HONOURED: Dr Eve Fesl has attributed a UN award to her mother's steadfast belief in education.
HONOURED: Dr Eve Fesl has attributed a UN award to her mother's steadfast belief in education.

Elder honoured with UN award

GUBBI GUBBI elder Dr Eve Fesl's contribution to the community over the years has been recognised with a United Nations Association of Australia award.

Dr Fesl was one of 10 Queenslanders presented with awards for community work and past achievements at a ceremony at Parliament House, Brisbane, just before Christmas.

Dr Fesl, who was the first indigenous person to graduate with PhD from an Australian university, said the award came out of the blue.

"It was a surprise. They just called me up and said they had an award for me," she said.

Dr Fesl is yet to find a spot in her Burpengary East home to display the award, which is made of glass and features the UN logo on top.

"It's really beautiful. I feel very humble to have received it," she said.

Since earning her PhD in linguistics in the 1970s has gone on to become an associate professor at Monash University in Melbourne.

The UN award is not her first - she holds an Order of Australia medal for ethnic affairs.

Dr Fesl said she had her late mother to thank for her achievements.

Her mother was forcibly removed from her country under the Protection Act in the early part of last century and taken to Barambah.

"While she was there, a young Englishman came to Barambah. She was only a little child but he brought books and told them the way forward was in education," Dr Fesl said.

When Dr Fesl and her brother were children, her mother moved her young family to Brisbane so they could get a good education.

After pushing herself in athletics training to teach a racist bully a lesson, Dr Fesl made the training squad for the 1956 Olympics in discus. When she missed out on a finals berth, she set her sights on the 1960 Olympics in Athens and travelling in Europe afterwards, and decided to study German.

She was encouraged to sit her HSC, topping the state in German, which saw her invited to study linguistics at university and set her on an academic path.

Dr Fesl said none of it might have happened if it had not been for her mother's strong belief in education.

"I owe this to my mother when she was at Barambah," she said.