William 'Uncle Bill' O'Brien OAM was conferred the Charles Sturt University (CSU) Order of the Companion of the University.
The Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council chairperson accepted the honour at a graduation ceremony in Port Macquarie today (December 9).
The University Council recognised Mr O'Brien's exceptional achievement and service to the University and its regions by conferring the esteemed honour upon him.
In the citation supporting Mr O'Brien's nomination for the honour, he was acknowledged as having "worked tirelessly to advance the knowledge and understanding of, and engagement with, the Biripi people of Australia, the local community and Charles Sturt University".
"Uncle Bill has consistently tackles the challenging issues of Indigenous welfare and equity in educational outcomes for Indigenous people," the citation read.
"He is unstinting in giving his time to advance local initiatives and serve the local community, and is involved in community activities almost every day of the week.
"Uncle Bill's approach is one of thoughtful consideration, absolute ethical integrity and a commitment to delivering appropriate and useful service. His work and vision is, without doubt, 'for the public good'."
Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said Mr O'Brien's passion for Indigenous culture and causes had made a meaningful impact.
"Mr O'Brien has long been an advocate for his community, dedicating himself tirelessly to advancing Indigenous causes in the Port Macquarie region," Professor Vann said.
"His efforts to steer Indigenous youth towards bettering themselves via education is especially meritorious, and is in keeping with Charles Sturt University's proud history of accepting and graduating Indigenous students.
"On behalf of the entire University and with a tremendous amount of pride I congratulate him on this recognition."
In the Australia Day honours of 2016 Mr O'Brien was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to the Indigenous communities of northern New South Wales.
His long record of service includes helping to establish an Indigenous youth group in partnership with the Australian Red Cross, co-founding of the Australian Bodyboarding Association, and volunteering at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre.
He has been a member of the Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council since 1984 and also performs official Welcome to Country services on behalf of the Birpai nation multiple times each week.
But it is Mr O'Brien's passions for youth and education that brings him most fulfilment.
"My greatest passion is to encourage young people to better themselves through education, as this is their best route to achieve their best in life," he said.
"I work with children from pre-school age through to university, and it is a privilege to do so.
"It's all about education and I'm proud that I'm able to do something to further everyone's education. I never got past second year high school and so I know how these students put their time and effort into it.
"I had a different road to travel in education. I feel as though I can do more as a person on the ground to teach people that they need a good education.
"For indigenous people a good education gives them a chance to get a really good job and participate in a lot of different professions.
"I'd like to say thank you to everybody, I feel very humbled and I'm amazed of the support in the community."
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