CDU to award Honorary Doctorates to NT women 


Charles Darwin University will present two honorary doctorates, both to women, at this week’s graduation ceremony in Darwin.

A Yolngu woman, Raymattja Marika, will receive a Doctor of Education, Honoris Causa, during the CDU graduation ceremony at the Darwin Entertainment Centre on Friday evening, 12 October.

Dr Valerie Asche, a tireless worker for the NT and for the University through her many contributions to the Menzies School of Health Research, will receive the award of Doctor of the University, Honoris Causa.

Raymattja Marika, a woman of high esteem in both the Yolngu Aboriginal community of north-east Arnhem Land and in the wider Australian community, is being recognised for her contribution to education, especially to the education of Aboriginal people in the NT, and her services to reconciliation and inter-cultural understanding.

She is the eldest daughter of Dadaynga (Roy) Marika, a pioneer of the land rights movement who believed in the value of education for Aborigines, both in their own cultures and in the non-Aboriginal world.

Ms Marika learned to read and write in English, but also became literate in her own Rirratjingu language. While at the mission school, she recorded and wrote local stories for bilingual education programs which began in 1974. In 1976 she was employed at the school to continue this work, marking the start of her formal career as an educator.

She recognised early on the need for young Yolngu to be able to express and translate Yolngu language, lore and views to the wider community. Ms Marika has spent the past three decades working for Aboriginal people to be included in the mainstream education system, where the curriculum includes aspects of Aboriginal life and culture, and where Aboriginal first languages are respected.

Ms Marika holds a Certificate of Literary Attainment from the School of Aboriginal Languages at Batchelor, an Advanced Diploma in Teaching from the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, and a Graduate Diploma in Adult Education and Training from Melbourne University.

In 1984 she spearheaded the establishment of the Yirrkala School Action Group which resulted in the Yirrkala School Council gaining control over decision making and in achieving a program and mode of delivery of educational services that is valued by Aboriginal communities.

She has held senior positions, including Director of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Director of Reconciliation Australia, and Treasurer of the Yothu Yindi Foundation. She plays a central role in the annual Garma Festival. Ms Marika also provided the original translations and cultural information for CDU’s Yolngu Studies program and has been an advisor to the program for 12 years.

Ms Marika was part of a team that won a Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Tertiary Teaching in 2005. She also received a Territory Day Award in 2006.

The second woman to be honoured at this week’s graduation ceremony is Dr Valerie Asche, who will receive the award of Doctor of the University, Honoris Causa, in recognition for her outstanding service to the field of microbiological science, and to the University through her many contributions, including the Menzies School of Health Research.

Dr Asche holds a Doctor of Philosophy, is a Member of the Order of Australia, and is a Dame of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

She has authored more than 40 papers in scholarly publications. In 1991 she received the Distinguished Service Award of the Australian Society for Microbiology.

With her husband, Austin, Dr Asche moved to the Northern Territory in 1986, where she worked as senior research officer within the Microbiology Unit at the Menzies School of Health Research, and sessional microbiologist at Royal Darwin Hospital.

Under her leadership, the Microbiology Unit published numerous articles, including the first paper published in the southern hemisphere to report on the isolation of Chlamydia pneumoniae. When she retired from this work she was awarded the Menzies School of Health Research Medallion for outstanding service to the school. Dr Asche was appointed to the Governing Board of the Menzies School in 1994 and remained a member until 2005.

In 1993, the couple moved into Government House for Mr Asche’s three-year term as Administrator of the Northern Territory. During this period Dr Asche became patron of at least 35 community organisations. She was a foundation member of the Museum and Art Galleries Foundation and the Government House Foundation.

Dr Asche remains the Patron of six NT organisations and is actively involved with many others. In 2002 she chaired the Task Force on Illicit Drugs in the Northern Territory, commissioned by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.

Her awards include the 1998 Chief Minister’s Women’s Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Northern Territory, the NT’s Senior Australian Citizen of the Year in 2000, and in 2001 she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to science, particularly in the field of microbiology, and to the NT community.

“Charles Darwin University is delighted to be welcoming both Raymattja Marika and Val Asche as distinguished alumni of the university,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Garnett said.