Friday, 10 October 2014
Macquarie University media release:
Vice-Chancellor Professor S Bruce Dowton, Mr (Uncle) Ronald Heron (Doctor of Letters), and Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Crouch
Senior Indigenous elder Uncle Ron Heron receives honorary doctorate
23 September 2014
Ronald Heron, a highly respected senior elder of the of the Yaegl Aboriginal people of Northern New South Wales, and an anthropologist, historian and former university lecturer, will be recognised with a Doctor of Letters honoris causa from Macquarie University on Tuesday, 23 September.
The award will be granted in an afternoon graduation ceremony for students of the Faculty of Science, with Heron’s family and friends coming to Sydney for this special occasion.
“We are delighted to confer this award upon Uncle Ron, who has contributed so much to the endeavours of this University through science, education and leadership,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor S. Bruce Dowton. “He provides a remarkable example of the power of education; not only in his own life but in how he has touched and shaped so many others.”
Since 2002, Uncle Ron – as he is known – has worked with Macquarie University researchers on a cooperative project studying and testing medicines made from native plants. With Heron as a key supporter, the Macquarie team started education programs in local schools aimed at providing pathways through high school and tertiary study, now a national initiative in the National Indigenous Science Experience Program.
“This award is a great honour and means so much, not only for myself, but for all of my people of Yaegl and Bundjalung Country,” says Heron. “I feel enormous pride – I have come a long way from a tin hut. It is up there with the very best. I thank Macquarie University for this opportunity.”
Born in the Clarence Valley in 1947, Heron was schooled in the prevailing mission system of the day. He worked until his early thirties cutting and burning cane and picking peas before moving into a role as an Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol counsellor.
He moved to Canberra and graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Letters, by thesis (now Masters of Letters), in prehistory and anthropology. Heron then lectured for 10 years at Southern Cross University, Lismore in Indigenous Studies. As an academic he has contributed to many publications, including ethnographic books on the North Coast Aboriginal peoples, and remains a frequently cited researcher.
Heron has contributed to extensive research at Macquarie University including on bush medicines, has been a contributing author on books on Yaegl bush resources in international scientific journals, has presented lectures and storytelling at Macquarie led National Science Week activities and has co-developed the long running and successful River of Learning celebrations at Maclean High School.
“As part of our initial consultations with Uncle Ron and the Yaegl and Bundjalung communities, they told us that we could help them run science and youth leadership activities. Now that the program has gone nationally, they’re even running their own part of it in the fabulous cultural immersion program.”
Despite advancing age, Heron’s drive has not diminished and in the last few years he has successfully studied for TAFE certification in Tourism and Guiding and has started taking tourists around the Clarence region.