Elder Aunty Mae Robinson honoured at Liverpool Ngara Ngura campus

Aunty Mae Robinson and Western Sydney University Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold.

Aunty Mae (Mavis) Robinson, a descendant of the Yuin and Kamilaroi people and long-time resident of Western Sydney, was recently honoured through the naming of the ‘Aunty Mae Foyer’ in Western Sydney University’s Ngara Ngura building at Liverpool. A traditional smoking ceremony and plaque unveiling commemorated the naming.

Over the last 30 years, Aunty Mae has been an agent of change in the education system. She has worked tirelessly to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people with opportunities and access to education while raising awareness of their rights.

In the early 1980s, Aunty Mae – a mature-age student and mother – became the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the School of Education at the Milperra College.

Aunty Mae went on to teach in Western Sydney primary schools and was appointed to Education Officer and consultant positions with the NSW Department of Education and Training. Since retiring Aunty Mae continues to consult with local Aboriginal communities. Currently, she is the longest serving Elder on Campus at the University.

At the naming ceremony Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University, Professor Barney Glover, noted that Aunty Mae is an advocate for the transformative power of education.

“We come together today to recognise Aunty Mae Robinson’s outstanding achievements. Ngara Ngura loosely translates to ‘exchange knowledge by listening, by hearing and by thinking’, which reflects so well what Aunty Mae has done all her life. Her influence as an educator has extended far beyond the Aboriginal community. We thank her for helping to forge the institution that Western Sydney University is today,” said Professor Glover.

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover, Aunty Mae Robinson and Mr Chris Hayes MP, Member for Fowler.

Aunty Mae Robinson said Western Sydney University has opened up the world of higher education to many Aboriginal people.

“The University is about people who are actively involved in the community. It’s about giving to others. All my life I wanted to be a teacher, and that’s what I am, a teacher and a teacher of my culture. I still believe that good education, together with good health, is the most important thing that you can have in your life,” said Aunty Mae.

Her close friend and colleague, Melissa Williams, CEO of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Council, added: “Aunty Mae exemplifies the values we wish to mobilise among students, schools, staff and the broader community. These values are scholarship, contribution, community connectedness, accessibility, visibility, persistence and breakthrough achievement. On her watch, the University has seen the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students grow to nearly 700.”

Aunty Mae helped draft the state’s first ever Aboriginal Education Policy and has received more than 20 awards for her work in advancing education, including an Honorary Doctorate and the ‘Women of the West’ award in 2010. She is considered a connector of cultures, recognised for her drive and passion, and has made a genuine difference through education.


14 November, 2018

Isabel Wagner, Senior Media Officer

Images by Sally Tsoutas, University Photographer