Kathleen Jackson, a Wiradjuri woman from Gulgong in NSW, is undertaking a PhD in African and African American Studies at Harvard University. The course is fully funded by Harvard for six years. Kathleen was awarded the 2013 Roberta Sykes Harvard Club Scholarship, a scholarship jointly funded by the Foundation and the Harvard Club of Australia. This scholarship will provide funds for travel expenses to the USA, fees, and textbooks for a Harvard Summer School course, as well as relocation costs.
Kathleen began her university studies through the Yapug Bridging Course at University of Newcastle (UoN) in 2008 and went on to enrol in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Law degree. In 2011, Kathleen was awarded a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction, along with the Sarah Wheeler Prize for outstanding results in History.
Kathleen’s PhD topic will examine the phenomenon of 'passing' in the United States and Australia. The term ‘passing’ refers to ‘passing as white’ by African Americans or Aboriginal Australians with lighter skin complexion ‘to overcome social and political hardships’. She wants to use the strong foundations and methods used in African American Studies to gain a deeper understanding of 'passing' in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Kathleen believes it is incredibly important to gain an understanding of the history of racial identity in Australia as it continues to play a huge role in the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Kathleen’s own experience of higher education has provided her with insight into the problems many Indigenous students are confronted with while undertaking tertiary studies. She wants to be a part of the movement that helps overcome the legacy of decades of negative policies. Kathleen says, “It is crucial that we understand our history to ensure the prosperity of our future.”
Kathleen wants to help youth reclaim their autonomy and resist succumbing to negative stereotypes. To do this, she believes it is important to have Indigenous academics throughout university disciplines, not just within Indigenous Studies departments.