Aunty Lillian Burke - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Aunty Lillian Burke

Honorary Senior Fellow (October 2018)

Aunty Lillian Burke was named an Honorary Senior Fellow in October 2018 in recognition of her significant contributions to encouraging Indigenous participation in higher education within the Gympie region.

Aunty Lillian is a passionate and driven Elder in the Gympie community. A descendant of the Butchulla people, and with links to Kabi Kabi people, Aunty Lillian experienced a childhood of extreme disadvantage as part of the Stolen Generation. However, her selfless efforts of providing advice, insight and cultural knowledge through her lived experiences has offered an opportunity for the Gympie community, USC staff and students to engage with her and increase their awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

A valued and greatly respected friend of USC, Aunty Lillian has been a staunch supporter of USC Gympie since its inception in 2013. When the campus first opened, Aunty Lillian approached USC directly in relation to facilitating activities and events that encouraged the Indigenous community to engage in higher education, and the university has worked collaboratively with her since to raise aspirations of local Indigenous youth. She has performed many Welcome to Countries at USC events in Gympie, which has added to the embedding of cultural protocols across USC campuses. Aunty Lillian also regularly contributes to USC Indigenous Services school programs in the Gympie region and gives her time to supporting the valuable work Indigenous Education Workers do in these schools. Her presence at school activities gives local Indigenous students encouragement and emphasises the importance of higher education. Aunty Lillian’s efforts in promoting the benefits of further education to the Indigenous community and highlighting the opportunities for youth and adults to complete a degree matches perfectly with USC’s mission and values.

Aunty Lillian has been acknowledged with many awards and recognition for her work as a community leader. In 2017, she received the Volunteering Queensland’s Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering Award which highlights her significant contributions in the Gympie region. She has volunteered with up to 100 advisory boards, committees and consultancy groups for more than 10 years. Some of these include being President of the Cooloola Aboriginal Services Inc, leading Gympie NAIDOC celebrations and being heavily involved in the development of the Gympie Regional Council’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Aunty Lillian actively advocates for Indigenous recognition in this community and her work has resulted in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag being permanently raised at Nelson Reserve in Gympie and at the region's Anzac Day ceremony. She also works closely with Gympie State High School to support the Indigenous co-hort.