Reconciliation .

Because of her we can…….reflect on all she has taught us about her people and attempt to pass that knowledge on to students who will work with communities.

Because of her we can…… see the contribution she has made to both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities, as well as of  the contributions her children and grandchildren are making.

Because of her we can…… begin to have an understanding of Aboriginal people’s suffering in the past and their successes today.

All of this we owe to Nancy.

This nomination is only an idea of her tireless work in the Albury Community and the far reaching effects of this work, both in the Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal communities.


Julie Bennett

Julie Bennett is a Student Liaison Officer in the Indigenous Student Success team and has been nominated by her students for the tremendous support that she shows them. She is a mentor and advocate who is always there for her students.

Annette Gainsford

Annette Gainsford has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the development of our Bachelor of Laws at CSU, making it internationally unique in building the Indigenous cultural competence of its graduates.

Annette has led the development of Indigenous cultural competence of her colleagues within the Centre for Law and Justice and contributed nationally to scholarship that recognises the place of Indigenous knowledge, cultures, and histories within higher education

Jayarna Kay

Jayarna Kay encourages all students and community members to follow Yindymarra in their daily lives.

In 2017, Jay was instrumental in developing CSU’s first Indigenous student conference in Dubbo and facilitated several workshops on leadership to help indigenous students to excel in their studies and took feedback to improve services for indigenous students on all campuses.

Jay encourages all people around her to strive and achieve their fullest potential both at an academic level and a personal level. Jay is a fantastic role model.

Maureen Bates-McKay

Maureen Bates-McKay has demonstrated outstanding leadership in increasing access to justice in the Central West.

As a lawyer with legal aid and as a practitioner with decades of experience working in the criminal justice system, Maureen works passionately for social justice and for the community through the free legal advice clinic held in Bathurst and as part of the weekend roster for the local bail court.

Maureen is adept at building relationships with stakeholders and respectful and consultative communication. Maureen is highly regarded by her legal peers and the wider community.

Tracey Gale

Tracey Gale is a proud Wiradjuri woman who, through her personal values and strong work ethic, has made a positive impact in the local community. During her previous employment at CSU Tracey travelled the country gathering and collating research into businesses run by local Indigenous people and through this role gathered information in order to apply this knowledge at a local community level.  Tracey is a wealth of knowledge on how successful businesses are run and imparts this knowledge to local businesses to ensure future success.

Tracey currently works at the local council and holds a key role in facilitating knowledge to the Council of local Aboriginal culture. Tracey is a member of council’s Reconciliation Action Plan working party which provides a framework for council to support the reconciliation movement. Tracey holds a key role within this working party and ensures that local Indigenous issues are at the forefront of discussions to ensure the development of respectful relationships and creating meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Werribee Leanna Carr-Smith

Werribee (Leanna Carr-Smith) is a tireless community advocate and educator, in particular, she has been responsible for embedding Wiradyuri content and wisdom into the local education sector (including language programmes and cultural orientation immersions).

Werribee is a recognised Elder and community spokesperson for the Wiradyuri Nation in the Bathurst Plains area.

She has shown outstanding leadership in developing the Indigenous Cultural competence of staff and students within the Centre for Law and Justice. As Indigenous Educational Designer, Werribee advised on our Bachelor of Laws and content that would recognise place-based learning within the degree. Werribee has provided cultural immersion to law academics locally and nationally.

She has already impacted the lives of countless local Aboriginal (and non Aboriginal) children through her Wiradyuri Educational and language programmes,and cultural orientation immersions. Her teachings have been embedded into several curriculums from early childhood to tertiary level.

She is strong, wise and caring, because of her, we can remember Yindyamarra and teach our kids their own lingo. Because of her we are strong in our culture.

Jillean Bower

Aunty Jill (Gunhimudha which means ‘mother to many’) is a local Elder who has fostered many, many children, not just Aboriginal children, over the last 20 plus years.

