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Hectic schedule follows top honours for innovative Indigenous academic

Published:08 February 2018

Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie is looking forward to a big year as she drives key Indigenous projects for CQUni.

Fresh from being named a Member of the Order of Australia last month, CQUniversity academic Henrietta Marrie AM is preparing for a big year, as she drives innovative projects across education, the arts, and cultural opportunity.

The Cairns-based Yidinji woman was recognised for her significant service to the community as an advocate for Indigenous education, cultural heritage and intellectual property rights.

The Australia Day honour came as Associate Professor Marrie ramps up big projects with CQUni, and as an Indigenous leader.

A/Prof Marrie is the driving force behind CQUniversity’s bid to establish a First Peoples’ Think Tank and Research Centre.

The project aims to provide timely, evidence-based and coordinated delivery of education, research and development activities, responding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community needs, particularly in Northern Australia.

To be headquartered at CQUniversity Cairns later this year, the Think Tank and Research Centre would set a new standard for Indigenous policy development.

“We want to bring together community leaders and experts from across the world, and pursue social justice, economic independence, innovation, and growth opportunities for Indigenous communities,” A/Prof Marrie said.

A/Prof Marrie is also driving a CQUni project for Yarrabah, east of Cairns, to establish an Education, Training and Innovation Hub in the Indigenous community.

“If young people can see this kind of growth and opportunity in their own community, it will allow them to say I want to go to university, I want to get the education base that I need to start my own business and be an innovator,” she said.

With such big projects on the go, it’s no wonder that A/Prof Marrie’s perspective is in hot demand.

She’s set to speak at The Commonwealth Innovation Forum (TCIF) in Brisbane, a global event to coincide with Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

Featuring speakers from across the Commonwealth, the two-day event will also showcase innovative projects that feed, fuel or heal communities.

“It’s such an honour, and it will be a great opportunity to tell the world what innovation is already being achieved in Indigenous communities in Australia, and the opportunities to grow,” she said.

A/Prof Marrie’s inspiring story, as the first Aboriginal Australian woman appointed full-time to work with the United Nations, is also being set to be shared on stage, through Cairns’ JUTE Theatre Company.

Across 12 – 16 February, the company will present its first creative development of Bukal, a theatrical treatment of A/Prof Marrie’s life, growing up in the Aboriginal mission of Yarrabah, then becoming a lawyer and Aboriginal rights activist, and taking on global forces to drive Indigenous law, legislation and public policy.

“This is so exciting – to see my life story told, and for that to happen at such an exciting time for me and for CQUni’s Indigenous engagement,” A/Prof Marrie said.

The inspiring play will also feature in the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in July this year, and will tour schools through Queensland.

“I’m hoping the audience, and especially young people, will watch it and think, ‘if she can do it, I can do it!’” she said.

“We need our kids to dream big, and sharing our stories can give them the strength to make those dreams happen.”