Patji-Dawes Award

Image courtesy of The Notebooks of William Dawes, David Nathan, and the National Library of Australia.

The Patji-Dawes award was an initiative of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL), developed as part of the Outreach program, which included a commitment to improving levels of multilingualism and accomplishment of additional languages in Australia, through understanding and public debate on how we learn and teach languages effectively.

Throughout the years of CoEDL, the award was supported and sponsored by the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) and the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU). With CoEDL now concluded, the AFMLTA and LCNAU have proudly assumed responsibility for continuing the award, to recognise teachers of languages.


The purpose of the Patji-Dawes Language Teaching Award is to honour outstanding achievements in teaching languages by an accomplished practitioner or team of practitioners in Australia. Accomplishing proficiency in additional languages is one of the great learning experiences in the human condition. Australia lags behind the world in ensuring plurilingual capability through provision of languages education. There is unfulfilled need for public recognition of those who provide outstanding teaching of languages to address plurilingual capability.

The teaching may take place in any setting – school, university, private language school, government department, Indigenous community, Community language centre. What matters is that the learner is led, by the teacher’s inspiration, to a moderate to high level of accomplishment in the chosen language.

We seek nominations from those who’ve achieved a moderate to high level of fluency in their chosen language. If you would like to honour your teacher or teachers, we ask that you tell us (and the world) what it was about their practice that inspired and enabled you to unlock the rewards of learning another language despite all the difficulties involved.

About the name

The name of the award commemorates the teaching-learning partnership which underlay the earliest documented language learning in Australia’s history: that between a young Indigenous woman, Patyegarang (Patye or Patji, pronounced Pat-che), and Lieutenant William Dawes. Their close relationship resulted not only in an exceptional mastery of the Sydney language by Dawes and English by Patji, but in a relationship of cross-cultural understanding that has been all too rare in Australia’s history.

The award and ceremony (2023)

The award will include a certificate of recognition, and travel costs for the prize-winner to attend the award ceremony. In 2023, this will occur at the International Languages Conference of the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) in Perth, Western Australia, on 8 July 2023.

The winner is invited to make a short address at the presentation ceremony.

2023 Patji-Dawes Teaching Award recipient

The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association (AFMLTA) and the Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU) are pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2023 Patji-Dawes Language Teaching Award is Matt Absalom, Lecturer in Italian Studies, School of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.