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"Education is the main vehicle for closing the gap" - Marcia Langton receives women's leadership award

Jarred Cross -

Marcia Langton hopes women future leaders take some inspiration from her latest recognition, which makes a welcome change after 12 months of "hurtful chatter" through the Voice debate.

On Thursday, Professor Langton was announced as Victoria's joint-recipient of the public-voted Excellence in Women's Leadership award presented by Women and Leadership Australia.

Women & Leadership Australia chief executive Karen Taylor said "recognising and acknowledging the impacts of exceptional leadership is essential", crucial to improving outcomes, and providing role models for the next generation.

Professor Langton told National Indigenous Times it was a "great honour" to be among those awarded.

"And I hope that it gives young women the inspiration to keep going and know that your excellence will be recognised," she said.

Nova Peris and Ash Barty are previous First Nations recipients of national award, won by businesswoman and multi-sector executive and current Chief Executive Women president Sam Mostyn in 2024.

She told National Indigenous Times her work in producing the Voice co-design report with Professor Tom Calma was her proudest achievement in recent years, having formally been heavily involved in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1989, and currently serving important roles in academics.

For the next generation, she said addressing the key indicator areas outcomes in closing the gap, and being the driving force behind it as individuals, is the task.

"Education is the main vehicle for closing the gap," Professor Langton said.

"And the evidence is very clear, when you get to the tertiary education sector...Indigenous women with higher degrees have closed the gap…it's an exemplar of how education can lift people out of poverty.

Professor Langton heads Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne.

"If I have four PhD students, that's four more people entering the academy or elsewhere, in government or the private sector who are highly qualified, highly employable, and have highly transportable qualifications," she said.

"My personal impact might seem small, against the large numbers of Indigenous people who need to be shifted out of poverty. But I regard it as every one through the door is another success.

"And each one of us has to open the door and keep it open and keep young people coming through the door to higher education levels."

Professor Langton said at present, the tertiary sector is going against the trend, where "Indigenous women with a high level of degrees, a high level of qualifications, have, by and large, closed the gap…in some respects, men are doing worse than women".

She said where women are largely pushing ahead on their own is in the health sector.

2022 Indigenous Doctor of the Year and Kaytetye woman Dr Sarah Goddard is the Excellence in Women's Leadership NT awardee for her work in the Territory's Barkly region.

"Women are the drivers of the health sector. Indigenous women are the leaders and the drivers and the majority of the employees in the (Indigenous) health sector," Professor Langton said.

"And for many people, the pathway to assisting others is in the health sector, making people healthier. Gives them better life opportunities."

She said people are attracted to the work "because I think most Aboriginal people like myself believe that it's not fair that I do well, without helping others to do well".

Professor Langton is due to accept her award in August.

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