Prof Calma is an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan (Koong ara kan) tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja (Ee wad ja) tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory of Australia, respectively.
Prof Calma is a consultant who undertakes the role of National Coordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking in the fight against tobacco use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He is also a Professor (0.4 FTE) at the University of Sydney Medical School performing the role of Chair and Patron of the Poche Indigenous Health Network. Poche Centres are located in five universities.
Professor Calma has been a member of the University of Canberra Council since October 2008 and was appointed Deputy Chancellor in 2012 then Chancellor on 1 January 2014. He was the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander man to become Chancellor of an Australian university and his third term as Chancellor concludes on 31 December 2022. He is a member of the Universities Chancellors Council Executive Committee, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland, an Adjunct Associate Professor at ANU and a Honorary Professor at Macquarie University.
Past roles include an officer with the Commonwealth Public Service from 1971 until retirement in 2010, a full time academic from 1980-86 at the Darwin Community College and Darwin Institute of Technology, a senior diplomat in India and Vietnam from 1995 to 2002 representing Australia’s education and training interests, Senior Adviser to the Minister of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in 2003, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2004 to 2010 and Race Discrimination Commissioner from 2004 until 2009. He commenced employment with the.
He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Charles Darwin, Curtin and Flinders Universities and in 2012 was awarded an Order of Australia; Officer of the General Division (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, through contributions to government policy and reform, and to cross cultural understanding.
Prof Calma was the 2013 ACT Australian of the Year.