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Patji-Dawes Award presented


Date: 6 July 2017

Dr John Giacon has received the Patji-Dawes award for outstanding language teaching at the 21st AFMLTA International Languages Conference on the Gold Coast.

He was awarded the prestigious Patji-Dawes award for his efforts teaching the Indigenous Australian language Gamilaraay, traditionally spoken in north-west NSW and southern Queensland.

The Patji-Dawes is awarded every two years to the Nation’s most outstanding language teacher. Dr John Giacon teaches at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. He has dedicated much of his life to preserving and revitalising Indigenous language. He is a passionate believer in the cultural benefits of multilingualism, alongside economic and cognitive benefits.

The award was conferred by linguist Professor John Hajek, long-time supporter of language education. 

Professor John Hajek and Dr John Giacon

Dr Giacon was nominated by ANU student Bonnie McLean. She commended him for his outstanding teaching and for ensuring that students were introduced to the rich culture of the Gamilaraay people. Professor Hajek also acknowledged the importance of Bonnie's nomination.

Bonnie McLean addresses the conference

Dr Giacon, who is a Christian Brother, originally worked with Indigenous people in the NSW town of Walgett as a teacher.

Professor Nick Evans, Director of the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, said that Dr Giacon’s teaching helped others to understand the natural state of being bilingual and multilingual.  “Many Australians don’t understand that for many Indigenous Australians and so many other people in the world, speaking more than one language is a comfortable and normal state. Being fluent in more than one language has been shown to bring huge cognitive advantages and the more we can do to encourage our language teachers to help us become fluent in other languages, the better.”

Professor Evans said that in addition to his research and teaching, Dr Giacon has created a Gamilaraay dictionary, songbook, and teachers’ resources to encourage the further revitalisation of the language.

Left to right: Sherryl Saunders, Anne-Marie Morgan, John Hajek, Jean Fornasiero, Nick Evans, Bonnie McLean, Allan Lena (Yugambeh), William McLean, John Giacon, Megan McLean

The Patji-Dawes award is in remembrance of the teaching-student relationship between Patyegarang, a teenage girl from the Eora nation, and her student William Dawes, a lieutenant from the first fleet. The award is designed to focus attention on the cultural importance of language and diversity of languages in the Australian region. Dawes refused to participate in a punitive expedition against Eora peoples, and was expelled from the colony. He later spent his life fighting against the global slave trade.

The award is administered by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language and sponsored by the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) and the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU). 

For more information please contact Martin Blaszczyk: or on 02 6125 6122.

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