Indigenous education leader Professor Jeannie Herbert AM and post-conflict community development expert Thao Nguyen Griffiths are RMIT’s Outstanding Alumni for 2016.
The awards were presented at an exclusive ceremony hosted by RMIT’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Martin Bean CBE, at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Herbert received the Outstanding Alumnus Award (Australia), while Griffiths was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award (International).
In 2003 Herbert was one of the first Indigenous students to graduate with a PhD from RMIT.
Herbert is currently the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Education, Foundation Chair of Indigenous Studies and Head of Campus, Dubbo, at Charles Sturt University, New South Wales.
“My time at RMIT provided me with the critical experiences and space to enable me to successfully complete my PhD research and to ultimately feel fulfilled and confident in my role as an educator,” she said.
“Since graduating I have continued to work in the field of Indigenous education, maintaining a focus on my particular field of research – Indigenous success in education.
“Within this context, I consider that much of what I have been able to achieve has provided a very positive role model for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, encouraging them to take up the challenge of getting themselves a good education.”
In 2012 Herbert was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Outstanding Alumnus Award (International) winner Thao Nguyen Griffiths completed a Master of Engineering (Systems Engineering) at RMIT in 2002.
As Country Director for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), Griffiths manages programs addressing persistent post-conflict issues including Agent Orange contamination, unexploded ordinances and mental health issues.
“When I studied at RMIT, I used to take a 12-hour bumpy bus ride from my hometown in the mountainous region of Vietnam, in order to be in class,” she said.
“RMIT introduced me to another world, with different thinking.
“With a new sense of self and excitement about another world to explore, beyond my hometown Ha Giang, I have had the most rewarding career, working to help lessen the sufferings of the poor, those with disabilities, those affected by the tragedy of war.”
Griffiths has studied international relations as a Fulbright Scholar at American University, Washington DC. She also completed the Eisenhower Fellowship Program, travelling to nine states in the US to research civil-military collaboration and women in leadership.
The RMIT Outstanding Alumni Awards are an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and diversity of the University’s most accomplished graduates, paying tribute to alumni who have made a remarkable contribution to their industry, the community, and RMIT.
Herbert and Griffiths join previous alumni award winners: investigative journalist Nick McKenzie, Vietnam-based sales and marketing maverick Ngo Quoc Dung, founder of TOM Organic Aimee Marks, China-based sports marketing pioneer Priscilla Ho, fashion designer Toni Maticevski, Singaporean entrepreneur Ryan Lee, Bloom Cosmetics founder Natalie Bloom, award-winning artist Sam Leach, founder of Engineers Without Borders Daniel Almagor, CSIRO scientist Dr Amanda Barnard, and Olympic rower and business leader James Tomkins.
Story: Kate Stubbings