Eric Willmot AM
Alumni Excellence Award Education, Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths Winner

Master of Education (Research), 1980

Eric Willmot is an Aboriginal scholar, educator and engineer. He was born in Queensland and spent his childhood on an island (Crib Island) which no longer exists. He is best known as an Australian author whose publications include Pemulwuy – The Rainbow Warrior, a landmark publication and a national best seller. It is used extensively in Australian schools and Tertiary institutions.

Eric began his career in education when he completed a Diploma of Education at Newcastle University, which led to work in the Northern Territory, NSW and Papua New Guinea. Eric then returned to Australia and to the ACT where he worked as a teacher and a Commonwealth education officer.  At this time, he became increasingly involved in Indigenous education which he viewed as the most important and interesting part of Australian education.

Upon graduating from the University of Canberra, Eric served in a number of key educational leadership positions, including Director of Research at the ANU, Principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Professor of Education at James Cook University, and Chief Education Officer in the ACT Department of Education. On the basis of his research during this time Australia's national Indigenous education body took up one of his proposals as a recommendation for providing 1,000 Aboriginal teachers by 1990 (at the time there was 79 indigenous people holding such a qualification). This work was built into the Auchmuty Report on Teacher Education. It was one of the few recommendations of that committee to become Commonwealth Government policy. Eric also went on to serve as Secretary of the ACT Department of Education before being appointed Director-General of Education in South Australia.

Eric retired from public administration in 1994 and rejoined private enterprise in the field of engineering research. As Chief Engineer of an engineering research and development firm, Eric carried out significant research in the very different field of controllable variable motion in mechanical engineering rigid body mechanisms. One important outcome of this work was the development of Australia's first and only petrol electric hybrid vehicle.

Professor Willmot has over 90 international patents in his name.  In 1981 he was named Australian Inventor of the Year and twice won the Medaille d'Or Genève Salon des Inventions in Geneva in Switzerland for his invention of a continuously variable-ratio rigid body transmission. In 1984 Eric was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Education and the field of Aboriginal Studies.