One of Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) leading Aboriginal researchers has been chosen to present a prestigious oration named after Dr Charles Perkins AO, the first Aboriginal man in Australia to graduate from university and one of the country’s most influential figures of the late 20th century.
The University of Sydney’s Dr Charles Perkins AO Memorial Oration was established with the full support of the Perkins family and in acknowledgement of his dedication to human rights and social justice for Indigenous Australians.
Orators are chosen for their outstanding contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for their community, country and society.
Principal Research Fellow at CDU’s Northern Institute, Associate Professor Linda (Payi) Ford who is a Rak Mak Mak Marranunggu local Territorian will be the Orator at next week’s event, which focuses on the International Year of Indigenous Languages, Voice, Treaty, Truth.
Dr Ford’s career in research, teaching and learning has focused on Aboriginal knowledges, languages and culture.
“I’m very honoured to be invited as the Orator at the Charles Perkins Memorial Oration. Dr Charles Perkins AO was such a huge and iconic figure in activism. He blazed a trail for others to follow. He was one man who made an impact on Australia and the difference he contributed to benefited us all as Australians,” Dr Ford said.
“He ignited a whole new generation of Aboriginal leaders where he led the challenge to Australian social and political structures about recognition of Aboriginal people and our rights. Dr Perkins was an amazing leader and was influential in all areas wherever he walked and addressed people from all backgrounds and levels of community, sports, education and government.
“He is one Arrernte man from Alice Springs who shifted the boundaries and the goal posts in relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country and it is a huge privilege that I can speak respectfully in his honour.”
Dr Ford’s contribution to Dr Charles Perkins AO Memorial Oration will focus on the ancient oral traditional languages to celebrate the International Year of Indigenous Languages and focus on the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Day of Celebration theme, Voice, Treaty, Truth.
“Oral and signing traditions are transferred from one generation to the next and this is important to us as Aboriginal people. Sign language is a whole Indigenous language of its own. It’s possible for Indigenous people to have whole conversations entirely in sign language, which might not even be observable to people unfamiliar with this form of communication.”
But she said little was known about the prevalence of Aboriginal sign language today and if the knowledge was being passed on.
“There are only fleeting references to Aboriginal sign language, and minimal research into the practice,” Dr Ford said.
“The International Year of Indigenous Languages is an ideal opportunity to place Aboriginal languages and sign language more firmly on the Indigenist research agenda reform, so we can understand its use, contribution to language, culture and health in terms of Aboriginal peoples able to practise and pass on the knowledge,” Dr Ford said.
The Dr Charles Perkins AO Memorial Oration will be held at the University of Sydney on Tuesday 15 October at the University of Sydney’s Great Hall from 6.00pm – 8.30pm.