In 2013 Anna Vella was awarded the Lawrie Shears Doctoral Scholarship
for her outstanding educational research and community involvement.
Anna has a double degree in marine and fresh water science and a postgraduate diploma in teaching. As a child Anna’s ‘backyard’ was the CERES Environment Park in East Brunswick – it was ‘literally right next door’. An urban farm, a thriving community, and a place rich with social and cultural diversity, the CERES environment had a profound influence on Anna.
This experience, together with her special interest in alternative learning settings, prepared Anna well for effecting real change in the classroom and beyond. In her seven years at Copperfield College Anna has achieved marvels with her extra-curricular environmental science activities. She set up a program that inspired many students to take on science-related studies and careers, and she now talks with pride about students who went on to choose professions in science-related fields, including doctors and veterinarians.
While teaching Anna completed a masters’ degree on student perceptions of informal education and she commenced a PhD. Her principal encouraged her to apply for the Dr Lawrie Shears Doctoral Scholarship and she was successful. The title of her PhD is ‘What do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls across Australia know about sustainability issues?’ She is working with the Healesville Worawa Aboriginal College to investigate the relationship between creative thinking, oral traditions and western education. As a result she is growing more and more convinced of the importance of individual learning plans. Ultimately Anna believes that shifting away from an ‘assembly line’ form of education would greatly benefit all students.
The scholarship enabled Anna to take a year off to focus on her doctoral research. She was able to attend the World Indigenous Network Conference in the Northern Territory and the World National Parks conference in Sydney. She has further study trips planned and is also using the scholarship money to support her frequent trips to Worawa College.
To prospective applicants Anna says ‘don’t be scared … if you are working or doing research in the education area, apply. Why not get a pat on the back at the same time as sharing your knowledge’.
Applications for the 2014 Lawrie Shears Doctoral Scholarship
close on 18 July 2014. The award will be presented at the 2014 Dr Lawrie Shears Public Lecture
at Bastow on 14 August 2014.