New scholarships for First Nations students announced by Monash Education

Monash Education has created four new scholarships supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become teachers, undertake graduate studies or do research in education, it was announced today.

The scholarships represent an ongoing commitment from the Faculty to support Indigenous students, teachers and scholars working in education, according to Monash Education Dean Professor Viv Ellis.

“Indigenous educators make up less than 2% of the total teaching workforce. And across Australia there are just 12 Indigenous educators working in teacher education."

“This has a significant impact on Indigenous students, the teaching workforce and the formulation of Indigenous education policies. This is something that needs to shift.”

The scholarships have been developed in conjunction with the William Cooper Institute at Monash University.  The first of these is the Thomas Shadrach James Indigneous Scholarship – worth nearly $80,000 over four years – to study a Bachelor of Education (Hons).

It is named in honour of Thomas Shadrach James – a teacher who worked at Maloga and Cummeragunja Mission. Married to Ada Cooper, a Yorta Yorta woman, he worked tirelessly to improve educational outcomes for his adopted people.

Portrait of Thomas Shadrach James
Thomas Shadrach James

Jamil Tye, Director of the William Cooper Institute and also a direct descendant of Thomas Shadrach James, says he’s extremely proud to have the scholarship acknowledge Grampa’s contribution in the field of teaching.

"His work and legacy inspire me in my work every day. He was loved and respected by all in community and left a legacy that lives on strongly today."

"As told by Uncle George Nelson, Grampa was able to instil a sense of pride and self confidence in his pupils, teaching in a way they could relate to. Like all good educators, he was able to make school work a pleasure rather than a task."

"Grampa James understood Aboriginal people's ways of learning and catered directly for their needs –  something we truly understand the importance of nowadays – teaching in a way that embodied real Aboriginal pedagogy."

"From Maloga mission, to the 'Scholars Hut' at Cummeragunja, he educated many of the leading Aboriginal activists of the 20th century."

These figures included Aunty Marg Tucker, Sir/Pastor Dough Nicholls, Uncle Jack Patten, Aunty Geraldine Briggs, Uncle WIlliam Cooper and his own son Shadrach. His impact was so strong he was forcibly retired in 1921, but later went to establish what is believed to be the first Aboriginal political party in Australia.

Professor Ellis said Monash Education is incredibly proud to be able to offer a scholarship in honour of Thomas that both recognises – and continues – his legacy.

"He was a powerful teacher who inspired so many. He fought tirelessly for the rights of Aboriginal people and empowered his adopted community with his leadership and education."

Three other scholarships – for Master of Teaching, Master of Education, Master of Professional Psychology or Master of Counselling and a PhD – will also be named after significant figures in Indigenous education.

"It is a small, but important step to supporting future Indigenous teachers, but also Indigenous researchers, policy-makers and teacher educators."

Jamil Tye says the scholarships represent a true commitment to supporting Indigenous students and will go a long way towards realising the commitments in Monash’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Framework 2019-2030.

"The scholarships will help to incentivise Indigenous Australian students to apply to our Education courses, given they can see our commitment to increasing the number of Indigenous students in education related disciplines is genuine."

These newly announced scholarships are worth $550,000 over five years. These are in addition to five Sir John Monash Scholarships that are available every year for Indigneous Australian students studying at Monash Education.