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Wollithiga man Henry Atkinson named Victorian NAIDOC Patron

Honoured: Wollithiga man Henry Atkinson was named 2022 Victorian NAIDOC Patron/Elder of the year.

Proud Wollithiga man Henry Atkinson was named the Victorian NAIDOC Patron/Elder for 2022 at Bunjilaka Melbourne Museum last week.

Mr Atkinson said it was an honour to win the award, saying it was a family affair.

“My second eldest daughter Bernadette was Miss NAIDOC in 1988, then in 2018 my granddaughter Isabella, who is Bernadette’s daughter, was also awarded Miss NAIDOC in 2018,” Mr Atkinson said.

His granddaughter Tara also won the award for education in the Eastern Region.

His grandson Colin was awarded the Youth Employment and Education in the Eastern Region in 2009.

Mr Atkinson moved to Melbourne for a few years before returning to Echuca, where he won the NAIDOC elder award in the Yarra Valley.

He is a retired Monash University professor, who still works with Deakin University, along with many schools to teach students about Indigenous history.

He was also a member of Echuca Fire Brigade and Boronia Fire Brigade, also working on the CFA’s inclusion action plan to encourage more Indigenous people to join.

“I was part of the Echuca/Moama Search and Rescue back when it was first put together,” he said.

“I’ve done searches for people who have been missing in the Barmah Forest or lost in the river.”

Mr Atkinson was also a founding member of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nation — an organisation that works to preserve cultural heritage and the environment within the Murray-Darling Basin.

He also shows teachers ways to connect with Aboriginal students so they can receive the best education.

Mr Atkinson said he wanted young Indigenous Australians to strive to be role models for the next generation — to work in business, law and medicine.

He was a trustee of the Opening Doors the Foundation, which aims to address educational disadvantages for Indigenous students.

Mr Atkinson played plenty of sport, he grew up playing football for Echuca in the Bendigo Football League and Echuca South in the now-defunct Echuca Football League.