Indigenous educator Uncle Vic Chapman has been dedicated to bettering the lives of Aboriginal youth for more than 65 years.
In recent times the Yuwaalaraay man has been the Art and Design elder in residence at the University of New South Wales, which he was made a fellow of in 2018.
Chapman, from Woonona, also received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Wollongong in 2011. Both fellowships recognise the 87-year-old's lifelong commitment to education and the Indigenous community.
He has again been honoured during the Queen's Birthday Honours with an AM for significant service to the Indigenous community, to tertiary education, and to the visual arts.
Chapman said the award was a very pleasant surprise and quite unexpected.
"Unexpected in that I freely and happily choose to be involved in areas covered by the citation - education, visual arts, and helping my people in any way I am able. Awards or rewards are never a motivation for doing something that gives me inner satisfaction," he said.
"At award giving time I can think of many who make a much bigger contribution to causes than I do. In accepting this award I dedicate it to them. Knowingly or unknowingly, those silent workers have so enriched my own life.
"I number among them my unschooled parents who made great sacrifices for me to realise my dream of becoming a teacher, my 1944 teacher, Mr McKinnon, who showed us the way and my late wife, Ruth, who gave me encouragement and confidence to achieve what I could not have achieved without her.
"I thank God for all of them. And for the great Albert Einstein, with whom I share a birthday, who said: "Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends."
Chapman's primary school teaching career started in 1952 and ended as Thirroul Public School principal in 1990. In that same year his contribution to education was recognised with a Public Service Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
In 2003 he was also awarded a Centenary Medal for Contribution to Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Communities.
Chapman is also an accomplished ceramicist and carver with more than 50 years' experience as an artist.
He continues to exhibit nationally and internationally, translating the stories of the Yuwaalaraay to ceramics and print making.