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A history of achievement leads to Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship

8 March 2017

Alison Whittaker

Law scholar and author Alison Whittaker has been awarded the 2017 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship.

It's been a year and more of achievement for the recent University of Technology Sydney graduate in Writing and Cultural Studies/Law, launching her debut poetry collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire last April and earlier this month being announced the joint winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets.

A Gomeroi woman from Gunnedah in NSW, Alison was the inaugural recipient of the UTS Faculty of Law's Equity Scholarship and in 2015 was named the National Indigenous Law Student of the Year by the Federal Government.

Alison intends to use the Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to complete a Master of Laws (LLM) program at Harvard University in the US.

She hopes to spend her time in the LLM program exploring similarities and tensions in the enforcement and development of Indigenous lawmaking alongside emerging responses by Indigenous women against gendered violence.

In doing so, Alison hopes to foster relationships between the Indigenous Australian and Native American scholarship that makes governance and violence its focus, and contribute to implementing it locally.

"A Fulbright is an opportunity to extend and share reciprocal knowledge across the Pacific Ocean to Turtle Island (North America) in a time where collaboration between First Nations lawyers, scholars and thinkers is urgent and exciting," Alison said.

"The Fulbright lets me contribute to this, and to emerge from the program with perspective and a clearer vision for what is possible between law and Indigenous peoples, and what must be done. I hope this will make me a better practitioner, researcher and advocate for my mob.

"The UTS Law Equity Scholarship made my undergraduate study possible, for one. It bought essentials for study and living in the first four years of my undergraduate coursework. With it, just as importantly, it bought me time and space to study that might have otherwise been taken up by intense work and stress.

"That made me, I think, a more contemplative, analytical student who could look at the law and beyond it, which set me on the right path for a Fulbright. Without this, and without the support of UTS Law more generally, I wouldn't be a Fulbright scholar.

"The equity scholarship means that students from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds not only access UTS Law, but begin to shape the law and their study of it on their own terms and for their communities

"Before I started at UTS Law, I didn't even know what legislation was – I like to think I'm in a better position now!"

UTS Indigenous law researcher Associate Professor Thalia Anthony said Alison was a worthy recipient of the Fulbright scholarship.

"She is already an accomplished writer and contributor to academic debate, with books and articles published in creative and intellectual fields," Associate Professor Anthony said.

"As a result of teaching Alison and supervising her work, our relationship quickly become one that was more akin to colleagues than teacher-student."

"Alison worked with me on a project to enhance cultural competence at UTS Law. Alison made an invaluable contribution that resulted in a co-authored a report that seeks to set the tone for engaging Indigenous perspectives in Law for years to come.

"Alison's time studying in the US will poise her to become a leader in her field of study and research on Indigenous justice. If her successes at an undergraduate level are anything to go by, her postgraduate candidature will produce a scholarly contribution that is likely to give her an international profile.

Presented by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, 48 scholars (31 Australian, 17 American) will officially receive Fulbright scholarships at the 2017 Fulbright Presentation Gala Dinner on 8 March at Parliament House in Canberra.

Alison's Fulbright follows UTS Business PhD student Dean Jarrett who was awarded the 2015 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship to advance his research into supply diversity, Indigenous entrepreneurship and social enterprise.

Story by: Terrry Clinton

Photo by: Jesse Taylor Photography