Well-respected First Nations senior elder, educator and champion for women and children, Grace Miguyie Daniels (Gotjan), has been presented with an honorary doctorate from Charles Darwin University (CDU) in recognition of her contribution to the Northern Territory.
The on-country graduation ceremony for Dr Daniels was held in Ngukurr on the banks of the Roper River in southern Arnhem Land on Friday, October 22.
A proud Budal woman and a senior elder of the Marra clan, Dr Daniels has held key roles in the community, particularly as a founding member and co-chair of the Aboriginal Research Practitioners Network (ARPNet), which is hosted by CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods.
ARPNet is a self-supporting platform for First Nations people to carry out participatory action research, evaluations and planning in the community.
In ARPNet, Dr Daniels famously defined partnership with CDU as a relationship where each is a leg supporting the other and two legs with equal responsibilities and roles for things to work in balance.
She describes receiving the honorary CDU Doctor of Letter as a dream come true.
“It’s a dream for me – my first time receiving an honorary doctorate. It’s been so long for me since I’ve been working with community leaders, working out a plan to make things happen for our people,” Dr Daniels said.
“Working for my community gives me pride and carrying a role like this is a recognition from CDU and from the NT community.”
CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Scott Bowman AO, said the award highlighted Dr Daniels’ significant contribution to the advancement of First Nations peoples and the University.
“Dr Daniels has contributed extensively to research and significant projects and is a strong advocate for strengthening relationships between communities and researchers,” Professor Bowman said.
“She continues to inspire First Nations young women in the community and continues to advocate for their involvement in research and land management.”
Dr Daniels said her work would continue to focus on women and the younger generation of First Nations peoples.
“I look forward to getting more young people from the community to do more training to go for a degree or a diploma, so they can reach goals they aspire.”
“The focus is for them to upskill and get jobs locally. We want our young people to be speakers, leaders and representatives of their community, and talk about issues that need to be changed and be involved in project planning and development,” she said.
Dr Daniels is also a member of the Northern Land Council, a board member of Yugul Mangi Development Corporation and a caseworker at Ngukurr Safe House.
She co-founded the Yugul Mangi Women’s Rangers long before it became common to have women’s groups active as rangers on country.
Having studied a Certificate IV in Natural Resource Management at CDU, Dr Daniels is a longstanding promoter of First Nations environmental and cultural rights, both in Arnhem Land communities and internationally.
She has also held key leadership roles with the Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre and in the development of the savanna burning emissions abatement industry.
Dr Daniels is one of the first CDU honorary doctorate recipients who have received the award on country in front of her families and community.