Aunty Jill has worked for her community behind the scenes for over 30 years in this area.  She holds Traditional Knowledge of Wiradyuri Country and is an accepted Wiradyuri Elder.

Aunty Jill has been one of the Elders keeping Councils and other community leaders accountable to their community and is a fierce community advocate.

Wynne Allen

Wynne Allen was instrumental in setting up Wammarra in the early 1980s when CSU was still Mitchell College.  

She was head of Wammarra for its first 4 years, and 2 of the Aboriginal students who were in Mitchell College’s intake were Stan Grant Jr and Karla Grant who are 2 high profile journalists within the media today.

She then went to the ministry for Aboriginal affairs for the NSW govt. advising the state govt on Aboriginal issues, she was also heavily involved in pushing Aboriginal education studies within the Government sector (to be taught in schools).

Wynne returned to Wammarra for a couple of years before heading to Canberra to work in the House of Representatives Committee into Aboriginal Affairs. Through that position she was advisor to this parliamentary committee regarding Aboriginal communities and issues within those communities, also organising visitations to some remote Aboriginal communities by the parliamentary committee.

Once Wynne left the federal sphere, she came back to Bathurst and worked with the NSW Dept of Fair Trading, being the registrar for organisations who wanted to register under the Fair Trading act. Her role was to encourage Aboriginal organisations to register under the Dept of Fair Trading and give advice and support to those Aboriginal organisations.

She retired from the Department after a number of years, and now does teaching of Wiradyuri Language through the University of the Third Age.

Aunty Gloria Dindima Rogers

Aunty Gloria has been involved in education, teaching Wiradyuri culture and language to not only our own Wiradyuri peoples, but all other nation groups she encounters. Aunty Gloria has given multitudes of welcome to Countries in the Bathurst Wiradyuri area, always speaking with grace and wisdom, she is a cultural and spiritual leader and confidant to many.

She has been involved with CSU and the wider Bathurst community in a cultural advisory capacity for many years and has given her time and insight to multiple projects and initiatives.

This has ensured that the content and delivery of these projects and initiatives has been based in Yindyamarra.


Associate Professor Jay Phillips

Associate Professor Jay Phillips is a Wakka Wakka Gooreng Gooreng woman and educator from southeast Queensland. Originally educated as a primary school teacher, she has been teaching, researching, and advocating for Indigenous students and communities in universities for over 20 years. She is particularly interested in the interaction between Indigenous knowledge systems and western colonial traditions with regard to colonial identity construction and intellectual authority, and teaching for optimal learning in contested spaces.

Jay completed her PhD in 2011. Her thesis, Resisting Contradictions, investigated the resistance of non-Indigenous students to compulsory Indigenous studies and examined how these students managed their learning, and articulated shifts in this resistance.

Jay has shown outstanding leadership in the development of Indigenous cultural competence within curriculum at Charles Sturt University.

Moreover, her role as Chair of the Indigenous Board of Studies has been critical to the cultivation of best practice in incorporating Indigenous histories, cultures and contemporary social realities across CSU’s many subjects. Her willingness to contribute to building the Indigenous cultural competence of CSU staff is highly valued and appreciated.

Dawn Towney

Dawn grew up in both Dubbo and Lightning Ridge, moving back and forth between the two throughout her life.

Dawn began working at the Department of Human Services (DoHS) as a casual customer service officer. Within two years through hard work and dedication, she was offered a full time position as a special measures customer service officer. Following this, she applied and was successful in the Indigenous Services Officer position in Walgett. Last year, she transferred to Dubbo to broaden her career and to offer her children more opportunities that a rural town like Lightning Ridge is unable to provide. Despite this, the Lightning Ridge and Walgett communities have a special place in Dawn’s heart due to her strong connection and networks within these towns.

Dawn plays an active role on an individual level, engaging and ensuring that indigenous community members have someone to talk to openly and honestly when discussing options available to them. If Dawn does not know the answer, she will always investigate and link someone in with the appropriate people to ensure the best outcome for the customer. In addition, Dawn’s move to Dubbo has create a positive change within her family, resulting in her Mum (who believed she would never leave Lightning Ridge) moving to Dubbo.

