Community, General|

The Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. with the Koorie education community is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Emeritus Professor Colin Bourke, MBE, aged 84, on 10 February 2021.

Colin Bourke was the first president of the then Victorian Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (VAECG) established in 1976 by Colin, along with Eleanor Koumalatsos (Bourke), Bruce McGuinness, Nessie Skuta, David Anderson, Esmai Walker, Mary Atkinson and Alf Bamblett.  The aims of the VAECG were to develop, plan, implement, coordinate and evaluate Aboriginal education programs, services, projects and activities at the state, regional and local level.  

Together with his wife Wergaia -Wamba Wamba Professor and Elder Eleanor Bourke, he dedicated his life to advancing the educational achievements of Aboriginal people.

From  1977 – 1981, Colin Bourke was the first full-time Indigenous Director of the then Centre for Research into Aboriginal Affairs (now Monash Indigenous Centre), served on the Monash University Council for two terms and was inaugural Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council, until 2018.

In 1999 he was appointed a Professorial Fellow in the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies, and in 2001 he became Adjunct Professor.

Known as an outstanding scholar of Aboriginal education and a man of deep integrity, Colin Bourke took a long view of history, identity and identification, once stating ‘Everybody has got a history… you may not know what it is.’

In 1978, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his work in providing leadership and support to Aboriginal welfare.

The following year,  1998 Colin Bourke was appointed Emeritus Professor at the University of South Australia, and in 2016, Monash University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws.

VAEAI General Manager Lionel Bamblett recalls “I admired him and thought he did great. Colin was one of my early mentors. He helped lay the foundations for what VAEAI is doing in regards to Koorie education across the state.”

The Victorian Aboriginal education community acknowledges with deep gratitude the life and work of Colin Bourke, and offers its sincere sympathy to his wife Eleanor Bourke and extended family for their great loss.

The Funeral Service of Emeritus Professor Colin Bourke will be held at the Lismore Community Centre, Seymour Street, Lismore on THURSDAY (18 Feb) at 11:00am. For streaming links and information visit:

Working Party of the VAECG. Esme Halden, Alf Bamblett, Eleanor Koumalatsos, and President Colin Bourke. Also Mr. Don Rose (left) and Mrs N. Skuta (right). Bairnsdale, 1979.
Annual Elders Day: Professor Mick Dodson AM, Monash Elder-in-Residence Aunty Diane Singh and Professor Colin Bourke MBE, Chair of Indigenous Advisory Council. Photo: Monash University.

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