Out-going Senior Australian of the Year, Sr Anne Gardiner FDNSC, has been bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate by the Australian Catholic University in recognition of her outstanding contribution to society, especially to the people of the Tiwi Islands.
And Sr Anne has concluded her year in the same way she began it, by thanking the people of the Tiwi Islands and her Congregation, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
The ACU citation for her Honorary Doctorate said that Sr Anne has been “Instrumental in advancing the cause of Indigenous recognition in Australia”.
“Sister Anne has made significant contributions to education and Tiwi culture while living and working on Bathurst Island – contributions that will endure for future generations to come.”
The citation says that as a 22-year-old, Sr Anne was asked by her Congregation to move to Bathurst Island, the smaller of the two Tiwi Islands, 80km north of Darwin.
Sr Anne accepted the mission and was ready to change the world. Yet many questions went through her mind. She asked Bishop Francis Xavier Gsell, the founder of the Tiwi Catholic mission, what she would do there, he told her: “Love them.”
Apart from six years of teaching in Nauru and four in Darwin, Sr Anne has wholeheartedly devoted her life to doing just that for more than five decades. Now 86 years old, Sr Anne continues to live on Bathurst Island, where she has supported Tiwi culture and heritage, enriched the community and contributed to the education of multiple generations.
“Embodying the spirit of openness and dialogue that is integral to the Catholic intellectual tradition, Sister Anne maintained the importance of education as a right,” the citation says.
She ran the island school for more than four decades, teaching multiple generations of Tiwi children.
In turn, she was a student herself: “The Tiwi people have taught me loyalty, their ability to forgive, their strong sense of humour which keeps you going, their friendship and their directness”, she says.
On receiving the ACU honour, Sr Anne thanked those who supported her along the way.
“I wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for my congregation and the Tiwi people”, she says.
“This award is not a personal award to me; it goes to my sisters and the Tiwi people.”
ACU also bestowed Honorary Doctorates on lawyer and human rights advocate Julian McMahon and Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anbar Suriel.
The 2018 Senior Australian of the Year will be named on Australia Day.
Read the story and access the full citation for Sr Anne’s ACU Honorary Doctorate here.