Aunty Geraldine Atkinson is a proud Bangerang/Wiradjuri warrior woman. For over thirty years Geraldine has been an important presence in the Victorian Aboriginal community, dedicating her career to increasing opportunities available for Aboriginal community through education in Victoria. Geraldine’s passion has ensured that genuine progress is made for Aboriginal people in education in the state of Victoria. She is particularly dedicated to seeing language and culture taught throughout Victorian schools.
Geraldine was born in Leeton, New South Wales in 1952, to Alf and Lulu Bamblett and is one of fourteen children. Her passion and dedication for Koorie education came from her parents, who instilled in their children the importance of having an education. Geraldine attended primary school in Mooroopna and attended Nathalia Secondary School until leaving in Form 5 (the equivalent to Year 11) and going join the workforce.
Geraldine married Neville Atkinson and had four children and is now a very proud grandparent. Their children went on to be involved in Aboriginal affairs and education.
In 1976, Geraldine was given the opportunity to be an Aboriginal teacher’s aide. This was an important role for Geraldine, as she provided ongoing support to Aboriginal students and their families at Victorian schools. Geraldine has also played an essential role in the Greater Shepparton area in several programs.
Geraldine’s passion for education led her to the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI). Geraldine became President of VAEAI in 1999.
As President of VAEAI Geraldine has been able to contribute her knowledge to key policies and strategies that have shaped Aboriginal education in Victoria by producing a significant improvement in educational outcomes for the community. Geraldine also represents VAEAI on a number of national and state committees while maintaining her involvement at the local level.
Geraldine is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), and has served on the SNAICC National Executive since 1999.
Through her work for VAEAI, Geraldine has gained broad experience within Koorie education. In the 1970s Geraldine served as the VAEAI Adult Education and TAFE specialist representative. Geraldine played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Minimbah Adult Education Program, which provided the community with an opportunity to build their skills through training.
Geraldine has also made a significant impact in the area of early childhood. In 1986 the Lidje Child Care Centre near Shepparton was established. The centre was established out the acknowledgement that many Koorie children were disadvantaged as a result of their lack of attendance in early years programs.
Ensuring kids feel culturally safe
Geraldine was a part of the Batdja Kindergarten, established to ensure children were attending a program that would get them ready for school and to ensure that children were able to learn in a culturally appropriate and safe setting.
Lullas Family and Children Centre was then created, merging both Lidje Child Care Centre and Batdja Kindergarten. The centre provides a range of services in the one location for local families, including childcare and kindergarten, community health services and parenting services.
In 2001, former Premier Steve Bracks, alongside Geraldine Atkinson, launched the renewed partnership in education and training, Yalca Yalca, meaning Yellow Box Gum in the Yorta Yorta language. Yalca Yalca supports a birth-to-death philosophy of education, placing the Aboriginal students at the centre of education policy and decision making. Yalca Yalca acknowledges that local Koorie communities are best able to determine their own local education and training needs.
Geraldine also represents all Indigenous Education Consultative Bodies (IECBs) in Australian States and Territories on the Ministerial Taskforce for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs.
Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council
Geraldine is a Council Member of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and she is a board director of the Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL).
One of Geraldine’s greatest accomplishments is being a part of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group, which played a pivotal role in producing the first ever piece of treaty legislation in Australia. Geraldine was proudly involved in the second reading of the treaty legislation in the Victorian Parliament in March 2018. The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 will be the roadmap to treaty negotiations.
Geraldine obtained a Bachelor of Education from La Trobe University and has gone on to study a Masters of Education.
“Education is important: it is about empowering the next generations as well as breaking the poverty cycle.”