About Our Footprint - Dr Pearl Duncan, NITV

A documentary on one of our recent graduates - Dr Pearl Duncan - will be screening on television station NITV on Wednesday 19th August, at 6.30pm.

A lifelong pursuit of knowledge and love of humour and the Aboriginal identity have cumulated in a PhD for University of Queensland graduand Pearl Duncan.

The Bribie Island resident first began her tertiary education at the Sydney Teacher’s College at the age of 17.

Many decades and several degrees later, Ms Duncan will graduate from UQ on 16 December with a PhD in Aboriginal Cultural Studies.

The degree is just one more in a long list of honours for Ms Duncan.

Ms Duncan was a university lecturer for 11 years, as well as being a visiting lecturer at the University of British Columbia, Canada and the University of Nebraska.

In addition to a long and respected career in teaching – she believes she was the first Aboriginal school teacher in Australia – Ms Duncan has received a Queensland Greats Award and  a Centenary of Federation Medal and  has a teaching scholarship named after her.

The senior citizen continued her pursuit of knowledge after retirement, taking on a range of projects, including a PhD on Aboriginal humour.

“My thesis investigates the function of humour in the survival of Aboriginal people against all odds, including the onslaught of dispossession, powerlessness and oppression since the British invasion in 1788,” Ms Duncan said.

“Humour has been central to Aboriginal resilience, and a weapon of the weak in the maintenance of identity.

“My interest in Aboriginal humour is longstanding. It grows out of personal experience both as a child and as an adult when I witnessed humour being used in everyday life.

“Even as a small child, I noticed that humour prevailed in the daily discourse of the adults around me.

“As I grew older and attended school, I became painfully aware of the deprivation, hopelessness and apathy which flourished in my social environment.

“It seemed incomprehensible that people could laugh when there was no apparent reason.”

Ms Duncan plans to turn her thesis into a book, contributing further to Aboriginal cultural studies.

Article first published here: https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2014/12/love-of-laughter-leads-phd-pearl


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