The Hon. Dr Linda Burney celebrated with a Foundation Day award

19 JULY 2023

The Hon. Dr Linda Burney celebrated with a Foundation Day award

An outstanding Indigenous leader and Charles Sturt University alumna has been acknowledged in the University’s annual Foundation Day Alumni Awards for her ‘social impact’.

The 2023 Charles Sturt University Alumni of the Year – Social Impact (one of six categories) was awarded to The Hon. Dr Linda Burney (pictured), a proud Wiradjuri woman and the first Aboriginal student to graduate from Mitchell College of Advanced Education (MCAE), an antecedent institution of Charles Sturt University.

Charles Sturt University announced the winners of its 2023 Alumni Awards on Foundation Day, Wednesday 19 July, celebrating 34 years since the University’s inception and recognising graduates who are making a difference in the world, either professionally or as a volunteer.

Dr Burney graduated with a Diploma of Teaching (General Primary) in 1979 and in 2002 was awarded a Doctor of Education (honoris causa) by Charles Sturt in recognition of her immense contribution to Aboriginal education.

She is also the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the NSW Parliament and, later, the first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives in the Parliament of Australia, as the Member for Barton, and serve as the Minister for Indigenous Australians.

With her trademark passion, empathy, and strong moral compass, Dr Burney has brought humanity to politics and dedicated her career and life to advancing social justice and Indigenous rights in Australia.

Dr Burney was the first Aboriginal person elected to the NSW Parliament in 2003. She served more than 13 years as Member for Canterbury, where she drove crucial policy and reform across an array of high-profile ministerial portfolios including Community Services, Youth, and Women.

She then spent five years as Deputy Leader of the Opposition before winning the federal seat of Barton in 2016, making history again as the first Indigenous woman elected to Australia’s House of Representatives.

Dr Burney used her first speech – the opening delivered in her Wiradjuri language – to promise Australians that she would push for education, reduced juvenile imprisonment, and an end to domestic violence.

She also wore a traditional kangaroo skin cloak displaying her personal totem, the white cockatoo; fittingly - this noisy messenger bird is also the Charles Sturt mascot, representing unity, a sense of community, and pride.

Dr Burney brings her lived experience to the political arena and is driven to ensure that the struggles of disadvantaged communities aren’t forgotten in the decision-making process.

As Minister for Indigenous Australians at a pivotal point in the nation’s history, Dr Burney has approached the important task of implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and establishing a First Nations Voice to Parliament with clarity and care.

She is a robust voice urging us to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a stronger and more unified nation for all and help close the gaps in health, education, and opportunities for First Nations peoples.

Though she has spent the last two decades working to drive genuine change through politics, Dr Burney’s impact stretches much further back. As the first Aboriginal student to complete a teaching degree at Mitchell College-Charles Sturt in 1979, she taught at Lethbridge Park Public School in western Sydney after graduating.

Within two years she had been tapped by the NSW Department of Education to join its Aboriginal Education Unit and develop and implement the NSW Department of Education Aboriginal Education Policy, the first of its kind in Australia.

Dr Burney became Executive Officer and then President of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, where she led a paradigm shift in Aboriginal education and seeded a long overdue transformation in how Australian history is taught in schools.

She also spent four years leading the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, first as Deputy Director General then Director General, before transitioning to politics.

Dr Burney is a natural leader and is widely respected in the community and on all sides of politics.

She has served on the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, the NSW Board of Studies, the ATSIC National Social Justice Task Force, the National Council for Aboriginal Recognition, the SBS Board, and numerous advisory committees.

Dr Burney counts the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), Meritorious Service to Public Education and Training Award (2010), and the Centenary Medal (2001) among her many honours and is also founding Director of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre.

With over three decades of sustained social impact, Dr Burney is a shining inspiration to others – and young Indigenous Australians in particular – showing just what can be achieved by rejecting limitations and rising to your own potential.

Media Note:

For more information contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or

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