UNSW Sydney Pro-Vice-Chancellor-Indigenous, Professor Megan Davis, has won top honours in the Australian Financial Review/Qantas 100 Women of Influence Awards held Wednesday night at Sydney’s Town Hall.
Professor Davis, an expert in constitutional law, was also named the winner of the public policy category for her role in the process that culminated in the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The first Aboriginal Australian elected to a United Nations body, Professor Davis served as Australia’s representative on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples. She was director of the Indigenous Centre at UNSW from 2007 to 2017 and was named UNSW’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) in 2017. In her role as PVC Indigenous, Professor Davis has overall responsibility for ensuring that UNSW delivers on its agenda for Indigenous students.
“It is a great privilege, the award, in regard to the public policy and law work I have done around constitutional reform,” Professor Davis said. “It has been a privilege to work with the Aboriginal community and the Referendum Council on the Aboriginal Constitutional Dialogues that culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”
The Uluru statement proposed a First Nations advisory body to Parliament, with its existence guaranteed in the constitution. Davis says the Uluru Statement signifies consensus among the First Nations but falls short of the goal — constitutional recognition. The fight for constitutional recognition will continue with even greater determination.
“We haven’t given up for 10 years and we are never going to give up,” Professor Davis said. “We will keep forging along until we get it.”
UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the award reflects Professor Davis’ deep contributions to Australian society.
“I congratulate Megan on this tremendous accolade,” Professor Jacobs said. “The recognition is an acknowledgement of Megan’s tireless fight for Indigenous people across the country. She is a powerful voice and leads with compassion, intellect and determination.”
This year's list was chosen from a record 850 entries, a large increase on the 370 received in 2016, the last time the awards were held. Professor Davis was included in the top 100 in 2016 and was listed as one of the 10 most influential people in Australian culture in 2017, along with the Referendum Council.
In addition to Professor Davis’ overall success, Dr Anne Bunde-Birouste, a senior lecturer at the UNSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, was awarded the top award in the Art, Culture and Sport category for her work with the non-profit Football United. Recognised locally and internationally as a champion of youth empowerment, Bunde-Birouste founded the football-related social inclusion program to assist disadvantaged youth and their families.
Other UNSW nominees included Professor Emma Johnston, Dean of the Faculty of Science. A world-leading marine biologist, Professor Johnston was recognised in the innovation category for her research into the ecology of human impacts in marine systems. Johnston is president of Science and Technology Australia, leading Australia’s peak science professional body in creating and publicising the nation’s science priorities. She is a prominent advocate for increasing the participation of women in research and was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2018.