Dr. R. Marika-Chair for Australian Studies
Dr R. Marika (1958 – 2008) was not only one of Australian's most respected cross-cultural educators, but also an Aboriginal leader, philosopher, scholar, translator and cultural advocate. As a Director of the non-governmental foundation Reconciliation Australia and as a participant in the 2020 Summit – a convention held in 2008 aiming to shape a long long-term strategy for building a modern Australia ready for the challenges of the 21st century – Dr R. Marika advocated understanding and reconciliation between Aboriginal and Western cultures.
Dr R. Marika was the eldest daughter of a prominent leader in the land rights campaign for Australian Aborigines in the 1960s. She became a scholar, translator, linguist and cultural defender for the rights of Indigenous Australians. Many of her writings appeared nationwide and she lectured throughout Australia. She devoted her professional career to education and worked to bridge the gap between Australia's Aboriginal societies and the wider English-speaking mainstream society. Dr R. Marika was considered a leading expert of indigenous customs and languages in the Northern Territory of Australia. She worked as a linguist to preserve the indigenous languages of Australia. Her accomplishments as a linguist and translator and as one of the leading theorists of two-way learning were acknowledged by the highest academic awards: an honorary doctorate from Charles Darwin University, a posthumous honorary doctorate from The Australian National University and the posthumous award of the Order of Australia.
Hardship and suffering attended her throughout her adult life, but this did nothing to slow her relentless pace, or impair her willingness to explain her culture to outsiders. Marika died from a sudden heart attack in May, 2008, at just 49 years of age.
At a gathering in Dr Marika's memory at AIATSIS in May, 2009, a scholarship in her name was announced. It will support an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander researcher to travel overseas to international conferences, so her memory will live on. Jenny Macklin, Australia's Minister for Indigenous Affairs, also called Marika the "embodiment of reconciliation". Following Aboriginal custom, her first name cannot be used when paying tribute to her.