Flinders University health academic Associate Professor Wendy Edmondson is the recipient of this year’s Premier’s NAIDOC Award.
Associate Professor Edmondson, a Badimaya Aboriginal woman born in Western Australia, has been recognised for her significant and ongoing commitment to Aboriginal health and education in South Australia.
The Premier’s NAIDOC Award recognises the outstanding achievements and service of an extraordinary South Australian who has made a significant contribution to the lives of Aboriginal people.
Associate Professor Edmondson, who has worked and volunteered for 37 years in the fields of Aboriginal health and education, lectures in health sciences at Flinders. She is based at the University’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing at Flinders and is commencing a PhD later this year to record her father’s life.
She attributes her commitment to address the inequities experienced by many Aboriginal people to her parents, notably her mother who was an Aboriginal health worker for more than 20 years, and “the wisdom of my ancestors”.
Since graduating from a teaching degree in 1978, she has worked in Port Augusta and Adelaide for the Australian Government, UniSA and Tauondi Aboriginal College – where she earned a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I have always wanted to make a difference, working to break the cycle which has seen many of my family and friends die at early ages, depriving their families and communities of social and cultural continuity and knowledge,” she says.
“If we can address the social determinants of health, then we may be more effective in closing the gap.”
Associate Professor Edmondson is very pleased that “there has been growing interest on the part of non-Aboriginal students in Aboriginal history and health.
“They want to learn about the true, shared history of our country, to reconcile the past and to move forward in the true spirit of reconciliation,” she says.
In 2014, Ms Edmondson established the Purple Starfish Foundation to address racism experienced by Aboriginal people in health services, and at Flinders University she has volunteered her time to support Aboriginal students, especially those travelling far from their homes.
Previously, she was a founding member and inaugural chairperson of Marra Dreaming, an Aboriginal community arts and development organisation in Salisbury.
In 2001, she was appointed inaugural CEO of the newly reformed Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, and in 2010 she was awarded a Churchill fellowship to research the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy in Australia, in comparison to New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.
The State Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Minister, Kyam Maher, said: “Wendy Edmondson is a deserving winner of the Premier’s NAIDOC Award, as her longstanding dedication to Aboriginal education and health, both professionally and privately, has made a significant contribution to the lives of Aboriginal South Australians.”
At the award presentations at Old Parliament House this week, Mr Maher said Ms Edmondson was recognized for her strong cultural leadership, humility, and as an advocate for change.