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Two strong Central Australian advocates to receive honorary awards

First Nations women smiling in front of Indigenous Art
Two local advocates are being recognised for their contributions to improving the lives of people living in Central Australia at the 2024 CDU Alice Springs graduation.

This year Charles Darwin University is recognising two central Australian advocates who have spent the majority of their careers working to improve the lives of the people living in Central Australia. 

Local Arrernte and Anmatjere Elder Patricia Perrurle Ansell-Dodds (Aunty Pat) is being recognised for her significant contributions to the health, well-being, and advancement of First Nations people living in the region and beyond. 

Professor John Wakerman has more than 30 years’ experience working and living in Central Australia, and his dedication to delivering remote health services, education and research is being acknowledged. 

The University will award Aunty Pat the title of Honorary Doctor of Letters and will bestow the honorary title of Emeritus Professor to John Wakerman in recognition of their contributions.

They will be receiving their prestigious awards on June 13 in Alice Springs alongside more than 300 graduate students.

Aunty Pat has been a voice for the people of Central Australia for decades and has worked as an interpreter, mediator, and educator across several disciplines, including health, education and cross-cultural training, during her time working at the Remote Centre of Health the pair worked together to improve healthcare delivery to rural and remote patients in the NT. 

“I believe I have a unique ability to walk in both worlds, and this has given me a voice to advocate for the things that I believe in and for my people,” Aunty Pat said. 

Professor Wakerman began his medical journey in Alice Springs while on a student placement in 1980. He has been a clinician, manager, teacher, researcher and staunch advocate for remote Australia.

“After completing the Master of Tropical Health I was invited to continue doctoral studies with University of Queensland, but I was drawn back to the inspirational people I had met and the physical drama of the country,” Professor Wakerman said. 

In 1990 Professor Wakerman relocated to Alice Springs and began working for the NT Health Department. Throughout his 30-year career in the NT, working with NT Health, Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) and Flinders University, he managed the delivery of remote health and community services, launched the Centre of Remote Health and helped develop remote health research methods and teaching postgraduate students.

After serving as the Associate Dean at Flinders for five years he returned to Menzies, where he built a successful, nationally, and internationally recognised health services and workforce research program, from which he retired last October. 

“I am a proud Centralian and I hope to continue to mentor and inspire the next generation of students and researchers,” Professor Wakerman said. 

The Alice Springs graduation will be held at the Alice Springs Convention Centre on Thursday 13 June, proceedings will begin at 7.00pm.

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