Pro Vice-Chancellor Nathan Towney named 2023 Newcastle Citizen of the Year

University of Newcastle leader and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, has been selected as Newcastle’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

The proud Wiradjuri man was crowned Citizen of the Year at an award ceremony on Wednesday, in recognition of his passion and advocacy for education and Indigenous rights.

Mr Towney said it was an honour to receive the award from the City of Newcastle.

“This is a very unexpected surprise, I feel privileged to receive acknowledgement from a community I love,” Mr Towney said.

“I feel this personal recognition has been made possible by the foundational work of many people who have advocated for Aboriginal people, history and cultures in Newcastle across generations.”

Mr Towney began his tertiary journey as a young man through the University of Newcastle’s own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Admissions Scheme – an entry pathway that still exists today.

He dedicated his life to bettering his community and making sure education is accessible to all. Following a four-year tenure as the Principal of Newcastle High School, Mr Towney was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous, Strategy and Leadership at the University of Newcastle.

His passion and community-focused approach has been instrumental to the University’s continued success, leading the University’s Indigenous Education Framework as part of the Looking Ahead Strategic Plan and launching the ‘Stretch’ Reconciliation Action Plan.

Mr Towney has ensured community, connection and culture are embedded in all University engagements, exemplified through events such as award-winning night of reflection Ngarrama, RAPS in the Region and the Aboriginal Numeracy Gala Day. Last year, Mr Towney welcomed students and staff to his family home in Wellington, in Western New South Wales, during the Ma and Morley cultural experience – which is a true testament to his personal nature.

The University of Newcastle graduates the most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and doctors in the country, and this year recorded the most Indigenous students in the University’s history. My Towney’s leadership has been critical to this continued success.

His family, friends, colleagues and former students all gathered at the Newcastle Digital Library to congratulate Mr Towney on the achievement.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Mr Towney’s worthy conferral as Citizen of the Year came at a significant time in the national discourse on Indigenous affairs, ahead of the forthcoming referendum to establish a Voice to Parliament.

“Mr Towney is a dedicated community leader who is passionate about building positive relationships and creating greater awareness and understanding of the path to reconciliation,” Cr Nelmes said.

“A member of City of Newcastle’s Gurakai Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Mr Towney freely and generously gives his time and knowledge and is an exceptionally worthy recipient of the Citizen of the Year title.”

The City of Newcastle ‘Citizen of the Year’ award is given to a worthy recipient for a significant achievement or contribution made over the course of the previous year, by an individual that has brought regional, national or international recognition to the Newcastle area.

The 2023 Young Citizen of the Year title was awarded to University alumnus Dominic May. In 2017, Dominic was awarded a combined Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He founded CoastXP, a unique coastal sightseeing experience and was recognised for actively contributing to the diversity of local tourism offerings and Newcastle’s postpandemic economic recovery.