Meet our 2023 ANU Alumni Awards Finalists

2023 Indigenous Alumnus/Alumna of the Year
17 Nov 2023

Each year, the ANU Alumni Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of our most remarkable alumni. This year, our 2023 Indigenous Alumnus/Alumna of the Year award finalists are breaking ground for First Nations people through activism, social justice, as well improving access to digital technologies and education.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng (She/Her)(PhD ’11)

Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng is a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wulli Traditional Owner of the Djwan Djumbe Nation from Central Queensland. As a senior First Nations woman, Dr Goreng Goreng has focused her work and activism for First Nations peoples’ sovereignty and justice, through academia, public service work and community development transformative work. Dr Goreng Goreng is one of the Founders of the Foundation for Indigenous Recovery & Development Australia (FIRDA) with three other QLD First Nations women, where they challenge people to consider First Nations knowledge, Law, Women’s and Men’s cultural Business as core practice that requires deep respect and honour. Dr Goreng Goreng is the CEO of OneINMA Global, a sacred leadership consultancy acknowledging that ‘we are All in One Ceremony’ and must work together. Likewise, through advocating and whistleblowing activities, Dr Goreng Goreng has stayed true to herself and her beliefs while also working step-by-step to change the world.

Matthew Heffernan (He/Him)(MAppCybernetics ‘22)

Matthew Heffernan is a Pintupi-Luritja technologist from central Australia. He is a champion of sharing Indigenous voices through technology, and has worked extensively to share and conserve the knowledge of Indigenous peoples. Through his previous role as lead developer at Indigital, Australia’s first Indigenous tech education company, Matthew helped to make the digital landscape more accessible to and inclusive of Indigenous peoples. Matthew also worked on the development of Kaytetyemoji, the second iteration of Indigemoji, Australia’s first brand of Indigenous emojis designed by young Indigenous children and guided by Elders on Country.

Dr Matilda House-Williams (She/Her)(HonDoc ‘17)

Dr Matilda House-Williams is a Ngambri/Ngunnawal/Wiradyuri Elder who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice for Indigenous peoples. One of ten children, she was born and raised on Erambie-Cowra Aboriginal reserve, Hollywood Aboriginal reserve at Yass and Ngambri/Kamberri Country, and has multiple Wiradyuri, Walgalu and Wallabalooa ancestries. A tireless supporter of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy since its founding in 1972, Dr House-Williams helped found the ACT/NSW Aboriginal Legal Service and the Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council in Queanbeyan in the 1980s. She had a key role in establishing Winnunga-Nimmitjah Aboriginal Medical Service and the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at ANU in 1989. In 2006, Dr House-Williams was named Canberra Citizen of the Year. On the eve of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008, she became the first person to perform the Welcome to Country at the 42nd opening of Federal Parliament. Her contribution to her community was recognised by ANU with the conferral of the Degree of Doctor of the University in 2017. Dr House-Williams was awarded the NAIDOC Senior Female Elder of the Year 2023.

Professor Marcia Langton AO FASSA FTSE (She/Her)(BA ’84, HonLittD ’19)

Professor Marcia Langton AO is the descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of central Queensland, and is an Associate Provost and Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. Widely recognised as a major figure in Indigenous Australian rights and advocacy, Professor Langton was a key contributor to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1989), and the Native Title Act (1993). In 1993, she received membership to the Order of Australia in recognition of her extensive work in the field. She is currently a chief investigator on numerous research projects concerned with Indigenous health, data and governance. Professor Langton is known for her work as a public intellectual and is widely published. Her most recent book Law: The Way of the Ancestors, co-authored with Professor Aaron Corn, was published in 2023.

Jessa Rogers (She/Her)(PhD ’18)

Dr Jessa Rogers is a Wiradjuri researcher, educator and board director, with a drive to improve Indigenous peoples’ experiences of education. Her research and governance work in Indigenous and boarding education and young people’s wellbeing is internationally recognised. Dr Rogers is a Fulbright Scholar (Harvard University), a Churchill Fellow, and was NAIDOC Young Person of the Year (2010). A mother of three sons (aged 21, 11 and 3), Dr Rogers is also an active creative artist. 

This year finalists, their guests, and distinguished members of the ANU community will be invited to attend the ANU Alumni Awards reception held at the heritage Hyatt Hotel Canberra, on Monday 27 November. Join us as we announce the 2023 ANU Alumni Award recipients, and find out more here.


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