Professor Paul Chandler, a proud Bidjigal man, was born into poverty in 1962. His Nanna and Aunty instilled a love of learning from an early age and Paul was the first person in his family to finish primary school. Through working as a paperboy, blacksmith and catching fish and seafood he paid his way through School and then Sydney University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science with 1st class Honours in Psychology and Masters in Education at Sydney University in 1987. Now working in a surf shop and teaching in a local high school, he completed a Masters of Science (in Psychology) and PhD in cognition and learning at UNSW. In 1993, he became the first Aboriginal to receive a PhD from UNSW. He was immediately offered by the Federal government an Australian Research Council upon completion of his PhD which won every award available in NSW, Australia and overseas. As a teaching academic, he was one of the Faculty’s most popular lecturers and was invited around Australia and overseas to provide many teaching and research engagements. Paul went on to serve two terms as Head of the School of Education at UNSW. He remains one of the highly cited educational researchers in the world. Paul was formally recognised as one of the top 10 Scientists in Australia in 2007 by the Australian Research Council.
Paul joined the University of Wollongong (UOW) as Dean of Education in 2007, becoming the first Aboriginal Faculty Dean in Australia (sadly for Australia there has never been a second Aboriginal Faculty Dean). Paul completed two terms as Dean and transformed the Faculty into a teaching and research powerhouse that is now rated first in the country. During this time Paul and Michelle, became foster carers for two siblings, aged 2 and 6 weeks, which they describe as the most joyous moment of their lives. The Chandler family went from 4 to 6 overnight, and the two young children became immersed in community, family and University life.
Inspired by the power of the early years of life, Professor Chandler was the intellectual architect and visionary behind the $44 million Early Start Project and moved into the role of Executive Director of Early Start throughout the planning stages until the project was formally established. He remains the Foundation Chair of Early Start which sees 250,000 families come through its doors each year. He also remains on the Advisory Board of the $300 million Digital Child Project.
Paul was then appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor (Inclusion and Outreach) at UOW where he oversaw their Aboriginal Centre (WIC), their Inaugural Aboriginal Strategy and Reconciliation Action Plan.
Today, life for Professor Chandler has come full circle. Paul retired from UOW in 2020 and moved into semi-retirement. Now semi-retired Professor Paul Chandler is back at UNSW and works on numerous Government and private boards where he feels he can bring about positive social change. He Chaired the My Forever Family NSW Advisory Committee (a program operated by Adopt Change) for 3 years and now is a Board member of Adopt Change.