ACU Scholarship a launchpad to action on cultural change

Fearlessly unravelling the intergenerational trauma felt by his people is how Aunty Joan Hendriks Aboriginal and Torres Strait Leaders Scholarship recipient Clinton McGoldrick plans to make a difference through education. 

Mr McGoldrick and law student Onyinye Nwamadi have been announced as recipients of the life-changing Australian Catholic University scholarship which provides up to $100,000 to emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to support their education and professional careers. 

“I am proud that this unique scholarship will support our leaders throughout their lifelong educational journey,” Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis said. “They can pursue multiple degrees, create a bespoke mentoring program and access opportunities to expand learning through travel.” 

Brisbane’s first Aboriginal Deacon, Mr McGoldrick has commenced a Bachelor of Theology at ACU’s Brisbane campus but is already eyeing a PhD that would explore the impact on Indigenous cultures of European colonisation in Australia. 

While conceding European hegemony was for many a delicate subject, Mr McGoldrick sees the pursuit of uncomfortable truth as an important step to understanding trauma and driving meaningful reconciliation. 

“I want to establish what this country looked like prior to colonisation so people can realise what they’re missing,” he said. “There’s a lot of intellectuals who can take that knowledge and do good things, to drive that reconciliation and truth telling.  

“To pass on that lesson to the next generation of teachers is where the scholarship will help. Having the opportunity to pursue a doctorate, speak that academic language about Australia’s Indigenous context and relate Indigenous issues in a language they understand is motivating and a real honour.” 

Ms Nwamadi, or Onyi, as she prefers to be called, was destined to become a citizen of the world. Although born in Sydney, she is a Dauareb woman, connected to that country by her mother who also has Swedish heritage. 

The oldest of five children, her Nigerian father moved to Australia at a time of civil war in the west African nation. 

She is immensely proud of both cultures – Onyi cherishes when her mum sings to her in Meriam Mir (Eastern Torres Strait language) – and sees a career in international law as the ideal path to serve and honour her ancestry. 

“My parents taught me a lot about empathy,” said Onyi, who has commenced a Bachelor of Law and Global Studies at ACU’s North Sydney campus. “I grew up exposed to minorities and people who were affected by the legal system. 

“And I’m fascinated by how the world works. This degree will give me the chance to advocate for people and be proactive for positive change. 

“I’d like to think I could build my experience overseas and then return to serve in remote communities here.” 

The Scholarship honours Aunty Joan Hendriks, an ACU alumna and distinguished Ngugi Elder of one of the three clan groups of the Quandamooka people of Moreton Bay, Queensland. Aunty Joan was acknowledged for her innovative spirit, leadership in community and her passion for lifelong learning. She was a constant advocate for social justice and the rights and education of Indigenous Australians.  

“The scholarship demonstrates the interconnectedness of our university’s values and mission and ACU’s commitment to cultural respect and cultural change,” ACU Director of First Peoples Jane Ceolin said. “It translates ACU’s commitment to action. 

“To the inaugural Aunty Joan Hendriks scholars, this scholarship will be life changing, impacting not only their lives but also their families and communities. We look forward to celebrating their journeys ahead.”     

Father-of-two Mr McGoldrick was inspired by his mother Noeline, a single parent and nurse from Worimi country on the New South Wales mid-north coast. A self-confessed battler at secondary school, he blossomed at university.   

He taught for 13 years in the Toowoomba Diocese and since 2017 has been the program leader for ministry and service at St Patrick’s College Shorncliffe. There, he is responsible for many programs, including Paddy’s Van, which provides meals and an outreach service to disadvantaged families in Sandgate, Bracken Ridge and Brighton. 

“Shorncliffe’s regarded as an affluent area but 200m from the school gates there’s people doing it tough,” Mr McGoldrick said. “I hope our programs planted a seed within the students to make a difference, to leave here and take the generosity they’ve learned and do amazing things.” 

A former combat engineer, Mr McGoldrick has been recruited by the Australian Army as an advisor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Spirituality and Culture to the Army Chaplains Department. 

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