UNSW academics and alumni have been named as part of Cosmos magazine's prestigious list of top Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders making a difference in the community.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Society (PVSC) and Professor of Law at UNSW Sydney Professor Megan Davis, Professor Jason Sharples and PhD candidate Kirsten Banks have been named as part of 52 leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are changing the world by Cosmos magazine, as part of National NAIDOC Week 2023.
National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July to celebrate and recognise: “the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
The list of 52 leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are changing the world was put together by Cosmos magazine in collaboration with the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) and Australia’s five Learned Academies.
“In this important week, celebrating and recognising the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it was the pleasure of Australia’s Learned Academies and ACOLA to work with Cosmos to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and scientists,” said UNSW Business Professor and ACOLA Board Chair Richard Holden.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous and UNSW Professor of Law Megan Davis
Prof. Davis is Pro Vice-Chancellor Society and a Professor of Law at UNSW Sydney. Prof. Davis was elected by the UN Human Rights Council to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples based in Geneva in 2017 and again in 2019 (2019-2022).
“It’s wonderful in NAIDOC week to be recognised in an esteemed list of First Nations people like this; Constitutional recognition has been decades in the making and now we are months away from a constitutional referendum it is important that this work is recognised,” Prof. Davis said.
As the Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, Prof. Davis has worked on constitutional recognition at UNSW Law & Justice for 20 years. Prof. Davis designed the dialogue process and the First Nations National Constitutional Convention that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for the Voice. The Indigenous Law Centre has led the drafting of the constitutional amendment.
Prof. Davis delivered the Uluru Statement for the first time on the floor of the First Nations Constitutional Convention in May 2017, and she has since been relentless in her advocacy for the Voice to Parliament.
UNSW Canberra Professor Jason Sharples
UNSW Canberra Prof. Sharples at the UNSW Bushfire Research Group uses complex predictive mathematical models with aims to prevent big fires forming.
Prof. Sharples is a Bundjalung man, mathematical scientist, and internationally recognised expert in dynamic bushfire behaviour and extreme bushfire development.
“NAIDOC Week is important as it highlights the influence of Australian Indigenous culture on broader society, recognises the contributions being made by many Indigenous Australians and allows me to reflect on what my Indigenous heritage means to me and how it affects the way I look at the world,” Prof. Sharples said.
“It’s really important to me that Indigenous people get every opportunity to excel, particularly in STEM disciplines. I think UNSW can play a leading role in helping with this, by using its influence, and by working with other learned academies, to further acknowledge Indigenous ways of knowing and support education and training.”
UNSW PhD candidate Kirsten Banks
Astrophysicist and UNSW PhD candidate Kirsten Banks is a Wiradjuri woman, and science communicator, known for her work in promoting mainstream and Aboriginal astronomy.
"It is an absolute honour to be included on this list. I love sharing my passion for space and astronomy, so to be included on this list with so many incredibly passionate people that I look up to on a daily basis fills me with so much joy,” said Ms Banks.
Professor James Ward
UNSW Medicine alumnus Prof Ward is a Pitjantjatjara and Nukunu man, an epidemiologist and national leader in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research specialising in infectious diseases. He is currently the Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Queensland (UQ.)
Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt
UNSW Law alumni and Distinguished Prof Larissa Behrendt AO is a Eualeyai and Kamillaroi woman, Australian legal academic, writer, filmmaker, and Indigenous rights advocate. She is Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney. Prof. Behrendt is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.
Dr Rhett Loban
UNSW Arts, Design and Architecture alumnus Dr Rhett Loban is a Torres Strait Islander with connections to Mabuyag and Boigu. He is a researcher and lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, with research interests in culture, game-based learning, and virtual reality.
Read more about the Cosmos magazine list here.