Asmi Wood making a difference in higher education

[supplied by NIAA]

Professor Asmi Wood is the 2020 ANU Indigenous Alumnus of the Year.

Image courtesy of The Australian National University.

Professor Wood has ancestry from the Western Torres Strait. He teaches at the ANU College of Law and runs the ANU College of Law Indigenous Programme. He also works closely with the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre, which provides a meeting place and support-base for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at ANU.

After accidentally falling into a career in higher education, Professor Wood looks back happily on his decision to stay.

‘Teaching the best minds in the country is such an honour. Working with Aboriginal people from all over Australia, who will take important legal, medical, engineering and other skills back to community gives me hope for the future,’ Professor Wood said. 

A rewarding part of Professor Wood’s work is the inspiration he gets from his students discussion and engagement.

‘The ability to discuss important issues in an academically rich, open and safe environment helps bring out the best in our students, and in humanity.’

While Professor Wood feels he encounters very few personal challenges within his work, he sees areas that can be improved. He particularly hopes for more funds to invest in all students.

‘[The education system needs] to provide full scholarships so that even very poor but gifted kids can excel in this intellectually rich and vibrant environment.’

‘This does not happen unfortunately, but on the other hand, universities are not completely out of the reach of the poor. Investing in [these students] now, our future, is one of the best things we can do.’

As part of his research, Professor Wood has also found that Indigenous people are having different experiences with Australia’s legal system.

‘There is so much to be reformed in the law to make Aboriginal people constitutionally ‘equal’, recognised and their culture celebrated.’

Professor Wood has gained many valuable and rich insights over the years. For example, when trying to imagine what an Indigenous nation state would have looked like, he retains the belief that all cultures and societies evolve and move on.

‘I hope that any Aboriginal society would have been fair to all people and would have had wise and honourable people at the head.’

He feels a responsibility to share these and other insights with his students but also, how to gain them.

‘What I say to students in my classes is that they should study with both open hearts and minds, to understand deeply and to take a longer, broader view of circumstances and to speak what they see as their truths but to not fear to admit when they are mistaken.’

Looking to the future, Professor Wood hopes that our leaders support a broad education for all peoples so that we have a more informed society as we move through this century.

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