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Tom Calma AO

University of Canberra


Professor Calma has a life long history of advocating for racial equality and elevation of the social and economic status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He champions reconciliation, social justice, anti-discrimination, anti-racism and human rights for all. He promotes equality for all through actions and raising community awareness by being in the public arena delivering speeches and media appearances.

In 1980 he led the establishing of a post-secondary second chance education initiative in Darwin that was at the forefront of creating pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to enter tertiary education.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Prof Calma’s 2005 Social Justice Report to Parliament on the disparity of health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lead to the formation of the Close the Gap campaign that has reformed health policy, delivery and accountability. Successive governments have built on the proposed reforms manifesting in the July 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap that targets equality of health outcomes by 2031. Professor Calma, on the invitation of Stolen Generations members, formally responded to the Government’s National Apology in February 2008. He has led the formation of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and recently Co-Chaired the co-design process for a Voice to Government and Parliament and is currently a member of the Voice Referendum Working Group and Referendum Engagement Group. For over a decade he has been the National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking that has realise significant reductions in smoking and non take-up of smoking by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He has influenced policy reforms in justice reinvestment, mental health, suicide prevention and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Professor Calma’s policy influencing and advocacy is not restricted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As a senior diplomat for seven years in the mid 90’s he was at the forefront of the international student movement and for the past decade he has been Deputy Chancellor and Chancellor of the University of Canberra. He is a member of high-level committees focused on health research, genomics, aged care and Indigenous cancer control.

On 30 June 2016 in Canberra, The Honourable John Berry, Ambassador of the United States of America to Australia, presented Professor Calma with a US Flag that was flown over the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC in recognition of his “leadership in promoting equality, social tolerance and youth advancement.”

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