Sharon Ruth Atkinson
Sharon Atkinson is a mature age first year PhD candidate at La Trobe University who belongs to the Indigenous group of the Dhulan Yagan, a subgroup of Yorta Nations. Her work in the community has made a significant contribution in the fields of Development, Health, Education, Drug & Alcohol Diversion, Tourism and Public Service.
Sharon’s whole life has been proudly devoted to serving the community and her people. Her career began with working as an Administrator at Rumbalara Aboriginal Health Service Centre. Thereafter, she spent 15 years of her life exploring the education and health sectors with many interesting jobs like Teacher aide, Liaison Officer and Administrator of an Independent Aboriginal Primary school in Ardmona near Shepparton, which was registered as a special school. “I was also assigned work in the Public Health Sector to serve the people in the community of Cummeragunja, which is situated on the NSW side of the border,” she says.
Her role in the infrastructure development of Cummeragunja is quite extraordinary. It was through her community engagement work that Sharon was employed by La Trobe University to do community engagement and preparations for Indigenous research projects. She believes that La Trobe has much to offer through its academic research programs, and that it is very supportive of Indigenous people as well as the students who have purposeful intentions to gain knowledge. “I like the diverse atmosphere at La Trobe, along with the supportive, helpful and welcoming nature of everyone around the campus,” she explains.
Sharon is passionate about the preservation of Indigenous language. About four years ago she started teaching the Yalka Loitjba language and found that the participants really enjoyed learning it. Sharon knew that the language delivered strength to Indigenous people, as well as herself, and she had to capture it forever.
Talking more about her PhD at La Trobe, Sharon says, “Through my research into whether ancient Indigenous language revitalisation influences the spiritual health and wellbeing of Indigenous people, I am also trying to decode a way of research that gives Indigenous people a voice, and contribute to different ways of knowing, being and doing.”
Sharon discusses the difference between the academic and Indigenous ways of thinking, “Indigenous knowledge is based on relationships – relationships to all things human, animal, spiritual etc. Indigenous knowledge says they should not be separated.”
Sharon recognises she is sailing in two ‘different boats’ at the same time - the Indigenous community and academic life. However she is confident and has the courage to make her dream come true by getting the best out of both worlds.