2000s Alumni Voice: Rebecca Richards
Delivering genuine inclusion for Indigenous students
Rebecca Richards made history in 2010 when she became Australia's first Indigenous Rhodes Scholar. The Young Australian of the Year in the UK is a passionate leader in the Indigenous community. She graduated from Adelaide with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Anthropology in 2011 and is now back at the University doing her PhD.
"My fondest memories of my time studying at the University of Adelaide are definitely of the friendships formed with other students, especially at Wirltu Yarlu. It was great to just hang out with other students, especially in the Indigenous common rooms at Yaitya Purruna and Wirltu Yarlu. The support, encouragement and belief in my achievement that I received from students and staff at Wirltu Yarlu kept me going in the tough times and ensured that I had some light moments of relief even when assignments and exams loomed large.
As an undergraduate and during my Honours year, I spent many hours each week in Wirltu Yarlu, both to utilise the excellent study facilities and to have a secure base of cultural recognition and support. This fostered my identity and served to strengthen my ability to work with confidence within academia and the wider university environment.
During my undergraduate studies I completed an Indigenous cadetship at the National Museum of Australia. I was then hired full-time as an Indigenous Project Officer in 2011. I undertook research duties on Aboriginal bark paintings while at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
I became the first Indigenous Australian recipient of the Rhodes scholarship, successfully completed a Master of Philosophy in Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford in 2013. I have also been awarded the Gladys Elphick Award and Rotary Paul Harris Fellow (Sapphire Pin) in 2011, the Young South Australian of the Year Award and SA Young Achiever of the Year Award in 2012, and Young Australian of the Year in the UK in 2013.
The genuine inclusion of Indigenous students, the encouragement of cultural awareness amongst academic staff and the University's participation in programs such as NAIDOC celebrations have all been significant achievements which have seen Adelaide become a more inclusive and welcoming place where Aboriginal students are more likely to achieve success.
The University of Adelaide has made a great difference in my life. The support gained from having an organisation that understands Indigenous struggles and issues, recognises the importance and value of our cultural beliefs and practices, and provides a venue where students can feel supremely comfortable in the midst of the often overwhelming university environment is immeasurable.
I look forward to the time when advocacy and support ensures that Indigenous people are represented in the same percentage in the University as in the general population and to a time when our culture and people are at the forefront of decision-making."
story by Rebecca Richards
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