I’m Rebecca Richards, I’m Adnyamathanha and Barngala from the Flinders Rangers in South Australia. I have a white mum and also a Adnyamathanha and Barngala father, and a younger sister as well.
When I was thirteen I went to do field work with my Dad and a couple of Anthropologists from the South Australia Museum. That really inspired me to become an anthropologist because I could actually see that Anthropologists could work with Aboriginal people and just walk around and yeah record stories and go out bush.
I had a really round about process in the way that I got to university. I didn’t go straight from school in to University, I did a year of a certificate course in Melbourne then I moved back to Adelaide and did one year of a teaching degree and then I transferred into Adelaide University and started my bachelor degree in Anthropology.
The hardest challenges to overcome in getting to University was actually finishing high school and getting high enough marks to go into university. A lot of the teachers at my high school were, I guess they just would say that because I am Aboriginal I don’t need to try hard to get into university, that I could I just could just get into the Aboriginal entry programs. But I actually had to go against many of the stereotypes of Aboriginal people to succeed in high school so that I could get a good mark to get the scholarships to be able to go to University.
Anthropology is a fourfold field in that there are four different subtypes of Anthropology, which is biological anthropology, social anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. So I’m involved, and in Australia we mainly focus on social anthropology. Social anthropology is the study of society and cultures. It is about looking at how people do things, who they are, where they’re from, all that kind of stuff. I think that more Aboriginal people should study anthropology because it is important to preserve and understand our culture and our societies. There are so many Aboriginal languages now that are endangered, so anthropologists really help to preserve and to promote Aboriginal languages. It is almost important in it is a way of representing Aboriginal and Torres Islander cultures to outsiders, so through art and music and also through the native title process.
I became the first Aboriginal person to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. You know, I was the first Aboriginal Rhodes Scholar, but I was also the first Aboriginal person to apply for the Rhodes scholarship as well. The main issue is that for Aboriginal students I think, is that you need to be under 25 and have finished your degree. And many aboriginal students are taking non-traditional paths to go to university so they’re not getting their degree in time to be able to apply for the scholarship. The scholarship is one hundred and twelve years old now and we really want to get more Aboriginal people applying for these prestigious scholarships.
I did a cadetship at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra during the summer months. It was fantastic in that it really was in the area that I was studying, so I got experience in Aboriginal art and culture and working in museums. It was also great because I had financial support because I was working there full time during the summer and as a part of the cadetship you also get financial support from the Government whilst you’re studying. So I didn’t have to worry about having a job whilst I was at university during term time but I still had work experience that could really contribute to my future employment prospects once I finished my degree.
Higher education is important and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people should continue into higher education. It is great to have access to professional jobs and in the professional classes you can conduct research and learn about things that you’re passionate about and you can also expand your horizons so with cadetships and scholarships and study abroad options.
Rebecca is an associate lecturer and anthropologist from Adelaide, SA. When she was young she accompanied her father on an anthropological field trip and it was all the inspiration she needed. Rebecca did a certificate course in Melbourne after school before going back to Adelaide to study a year of education before transferring to anthropology. She was the first Aboriginal person to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.