Aunty Geraldine Atkinson is a proud Bangerang/Wiradjuri warrior woman. For over thirty years Geraldine has been an important presence in the Victorian Aboriginal community, dedicating her career to increasing opportunities available for Aboriginal community through education in Victoria. Aunty Geraldine yarns with Gman on 3KND Big Brekkie about what NAIDOC means to her and how COVID has affected mob in Victoria. Aunty Geraldine’s passion has ensured that genuine progress is made for Aboriginal people in education in the state of Victoria. She is particularly dedicated to seeing language and culture taught throughout Victorian schools.
Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. She was elected to the Assembly in November 2019 as a candidate from the North East Region. For over 40 years, Geraldine has been instrumental in driving government and policy reform in Aboriginal education. From starting in the field as an Aboriginal teacher’s aide in 1976, Geraldine moved forward to become the President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI), a role she has held since 1999. In that role she represents the organisation on Koorie education matters across all education sectors: early childhood, school education, and post compulsory education and training.
Geraldine was born in Leeton, New South Wales in 1952, to Alf and Lulu Bamblett and is one of fourteen children. Her passion and dedication for Koorie education came from her parents, who instilled in their children the importance of having an education. Geraldine attended primary school in Mooroopna and attended Nathalia Secondary School until leaving in Form 5 (the equivalent to Year 11) and going join the workforce. Geraldine married Neville Atkinson and had four children and is now a very proud grandparent. Their children went on to be involved in Aboriginal affairs and education.
In 1976, Geraldine was given the opportunity to be an Aboriginal teacher’s aide. This was an important role for Geraldine, as she provided ongoing support to Aboriginal students and their families at Victorian schools. Geraldine has also played an essential role in the Greater Shepparton area in several programs. Geraldine obtained a Bachelor of Education from Deakin University in 2013 and went on to obtain her Masters of Education in 2019. In early 2020, her leadership in Aboriginal education was further recognised with the awarding of a Deakin University Honorary Doctorate Award.
Beyond the field of education, Geraldine has been a strong voice in areas such as justice, reconciliation and family violence. Achievements in those areas include: •Member of the Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum on the development of the StrongCulture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families: towards a safer future for Indigenous families and communities 10 year plan (2008).•Signatory to Victorian Government’s Burra Lotjpa Dungaludga (“Senior Leaders Talking Strong”) – The Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 4 (2019).•Inducted in the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Role (2018).
Geraldine is a Council Member of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and she is a board director of the Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL). One of Geraldine’s greatest accomplishments is being a part of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group, which played a pivotal role in producing the first ever piece of treaty legislation in Australia.
Geraldine was proudly involved in the second reading of the treaty legislation in the Victorian Parliament in March 2018. The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 will be the roadmap to treaty negotiations. Geraldine obtained a Bachelor of Education from La Trobe University and has gone on to study a Masters of Education. “Education is important: it is about empowering the next generations as well as breaking the poverty cycle.”