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From angry young man to respected academic

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

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An inspirational new book by ECU researcher Dr Mick Adams is about courage and determination and how he turned his life around to become a respected Aboriginal leader in his own right.

My Journey through the Academic Mist reveals the challenges, frustrations and road blocks Dr Adams faced on his road through academia. At the end of his journey he has amassed an associate diploma, two bachelor degrees, a masters’ degree and a PhD.

“I wanted to tell people about how I got to where I am now,” Dr Adams said.

“Considering I grew up in a poverty stricken environment and achieved a reputable academic career, I had to tell the story from the beginning.”

The early years

Dr Adams grew up in Parap Camp in Darwin and is the third eldest in a family of thirteen. He is a descendent of the Yadhiagana/Wuthuti people of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland on his father’s side and the Gurindji people of Central Western Northern Territory on his mother’s side.

“Parap Camp was a unique multi-cultural community with rich music and dance heritage,” Dr Adams explained.

“Most people were from poor working class families and we were probably on the borderline of poverty, but we didn’t go without and made good with what we had.”

Dr Adams said his parents wanted their children to obtain a good education but he had no intention of obtaining a formal education at that time in his life.

“I had one school uniform. When I came home from school I had to wash my uniform ready for the next day,” he said.

“I avoided school at every opportunity. I’m not bragging about it. I acknowledge that I put my parents through a lot of stress and they were extremely disappointed in me.”

Dr Adams dropped out of school at the age of 15 and took up work as a house painter.

By his own admission he became “an angry young man who got into pub fights at the drop of a hat”.

An accidental journey begins

His journey into academia began in 1976 when Dr Adams found himself in Adelaide studying social work in the Aboriginal Task Force with the South Australia Institute of Technology (SAIT).

“I didn’t have a clue of what I was getting myself into,” he said

“I really thought I was meeting about a job interview working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

To his surprise Dr Adams had actually enrolled into a two year-course studying social work with SAIT.

“I can positively say that taking the gamble to embark on the associate diploma of social work  changed my life,” Dr Adams said.

He is now a Senior Research Fellow with ECU’s Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. His research addresses issues associated with the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males. In 2015 he was honoured with an Elders Award from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council.

“I decided to write about the barriers I had to overcome to fulfil my achievements in the hope that it will inspire others to take up the challenge of realising their full potential,” he said.

 “I want to assure people that if they get the opportunity to gain an education qualification it is well worth the journey,” he said.

My Journey through the Academic Mist is available for purchase through the Magpie Goose Publishing website or by contacting Dr Mick Adams directly via email.

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