Six years ago there had never been an Indigenous Australian studying for a full-time degree at either Oxford or Cambridge. Now 32 Indigenous Australians have been accepted to undertake postgraduate degrees at Oxbridge. Richard Potok (NSW & St John’s 1984) is Chief Executive Officer of the Aurora Project and the Aurora Education Foundation. Aurora delivers a number of interrelated programs aimed at supporting Indigenous academic achievement, including a high school academic enrichment program and the annual Aurora Indigenous Scholars International Study Tour. Aurora also administers postgraduate scholarships for Indigenous Australians to attend leading overseas universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. These scholarships are provided by the Charlie Perkins Scholarship Trust and the Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation – Richard is a trustee and executive director of each of these foundations.
Richard delivered a very informative and personal presentation, in which he outlined the problem of underrepresentation of Indigenous Australians at tertiary education institutions, and the various initiatives – the Charlie Perkins Scholarships, the Roberta Sykes Scholarships and The Aspiration Initiative — that are attempting to address this. Several Perkins Scholars joined the conversation and shared their thoughts about the projects. Richard and the Perkins Scholars emphasised the importance of empowering and inspiring Indigenous Australians. Their aim is a future where outstanding academic attainment for Indigenous Australians is the norm rather than the exception.
Prior to his involvement in Indigenous affairs, Richard was a lawyer based in London with Potok & Co. As part of his law reform work, he made presentations in 35 countries to governments, financial market participants and students on the need for legal reform in relation to indirectly held securities. He was Legal Advisor to the Hague Conference on Private International Law for the Hague Securities Convention that was finalised in December 2002. He has published in the area of conflict of laws, including as editor of a book comparing the law in 25 jurisdictions. Richard is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney and a Visiting Fellow at University of NSW Law School. He holds a BCom LLB from UNSW and a BCL from Oxford.