• Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson is the first Indigenous scholar from outside of the US to be elected to the Academy. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
A Goenpul woman from the Quandamooka Nation has joined some of the most recognisable names in history in being elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Jack Latimore

28 Apr 2020 - 1:03 PM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2020 - 1:03 PM

One of Australia’s pre-eminent Aboriginal academics has joined the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and Toni Morrison in being elected to the prestigious intellectual society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson learned that she was elected to the Academy on Friday last week, and is the first Indigenous scholar from outside of the US to become a member.

The Academy said the honour indicated the high regard that Prof Moreton-Robinson is held in by leaders and scholars in her field. 

In a written letter of acceptance, the highly regarded Black feminist and Indigenous rights activist thanked the Academy and said that she was “honoured and humbled” to be recognised as part of the 2020 cohort.

“I am immensely grateful for the recognition membership brings and it is incumbent upon me to acknowledge that the intellectual labour of others contributes to the scholarship produced,” said Prof Moreton-Robinson. 

“As an Australian Aboriginal woman, I am fortunate to follow in the footsteps of my Goenpul ancestors and I am indebted to my family and kin, my colleagues and students for all they have taught me.” 

"I'm so proud": 2020 Telstra NATSIAA finalists announced
The main prize is $50,000, and six others come in at $5000 each - but for many artists it's about the recognition, not the money.

Prof Moreton-Robinson was elected alongside seven more Indigenous members including, Kevin Gover, Joy Harjo, Suzan Harjo, Edgar Heap of Birds, Charles “Monty” Roessel, Greg Sarris, and Kay Walkingstick.

The cohort is the largest representation of Indigenous people elected to the society to date and in Dr Roessel, president of the Navajo Nation’s Diné College, it is the first time a member from a tribally-owned college has been recognised with the honour. 

Prof Moreton-Robinson, who hails from the Quandamooka nation, is the author and editor of several popular and academically acclaimed books, including Talkin Up to the White Woman, Sovereign Subjects, The White Possessive, and Whitening Race.

Her research and writing has focused on issues of race and Whiteness, Indigenous feminism and women’s studies, Indigenous land rights, and the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders since European invasion.

Prof Moreton-Robinson has taught at Griffith University, Flinders University, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and is currently the Indigenous Elder Scholar in Residence at RMIT University.

More than 270 scholars, scientists, artists and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors were also elected to the Academy in 2020. While the honour recognises their excellence and achievement in their respective chosen fields, the newly-elected members will also contribute to research and knowledge exchange that informs public policy on a national and international level. 

The Academy was established in 1780 during the American Revolution by John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Bowdoin and over 60 other prominent figures in American history and currently includes 13,500 of the world’s best scholars, practitioners and thinkers.

Other notable members include the likes of Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781) and Alexander Hamilton (1791), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848) and Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), and Margaret Mead (1948).

New members are to be inducted at a ceremony planned for October in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wesley Enoch: The man from Minjerribah
Acclaimed Playwright Wesley Enoch speaks with NITV’s Living Black host Karla Grant about how he overcame a troubled childhood to become one of our country’s most celebrated writers and directors producing some of the most compelling stories that speak about our nation’s past.