Patji-Dawes Award

The Patji-Dawes Language Teaching Award honours outstanding achievements in teaching languages other than English by an accomplished practitioner or team of practitioners in Australia.

The biennial award was established in 2015 by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL). From 2021, administration of the award will pass to the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) and the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU), co-sponsors of the initiative since its inception.


About the name

The name of the award commemorates earliest documented language education partnership in Australia’s history: that between young Indigenous woman Patyegarang (Patye or Patji, pronounced Pat-chee) 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.

Past recipients

The Patji-Dawes award has been conferred biennially since 2015.

In its inaugural year, the award went to Sarah Payne, a teacher of French and German at Canberra Grammar School.

Dr John Giacon received the award in 2017. John is a linguist and educator, most recently at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. He received the award for teaching Gamilaraay, an Australian Indigenous language traditionally in north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland. 

The third round of the Patji-Dawes initiative in 2019 coincided with the International Year of Indigenous Languages. To mark this special occasion, the awarding committee chose to confer two awards. Sophia Mung, a Gija woman from Purnululu (East Kimberley, WA), received an award in recognition of decades of tireless work to ensure the Gija language is passed down to future generations. The second award went to Stephen Morelli, a teacher and linguist who collaborated with Indigenous communities on the New South Wales mid-north coast for over 30 years, working to revive and teach the Gumbaynggirr language.

In 2021, CoEDL marked its final year hosting the initiative. Three recipients were acknowledged: Maria Lo Presti, an Italian teacher, received an award in the Individual category; the staff of the Graduate Certificate of Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Charles Sturt University received an award in the Group category; and Sharon Gregory, a Noongar woman and teacher, received an award for Community Outreach.

Award conditions 

The teaching may take place in any setting: school, university, private language school, government department, Indigenous community, etc. What matters is that the learner is led, by the teacher’s inspiration, to a high level of mastery in the chosen language.

A nomination consists of three parts:

(a)  A form requesting basic details including name, address and position/professional details of the nominee and the nominator. (The nominee can be an individual or a team of educators.)

(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. (The nominator can also represent a group of students.)

(c)   A short account by the nominator (up to two pages) of what made the teacher/s so inspiring and effective in helping them to learn the designated language.

For future nominations, visit AFMLTA or LCNAU.


(Main image: Manuscripts graphic courtesy of David Nathan/The Notebooks of William Dawes; A woman of NSW by Augustus Earle 1793-1838, courtesy of National Library of Australia. For more information and resources on William Dawes and Patyegarang visit

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