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Meet CDU's Indigenous female Trailblazers

This article appears in: Indigenous Knowledges
meet cdu indigenous female trailblazers from naidoc week

As part of CDU's NAIDOC Week program, we celebrate the achievements of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have made a substantial contribution to, and impact on, this University. 

From its very foundations, Indigenous women have contributed to making this University what it is today – they have inspired, driven change and shown pathways for staff and students, and we proudly acknowledge them all.

Read the inspiring stories of eight amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who walked ahead, but always together, through the history and future of CDU.

Because of her, we can

KATHY (GOTHA) GUTHADJAKA: Senior Research Fellow & Elder on Country
KATHY (GOTHA) GUTHADJAKA: Senior Research Fellow & Elder on Country

Kathy (Gotha) Guthadjaka is a senior elder from Gäwa, a small family community on Elcho Island in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. A Yolngu woman, she has worked as an educator and researcher in her community for more than five decades.

As Senior Research Fellow at the Northern Institute at CDU, Gotha is dedicated not only to preserving traditional knowledge, but also to sharing her Aboriginal knowledge and expertise with the greater global community.

Gotha was named 2018 NT Senior Australian of the Year. She was recognised for her work creating a bilingual educational model that delivered high attendance and graduation rates on Elcho Island. Kathy was also acknowledged for representing Australia at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva and for her research work examining language, traditional knowledge, culture and country.

In October 2018 Dr Guthadjaka was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Charles Darwin University, officially appointed a Member of the Order of Australia by Her Honour the Honourable Vicki O’Halloran AM, Administrator of the Northern Territory on her country in Gäwa, Elcho Island (Arnhem Land). She was appointed an AM for significant service to the Indigenous community through contributions to education and cultural preservation in East Arnhem Land.

DR WENDY LUDWIG: Director of Operations, Office of Indigenous Leadership
DR WENDY LUDWIG: Director of Operations, Office of Indigenous Leadership

Dr Wendy Ludwig has been the Director of Operations, Office of Indigenous Leadership at CDU since 2014. She has been instrumental in continuing the drive change within the University to increase outcomes for Indigenous students, staff, families and communities. Wendy is a Kungarakan-Gurindji woman from the Northern Territory.

She is highly regarded for her contributions to systemic advocacy, innovative research, policy and the carriage of culturally-inclusive education as it pertains to Indigenous people. She was one of the founding members to design and teach the Aboriginal VET programs offered by Darwin Community College (DCC) from 1980 until 1985. 

In 2017, Wendy was awarded by the World Indigenous Nations University with a meritorious doctorate, Doctor of Education (Ed. D) in recognition of her lifelong work as an educator and knowledge holder, which formed part of the recommendation from National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC).

DR PAYI LINDA FORD: Principal Research Fellow 
DR PAYI LINDA FORD: Principal Research Fellow 

Dr Payi Linda Ford is a Principal Research Fellow at the Northern Institute at CDU, with which she has a long association. Linda is a Rak Mak Mak Marranunggu, from Kurrindju, on the Finniss River, in the Northern Territory.

Along with her project colleagues, Linda was recently awarded the National Science Exchange Programs Collaboration Award for 2018, which recognised the research project ‘Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities through Engagement: A Focus on Biosecurity Threats’.

As a mother, an academic, a researcher, an educator and a practitioner of Indigenous traditions, Linda possesses a unique and rare experience that she is willing to share with people wishing to enhance their understanding of the Indigenous cross-cultural environment.

DR SUE STANTON: Elder and Academic Advisor
DR SUE STANTON: Elder and Academic Advisor

In 2007, Dr Sue Stanton became CDU’s first Aboriginal woman to receive a PhD of History (research based) from CDU. Sue is a Kungarakan-Gurindji woman from the Northern Territory.

A colonial historian, she first graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (History) from the former Northern Territory University (now CDU) in 1995. The same year she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

Sue is a nationally and internationally known and respected senior scholar who serves on many national bodies and committees.

DR ELAINE LÄWURRPA MAYPILAMA: Principal Research Fellow 
DR ELAINE LÄWURRPA MAYPILAMA: Principal Research Fellow 

Dr Elaine Läwurrpa Maypilama has worked extensively with CDU and Menzies School of Health Research for over twenty years. Läwurrpa is a Yolŋu woman from Galiwin’ku in the Northern Territory. In 2013, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from CDU.

Läwurrpa has been an integral part of several Menzies nutrition projects focusing on integrating traditional Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing to build strong nutrition, health and spirit.

She has skilfully guided many non-Indigenous researchers to work with Yolŋu in ways that are ethical, mutually beneficial, and enable non-Indigenous and Yolŋu to understand each other’s knowledge.


Emeritus Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik AO is a Djaru woman from the Kimberly region of Western Australia, born in Broome and raised in Darwin, Northern Territory. She was the first Indigenous Australian to graduate from the Darwin Hospital as a trained nurse in 1962; the first Indigenous Australian to work in the university sector; and the first Indigenous Australian to gain a Doctorate from Harvard University in 1989.

In 2001, she accepted a position from Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University) as the Dean of the Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. When she retired in 2008, MaryAnn was made an Emeritus Professor for her exemplary contribution to CDU. In 2017, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

During her tenure at CDU, MaryAnn was instrumental in establishing various Indigenous support programs for students and staff including: Academic Support, Cross Cultural Awareness, Taste of Uni, Employment and Retention, and Research Strategy.

TRISH ANGUS: Senior Advisor and Executive
TRISH ANGUS: Senior Advisor and Executive

Trish is a Jawoyn woman from Katherine, Northern Territory. She has served on the Charles Darwin University’s Vice Chancellor’s Indigenous Advisory Council (VCIAC) providing high-level advice to the Vice Chancellor and the University in relation to Indigenous matters since its inception in 2011. 

Trish started out her career as a registered nurse and midwife working in public hospitals, community clinics and the Royal Australian Air Force. She spent most of her career holding senior executive public-sector positions in the Human Services areas of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services. 

In 2013, Trish was awarded the Public Service Medal at the Australia Day Awards.

PROFESSOR MARCIA LANGTON AM: Anthropologist and Advocate
PROFESSOR MARCIA LANGTON AM: Anthropologist and Advocate

Professor Marcia Langton AM is an anthropologist and geographer who continues to make a significant contribution to government and non-government policy as well as to Indigenous studies at universities.

Marcia grew up in south-central Queensland and Brisbane and is a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations. In 1995, she was appointed as the Ranger Chair in Aboriginal Studies at the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University).

Professor Langton held firm beliefs about the place of Aboriginal Studies in the University and cross-faculty development of programs. She later headed the Centre for Indigenous and Cultural Resource Management (CINCRM) at NTU.

CDU is dedicated to embracing Indigenous Knowledges and perspectives into all aspects of the University by participation in ethical research with communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and preservation of knowledge; providing unique courses in Indigenous culture, history, policy and language; and ensuring a culturally-safe learning environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. 

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