Patji-Dawes Award

The purpose of the Patji-Dawes award is to honour outstanding achievements in language teaching by an accomplished practitioner in Australia. It reflects our belief that achieving proficiency in other languages is one of the great learning experiences in the human condition, that this happens all too rarely in contemporary Australian society, and that there is unfilled need for public recognition of those who defy our national mediocrity in this arena.

The teaching may take place in any setting – school, university, private language school, government department, Indigenous community – provided that the learner is led, by the teacher’s inspiration, to a high level of mastery in the chosen language. Nominations are made by someone who has achieved a very high level of fluency in their chosen language and would like to honour their teacher by setting out what it was about their practice which inspired and enabled them to unlock the rewards of learning another language despite all the difficulties involved.

Lt William Dawes journalAbout the name

The name commemorates the teaching-learning partnership which underlay the earliest documented language learning in Australia’s history: that between a young Indigenous woman, Patyegarang (Patye or Patji, pronounced Pat-che), and Lieutenant William Dawes. Their close and humane relationship, resulted not only in an exceptional mastery of the Sydney language by Dawes, but in a relationship of cross-cultural understanding that has been all too rare in Australia’s history.

2017 winner

In 2017, the winner of the Patji-Dawes award was John Giacon, who teaches Gamilaraay at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney.

Dr John Giacon

Nomination Procedure for 2016/2017

Nominations consist of three parts:

(a) completion of a form requesting basic details including name, address and position/professional details of the nominee and the nominator (the nominee must be an Australian citizen);
(b) a short account by the nominator (at most one page, plus supporting documentary evidence where useful)  demonstrating that they have accomplished a high level of competence in the relevant language;
(c) a short account by the nominator (up to two pages) of what made the teacher so inspiring and effective in helping them to learn the designated language.


The Jury is made up of outstanding practitioners in the field of language teaching, learning and language study, with rolling membership from year to year. In 2016/2017, the judges included Anne-Marie Morgan (President of the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations), Lia Tedesco (Principal of the School of Languages), Jean Fornasiero (President of the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities), Sarah Payne (inaugural winner of the Patji-Dawes Award), Professor Lesley Harbon (Head of School, International Studies, UTS), and Professor Michael Christie (Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University).

Award and Award Ceremony

The award will include a certificate, small cash prize plus an airfare and accommodation for both the prizewinner and their nominator to attend the award ceremony, to be held during the AFMLTA Conference, 6-8 July 2017, Gold Coast. 

Since a major goal of the award is to further public awareness of what makes for inspiring and effective language teaching and learning, both the nominee (the teacher) and the nominator (the pupil) will be asked to make a short address of about five minutes. For the teacher, this may include their philosophy and practice of language teaching, and their love of the relevant language, and for the pupil, what was most effective in how their teacher imparted the language and its culture, and what they have gained from learning it.

Recordings and/or transcripts of these two addresses will be placed online on a special page of CoEDL’s website, to form an evolving portfolio of success stories in language teaching and learning.

Deadline for submission of nominations: 17 March 2017
Award announced: 10 May 2017 
Award conferred: 6-8 July 2017 


The Patji-Dawes award is an initiative of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language  through its Communications and Outreach Program, which includes a commitment to improving levels of multilingualism and mastery of other languages in Australia through understanding and public debate on how we learn (and teach) second and other languages most effectively. We appreciate the ongoing support of the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations and the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities.


  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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