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Scholarship Spotlight: Ethan ‘Jappiljarri’ Taylor on Political Philosophy and Aboriginal Justice

Before coming to Oriel, Ethan completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne, where he focused on political philosophy and the intersection of ethics and public policy.

In August this year he was announced as one of two Charlie Perkins scholarship recipients for 2022. The Charlie Perkins scholarships, awarded by the Aurora Foundation, provide opportunities for two talented Indigenous Australians to undertake postgraduate study at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. The scholarships are directed towards Indigenous Australians who have the potential to become leaders in their field of study and in their communities.

Ethan is from the Warumungu nation that surrounds Tennant Creek, and within his nation he belongs to the Patta clan, and his skin is Jappaljarri.

In addition to the Charlie Perkins Scholarship, Ethan was also awarded the Trinity College AGL Shaw Scholarship from Trinity College, University of Melbourne.

In taking up a place to study at Oxford, Ethan’s goal is to learn from the University’s experts in the field of Political Philosophy so he can take this knowledge back to Australia and use it to remedy social, political and economic disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Expanding on his decision to further his studies at Oxford, Ethan says:

“Aboriginal people – my people – have some of the worst social, political and economic outcomes of any ethnic minority within the developed nations of the world. From wealth and income, to education, infant mortality, and life expectancy. We are also severely underrepresented in politics. Much has been done to remedy these issues from the perspective of policy science and development studies, but to little effect. The reason for this, I believe, is due to the fact that no one is asking the more fundamental questions within Aboriginal politics. By studying political philosophy (political theory), I hope to change this”.

Ethan plans to use his MPhil thesis to explore how language is used to socially and politically disenfranchise and exclude Aboriginal people from intellectual and democratic discourse.

Additionally, Ethan is also interested in broader questions regarding Aboriginal justice. In his words, “What does justice for Aboriginal people look like? Does it look like land rights? Remedying the disparities in economic outcomes? Both? Neither? Massive amounts of public money is spent on Aboriginal justice, yet no one has ever really probed the contents of that political conception. I hope to change that with my research, and be a guiding light for policy and legislation that tries to remedy the many injustices that have been committed against Indigenous people in Australia”.

In terms of College life, Ethan has thrown himself into life as part of Oriel’s MCR community, which is made up of students from over 40 different countries. Of the benefits of being part of the collegiate system, Ethan says: “One of the great benefits is that you get to be a part of an intimate community of vibrant and intellectually diverse individuals. This means that you don’t get stuck in your department bubble; you meet people who are studying vastly different things, and you learn from them. It creates a space in which people bring different perspectives on life, and on study, which not only makes for great individual growth, but also makes the community itself more inclusive”.

This article is the first part of a new series highlighting Oriel’s postgraduate scholars. The successes and achievements of our students are made ever more possible through the generosity of our donors whose giving encourages incredibly talented graduates from all backgrounds to study at the top-ranking university in the world and at a College that will support them through their careers.