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Student wins community engagement award

Melbourne Campus student Kirra-Jai Atkinson has won the ACU Community Engagement award for outstanding achievement in human rights and social justice work.

Kirra, who was homeless for nearly 24 years before coming to university, has been working with local, state, federal and international governments in addressing issues of human rights, social inclusion, health inequalities, education and welfare rights for many years.

The Deans-list Bachelor of Theology student is also an Early Achievers’ Program entrant into the University.

"I'd been trying to get into university on and off for 20 years. Access and equity schemes never worked for me, but ACU's Early Achievers’ Program cared more about who I was as a person and how I contributed to the community,” she said.

Kirra said working in the community has always been a big part of her life.

“I could not imagine my life without being involved in community engagement that helps to achieve realistic outcomes for marginalised and disadvantaged people,” she said.

Kirra-Jai AtkinsonKirra-Jai Atkinson


Kirra speaks regularly at public engagements and has organised numerous consumer forums for people experiencing homelessness, social exclusion and poverty, which has informed the Federal Government's 'White Paper' into homelessness, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur to Housing and Health.

Kirra’s work has also helped to inform the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities through research design and consultation with people who have experienced homelessness.

“I have learned that allowing people to have a voice, through direct consultation, gives people the opportunity to actively participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives, and is more likely to bring about long-term change and preventative outcomes,” she said.

“Nothing is impossible in this world, and I will never give up the hope of a fairer, more just society and the right to the dignity of the human person. Whoever they are, whatever their plight, there is always hope.”