Aurora CEO Richard Potok awarded Honorary Doctorate
The University of Canberra recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate to Richard Potok, CEO of the Aurora Education Foundation, in recognition of his contribution to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to fully realise their academic and career potential.
As founder and CEO, Richard initiated and developed the suite of programs delivered by the Aurora Education Foundation:
- The Aspiration Initiative (TAI) high school program
- Indigenous Scholarships Portal and e-newsletter
- Aurora Internships Program
- Aurora International Pathways (comprising the Aurora Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour and International Scholarships delivered by Aurora for the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust and Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation)
- Aurora Outreach.
The programs aim to change the conversation about what is possible for Indigenous Australians in the area of education. They also support each other, with Scholars from the International Pathways and TAI alumni inspiring the next generation through Aurora Outreach.
In his address to over 1,400 University of Canberra students at the Graduation Ceremony at Parliament House in September, Richard highlighted the tremendous achievements of many of the Indigenous graduates that have been involved in the Aurora International Pathways since the programs commenced in 2010.
These graduates include Lilly Brown, who was told in Year 10 that she had plateaued in her studies and was not encouraged to continue on to Year 12; Lilly went on to excel at university and graduated from Cambridge with Distinction. Similarly, a high school teacher was concerned that Jared Field would struggle as “Aboriginal students don’t do high level maths”. Jared is currently undertaking the Systems Biology Doctoral Program at Oxford. Cambridge and Oxford are consistently ranked in the top 5 universities in the world.
In the last seven years, 37 Indigenous graduates from 22 Australian universities have been accepted to Oxford and Cambridge, all on the basis of their academic merit and achievements.
Drawing from his own experience, Richard shared: ‘For me, finding my path didn’t happen overnight. Many of us must first build the skills and gain the experience that we will need to identify and then follow the path that is right for us.’
He encouraged the fresh graduates in the room to strive to make a difference in the lives of others under their care:
‘You have the power to believe in someone and inspire them to realise their potential; you have the power to change their life. Consciously choose to exercise your power to inspire and support others... in some ways it’s a daunting responsibility, but it’s an exciting one too.’
Richard also impressed upon the graduates the value of reaching out to others throughout their career journey. ‘Don’t be shy to reach out to others to advise and help you – you don’t need to do everything on your own.’
He noted that University of Canberra Chancellor Tom Calma was an inspiration and strong supporter, and commented that: ‘It is such a privilege that this honour is being conferred by Tom’s and your university, the first Australian university to appoint an Indigenous male Chancellor.’
Postscript – we are delighted to share that since the graduation event in September, another two Aboriginal postgraduates have successfully completed their degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. This means that in the last five years, 23 out of 23 postgraduates have successfully completed degrees at Oxford and Cambridge.
We wish these Scholars well, and thank them for allowing Aurora to join them on part of their journey.