CDU student selected to represent Australia at UN 

Gemma Church (second from left) and Australia’s other Global Voices delegates meet with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.

A Charles Darwin University student has been selected to represent Australia at a United Nations forum in New York in May.

Double degree undergraduate Gemma Church is one of just six Australians selected as part of the Global Voices program to participate in the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 20-31 May.

“My hope is that I’ll be challenged to learn new information, discover my voice, pursue what I believe in and be inspired to make a difference upon my return,” Gemma said.

“It will be fascinating to hear the multitude of perspectives tabled by delegates from around the world on issues relevant to Indigenous people.”

Gemma has undertaken the research project “Indigenous students in remote communities: culturally relevant policy and pedagogy for improved educational outcomes” as part of her preparation for the program.

“Not only is this an area of great interest to me as a Territorian, but it also will help me engage more critically and with greater depth with proceedings in New York.”

The research took her to Canberra recently where she met with Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, among others.

“I was inspired by Mick Gooda and (former ATSI Social Justice Commissioner Dr) Tom Calma, who shared some of their vast knowledge and experience in Indigenous topics.”

Gemma, who was born in the Kimberley but grew up in Nhulunbuy before relocating to Darwin, said her lifelong interaction with community organisations had influenced her decision to pursue teaching.

“Issues regarding Indigenous schooling have been topical for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“Global Voices will give me an opportunity to increase the public’s awareness about some of the issues and complexities that young people in remote locations face.”

It is the first overseas trip for Gemma, a high achiever who is in the final phases of a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning/Bachelor of Applied Science program.

“It will be a huge learning experience that will allow me to become a more informed, critical and culturally competent teacher and young leader.”

Gemma is being sponsored by Charles Darwin University to attend the forum.

“I’m hoping that the combination of the New York experience, my final classroom practical and a few years’ teaching will give me a sense of direction for later on.”