The University of Sydney is proud to share that Aunty Associate Professor Lynette Riley AO has received the Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to education, particularly through the development of Indigenous curriculum and student support, to reconciliation, and to the community.
Dr Riley AO was announced as a recipient of the Officer of the Order of Australia in June this year, as part of the King’s Birthday 2023 Honours List. Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales, presented Dr Riley AO with her medal in a ceremony on Friday 15th September.
“Receiving the Australian Order medal is wonderful validation from colleagues and friends for my lifetime focus on Aboriginal Education,” she says. “I think this commendation from my friends and colleagues is perhaps the most inspiring compliment I have ever received.”
The award celebrates Dr Riley AO’s long career, in which she has dedicated more than 30 years to improving Aboriginal education at both grassroots and institutional levels. During this time, she has worked in schools, TAFE, state office and universities. In 1982, she was a founding member of the Aboriginal Education unit in the NSW Department of Education. She has also made significant contributions to tertiary institutions including the University of New England, TAFE NSW and the University of Sydney.
“I am most proud,” she says, “to have been able to have an impact in making education more relevant for Aboriginal students, and to contribute to appropriate education for non-Indigenous people concerning Aboriginal people’s histories and cultures.”
Dr Riley AO currently is currently Chair, Aboriginal Education and Indigenous Studies at the University of Sydney, a program that offers students an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and knowledge systems.
The highlight of running the programs is creating authentic opportunities for students to hear directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to understand the impact of their learnings for their futures in working with or for First Nations people.
In addition to her contributions to educational institutions, Dr Riley AO has served as a board member, chair and advisor for several organisations including the OCHRE Steering Committee, Reconciliation NSW and Foundation for Breast Cancer Care.
Throughout her life and career, Dr Riley AO has remained motivated by her family, community and an unyielding desire to make change.
“My parents weren’t allowed an education, because as Aboriginal people, we were informed we were incapable of higher forms of education,” she reflects. “My parents, grandparents and communities wanted someone to navigate education and ensure positive change was created. That can often only be done from inside the system. I aim to continue to establish systemic change, where systems and people who develop structures are unable to identify the systemic bias and racism which exists and needs to be changed.”
Dr Riley AO’s work has already had a large impact – not just on the education system, but on the lives of Aboriginal people and communities across Australia.
When it comes to what’s next, Dr Riley AO looks forward to more teaching and research. She is also excited to continue working with her colleagues in the Aboriginal Education and Indigenous Studies team, the Research Centre for Children and Families, the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, and external committees and boards.
I hope to continue to be a voice for other Aboriginal people who don’t have the opportunity to get into these spaces in education to create change, which supports their culture and identities."