On a community level, Dawn plays a significant role in being a part of, organising and coordinating various community events targeted towards better engagement, rapport and understanding within the Indigenous community of the Department of Human Services. Since stepping into the role, the presence of herself and the Department of Human Services has significantly grown, due to her dedication and commitment to engaging and supporting the indigenous and non-indigenous community. This involves additional hours and duties outside of her role description. Dawn covers the Dubbo, Parkes and Mudgee offices, and regularly travels to provide outreach to regional towns such as Trangie, Nyngan, Gulargambone, Narromine, Coonamble, Coonabarabran, Warren, Peak Hill, Condobolin, Wellington and Gilgandra. Through this work, Dawn has created a sustainable, consistent rapport with the local communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Dawn is heavily involved in a number of interagency committees, including the Youth Interagency within Dubbo, assisting and participating in Youth Week activities. Dawn is an active member of the Dubbo Koori Interagency Network (DKIN), responsible for the development, coordination, implementation and evaluation of the NAIDOC celebrations throughout Dubbo.

Dawn is the living embodiment of ‘because of her, we can’. Dawn is such a kind, empathetic, straightforward individual who strives to create a more inclusive, respectful environment for herself, her kids, and her family and for her community. She is inspirational in so many ways, demonstrating resilience, inclusiveness, and pride in her history, in her culture and in her community.

Wagga Wagga

Catherine Maxwell

Catherine Maxwell has led the development of the Reconciliation Action Plan at Charles Sturt University and has shown outstanding leadership in working with stakeholders from both within the University and the wider community.

Catherine’s leadership in building and advocating for Indigenous recruitment strategies and to retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff is of vital importance to the current and future functioning of the University.

Because of her, we can continue to improve the way we approach Indigenous employment and community relationships.

Tenayah Kelly

Tenayah has shown strong leadership while on secondment in the role of Programs Officer (Indigenous) in the Away from Base (AFB) team, in the Division of Student Services.

She has developed strong working relationships within CSU, with community and with funding bodies such as the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. Her focus is always on meeting the needs of Indigenous students. She has become a quiet and confident achiever and is a positive role model for staff and students.

Because of her, we can feel confident that the Away from Base program is positively supporting student success.

Dr. Faye McMillan

Associate Professor Faye McMillan is an inspiration to all Indigenous women and mothers. She was the first registered Australian Aboriginal Pharmacist, a founding member of IAHA (Indigenous Allied Health Australia), she sits on many allied health boards, and is the Director of the Djirruwang Program Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health).

In 2017 Faye was recognised in the Who's Who of Australian Women and in 2014 Faye was recognised in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 women of influence. Her research interests are in Nation Building, Indigenous women in leadership roles; her Doctorate focused these two areas of research into her thesis as well as Mental Health.  Faye is also the proud mother to Kye and Ethan, as well as a daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt and friend, Faye seeks to use her own lived experiences to share with others with the hope that it could make a difference.

Because of her we can appreciate the transformative opportunities that education can provide.

Letetia Harris

Letetia is an incredible Wiradjuri woman, who has worked relentlessly toward the restoration of Wiradjuri language. This is what her students have to say:

Teish takes the time to develop strong relationships with her students, to provide each of us with encouragement and guidance and shares with us the ultimate cultural connection...our language.

Letetia is committed to her students 100%, she has made it clear to us all, that she is only a phone call or an email away and that if we need help to please ask, she wants to help. She is not just a teacher to her students, she is a friend, a sister, a strong community role model.

Because of Teish we are strong, we are given a real sense of belonging and cultural connections. This years Naidoc week theme Because of her we can, represents Letetia is so many ways, because without all that she does, the opportunity for us to learn and connect with our language would be reduced, and the laughter and spirited learning environment she provides, could never be reproduced. The work that she does is deadly!!

