- Lifetime of service to Indigenous education acknowledged by Charles Sturt University
- Retiring Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) received accolade at ceremony on Monday 16 September
- Professor directed and inspired change in her role as Foundation Chair of Indigenous Studies at Charles Sturt
A decade of service to Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) as part of a career-long commitment to Indigenous education has seen Professor Heather ‘Jeannie’ Herbert AM conferred the title of Emeritus Professor.
The University Council and wider Charles Sturt community honoured the retiring Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) at a ceremony held at the University’s Bathurst campus on Monday 16 September.
Professor Herbert was recruited to the position of Foundation Chair of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies at Charles Sturt in 2009, and in the ensuing decade she has contributed to and steered a raft of significant projects within Charles Sturt, with her citation for the honour describing her as “an outstanding role model”.
“During her tenure Professor Herbert has made an outstanding and exemplary contribution to the University and the wider community as an academic, a leader and an influencer,” it read.
“Her teaching, research and collaboration has empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples through engagement in their education.
“Charles Sturt University, and the other universities where she has been employed, have significantly benefitted from her expertise, leadership, and generosity.
“The University has enormous respect for Professor Herbert’s contributions. She has been an outstanding role model and is deserving of the title of Emeritus Professor.”
Professor Herbert’s impressive list of achievements in the Indigenous education sphere at Charles Sturt include: reviewing the University’s performance against its Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020; building the Indigenous research agenda at the University to a new level of quality and intensity; resetting the benchmarks for the Indigenous Education Strategy; and reviewing the Indigenous Academic Fellow Program to critically examine its successes and challenges.
Prior to her tenure at Charles Sturt Professor Herbert’s other work in the tertiary sector included:
- Director of the Oorala Aboriginal Centre at the University of New England in New South Wales in 1996-97.
- Between 1996 and 2006, at James Cook University (JCU), she held the positions of Director, Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation, Research and Development; Head of the School of Indigenous Australian Studies; and Foundation Chair of Indigenous Australian Studies.
- In 2006, Professor Herbert took up the position of Director of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the Northern Territory. In 2007, the Institute’s Council appointed her Vice-Chancellor of the Institute – the first Indigenous Vice-Chancellor in Australia.
The honour is the latest in a string of deserving accolades for Professor Herbert, who in 2012 became a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for her "service to tertiary education, particularly through improvements to educational outcomes for Indigenous people, and to the delivery of learning opportunities across regional and remote northern Australia".
Other honours bestowed upon her include:
- The prestigious Betty Watts Award by the Australian Association for Research in Education in 2005 for her paper entitled ‘Owning the Discourse: Seizing the Power!’.
- Nominated as a ‘Respected Person’ at the 2008 World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Education for her work as an “Education Warrior”
- Named as a Dare to Lead Ambassador for Indigenous Education at the 2010 National Principals Australia Incorporated/Dare To Lead Annual Conference in recognition of her work in Indigenous education.
- In 2016 RMIT University bestowed on her the Outstanding Alumnus (Australia) award.
Professor Herbert was born and raised in the Kimberly region of Western Australia, leaving home at the age of 12 to attend high school in Geraldton
After being awarded a scholarship (teaching bursary) to attend teachers college and graduating in 1963, Professor Herbert taught in many locations, including Shark Bay, Katanning and Broome in Western Australia; Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean; Bougainville in Papua New Guinea; Saudi Arabia; and various locations in north Queensland.
After completing her Masters degree, and vowing not to undertake further study, Professor Herbert commenced her PhD with the focus on Indigenous success in education, a topic heavily influenced by her personal experience as a school teacher.
Speaking about her PhD, Professor Herbert said “I had been a teacher for a long time, teaching in many different places and teaching many Indigenous students”.
“I was tired of hearing all those stereotypes around Indigenous failure, so I decided to undertake a study that would reveal the truth about Indigenous success in education.”
Professor Herbert completed her PhD in 2003, by which time she had been appointed to senior positions at JCU.
In recognition of her “research, teaching and leadership, and her significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge in Indigenous education and to the advancement of JCU as a provider of Indigenous Higher Education”, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Educational Studies from that university in 2008.
Professor Herbert has continued her research and collaborative approach in her appointments at Charles Sturt. She was a member of the research teams for two Australian Research Council projects between 2006 and 2010, the findings providing valuable knowledge in the aspirations, motivations and learning strategies of involuntary minorities in Australia and North America.
In accordance with Charles Sturt’s Governance, the University Council may grant the title of Emeritus Professor if, upon their retirement from the University: a Professor has occupied a Chair in the University or a position with the rank and title of Professor, for a minimum period of 10 years; and during that period, has given distinguished academic service above and beyond the level of service normally expected of a Professor to the scholarly community and/or to the University community.