23 March 2011

The University of Queensland (UQ) has confirmed its commitment to supporting educational and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the appointment of a Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) to lead all Indigenous initiatives across the University.

Ngugi woman and descendant of the Quandamooka People of Moreton Bay; and Indigenous health expert, Professor Cindy Shannon, has been appointed UQ’s inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education).

Professor Shannon will initially be responsible for leading the implementation of a comprehensive Indigenous strategy to strengthen leadership within the University in relation to Indigenous education and links to the community as part of UQ’s new Strategic Plan 2011-2015.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield said by creating the new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) position and appointing Professor Shannon, the University was declaring its commitment to stronger leadership in Indigenous higher education.

“UQ has a responsibility to extend to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the same excellent opportunities that we offer all young Australians,” he said.

“For maximum impact we must work alongside Indigenous Australians, and the respect earned by Professor Shannon in academic and Indigenous circles makes her the ideal person to fill this demanding leadership role.

“Professor Shannon’s effectiveness is reflected in her outstanding contributions to national health policy and her central part in introducing UQ health degree programs that are making a positive difference in Indigenous communities.”

Professor Shannon is the chair of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation, which was established in 2008 and currently funds 450 scholarships to support Years 11 and 12 Indigenous students in Queensland schools and said her core goals as UQ’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) were to improve the participation and success of Indigenous students at university.

“UQ is well placed to support the higher education aspirations of a number of these scholarship recipients,” Professor Shannon said.

“The University of Queensland has significantly extended the number of scholarships available to Indigenous students and our outreach program that provides support to prospective Indigenous students in Years 11 and 12 has helped students succeed at university.

“We also intend to take a proactive approach to Indigenous student recruitment through developing close relationships with communities.”

As part of her new role, Professor Shannon will be director of UQ’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit (ATSIS), which was formed in 1984 as a centre of excellence and expert opinion on teaching, research and consultation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and publishes The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education.

"The ATSIS Unit will continue to provide personal and academic support to Indigenous students to complete their studies and will also develop its academic profile by embedding indigenous perspectives into the University curricula, which will have a positive effect on Indigenous outcomes,” she said.

Professor Shannon has worked in many urban, regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and has specialised in Indigenous health for more than 18 years. She is the current Director of the Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Queensland and guided the development and implementation of Australia’s first degree level program that specifically targeted Aboriginal health workers.

She has contributed to national health policy through membership of a number of national committees, including as chair of the Queensland Ministerial Advisory Committee on AIDS, Sexual Health and Hepatitis and as a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council where she chairs its Indigenous Advisory Committee.

Professor Shannon also brings a unique relationship with Aboriginal community controlled health services to the University. She has an ongoing affiliation with the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and led the establishment of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in South East Queensland in 2010 with a continuing role as its academic Director.

“Through partnerships such as this, UQ can make a significant contribution to the COAG Closing the Gap targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor Shannon said.

“UQ will play a major role in supporting program design and delivery, high quality health services and related research and capacity building through education and training.”

Media Inquires: Kathy Grube, UQ Communications, 07 3346 0561.