Political pioneer receives Honorary Doctorate 


From left: CDU Deputy Chancellor, Richard Ryan, Dr Tom Calma and CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover.

Long-serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate during Charles Darwin University’s mid-year graduation ceremony held recently on the Casuarina campus.

A Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa, was conferred in recognition of Dr Calma’s outstanding commitment and contribution to the advancement of Indigenous and multicultural Australia, primarily in the areas of education, employment and training programs for Indigenous and remote communities.

An Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group, Dr Calma has been involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level and worked in the public sector for more than 35 years.

In the early 1980s, Dr Calma and Indigenous colleagues established the Aboriginal Task Force (ATF) at the Darwin Community College (later the Darwin Institute of Technology), which provided second chance education programs for Indigenous people. He became a senior lecturer and head of the ATF for six years.

Dr Calma moved to Canberra in 1992 and undertook various assignments, including Executive Director to the Secretary and Senior Executive of the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

From 1995-2002, he worked as a senior Australian diplomat in India and Vietnam representing Australia’s interests in education and training. During his time in India, he also oversaw the management of the Australian international education offices in Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Until his five-year appointment as Social Justice Commissioner from July 2004, Dr Calma managed the Community Development and Education Branch at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services (ATSIS) where he worked with remote Indigenous communities to implement community-based and driven empowerment and participation programs. In 2003, he was Senior Adviser Indigenous Affairs to the Minister of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.