The role modelling she provides to both Wiradjuri women and men, is inspiring, the candid way she teaches her classes and speaks with her students, makes us feel accepted, relaxed and excited about our learning journey. Because of her we can!!

Kristy Wickey

Kristy-Lee Wickey is a great role model for our younger generation.

Being a mum of three beautiful children, Kristy has just graduated from her Bachelor of Nursing and is going on to do further studies to become an Indigenous midwife.

Whilst Kristy endured many struggles whilst studying and juggling children and family issues, she did not once ever complain and always had a smile on her face.

Kristy is a leading example and we believe her children and many others will follow in her footsteps all to help one day close the gap.

Because of her, we can be inspired to accomplish your dreams and be a mum at the same time.

Aunty Robyn McMillan

Aunty Robyn McMillan has recently retired from Charles Sturt University as a lecturer in the Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health), where she taught and mentored an all Indigenous cohort in Aboriginal culture, Aboriginal Health and Mental Health.

Not only did Aunty Robyn teach at Charles Sturt University she was also a mature aged student at CSU completing her Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) Degree in 2011.

Because of her, all women, especially mature aged women with families who want to study and have a career can be inspired.

Aunty Kath Withers

Aunty Kath Withers has supported educators in Early Childhood services to build their capacity and confidence to implement inclusive practices. This has included sharing her experiences and knowledge with educators through team meetings, Yarnin circles, weaving workshops and service visits. Through Aunty Kath’s love of art, she has been able to teach educators how to use art to help children express themselves, connect with Aboriginal culture and support children to develop a real sense of belonging. She has helped educators reflect on barriers that may impact on relationships and the inclusion of Aboriginal children and families and developed strategies to help overcome these. Aunty Kath is truly inspiring and has had an extremely positive impact on the lives of so many children, families, and educators.

Because of her, we can gain a deeper understanding of the Wiradjuri culture so we can authentically embed this within our daily program and practice.

Aunty Isobel Reid

Aunty Isobel has been a strong supporter of the University for many years.

Aunty Isobel is a member of the Stolen generation and a Wiradjuri Elder.

Aunty Isobel has participated in many University functions giving a Welcome to Country and each time she does this she contributes to the learning or staff, students and other community members.

In addition to participating in University functions, Aunty Isobel contributes to the wider community through presenting her experiences as part of consultative processes and inquiries at local, State and Federal government levels. She is now Chair of the Coota Girls Corporation.

Aunty Isobel has always presented an argument that education is better than compensation for the Stolen generation and she has strongly articulated  this in public and private forums

Aunty Isobel represents the CSU values and because of her we can better understand the experiences of the Stolen Generation and the wider Wiradjuri community.

Aunty Gail Manderson

Aunty Gail Manderson completed the Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage only a couple of years ago as a mature aged student.

Since completing the certificate she is giving back to our community by working within local primary schools helping to teach our children the Wiradjuri language.

Aunty Gail is very involved in the University - she delivers welcomes to country, visits the Indigenous Student Centre, and has held workshops on cooking and weaving. She has also been a part of CSU events such as National Reconciliation week.

Because of her, we can keep the Wiradjuri Language alive.

Ella Havelka

Ella Havelka is the first Indigenous ballerina in the Australian Ballet, while she was raised in Dubbo her family now live in Wagga. Further information about Ella can be found in a clip from the documentary “Ella” .

Special Posthumous Award - Edna May Jones "Mumma"

Edna May Jones "Mumma" opened Ngungilanna the CSU Wagga Campus Indigenous Student Centre in September 1994. Since Ngungilanna opened in 1994 CSU has seen 723 Indigenous students (both internal and distance) graduate from Wagga Campus.

With this year’s theme being “Because of her, we can” we are pleased to acknowledge and give recognition to Mumma Jones. By opening Ngungilanna she has contributed to the Academic Success of so many Wagga CSU Indigenous students.