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Leading researchers converge in Central Australia

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Barbara Napanangka Martin from Yuendumu School speaking at Knowledge Intersections


Prominent researchers and academics gathered at the Desert Peoples Centre in Alice Springs to highlight and share the innovative and ground-breaking research coming out of central Australia.

Batchelor Institute proudly hosted the sold out 2017 Knowledge Intersections research symposium in Alice Springs on Thursday May 18th.  The one-day research symposium was run in harmony with the NT Writers’ Festival and adopted the theme ‘Knowledge Intersections’ in line with the festival theme of ‘Crossings | Iwerre-Atherre’.

The event encouraged local researchers to share how the work they are doing reflected the questions of ‘does research help create intersections or meeting points for knowledge systems, without one blocking or erasing the other?’ and ‘how does two-way learning happen in research and help us to travel together?’

Keynote speaker Dr Josie Douglas started off the day by presenting her work Kin and Knowledge, which explored her ethnographic study about young Aboriginal people in Central Australia. She explained how her findings show that Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) is an active part of young Aboriginal peoples’ lives.

“Young Aboriginal people are commonly portrayed in the media as problems. Negative stereotypes and deficit narratives imply they occupy a failed space within and between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal worlds. Youth are said to be lacking in culture and disinterested in cultural practices. My findings contradict such stereotypes and deficiencies,” Dr Josie Douglas explained to the audience.

Batchelor Institute’s strong research underpinnings were also front and centre, with the work of numerous staff members and students presented on the day.

Dr Margaret Carew, from Batchelor Institute’s Centre of Australian Languages and Linguistics, presented her collaborative work ‘Motivation and agency in representations of Indigenous cultural property in collaborative publishing projects’ alongside Dr Georgia Curran from University of Sydney and Barbara Napanangka Martin from Yuendumu School.

Batchelor Institute lecturer and researcher Dr Lisa Hall discussed her doctoral study, which focused on the supports and barriers for young Aboriginal teachers wanting to undertake teacher education in remote communities in central Australia.

“What became clear from the research was that there remain many barriers to Aboriginal people becoming qualified teachers due the legacy of settler colonialism and the ongoing neocolonial structures of education and knowledge systems. However, there are also powerful ways of working together that can help to overcome these barriers” explained Dr Hall.

Majon Williamson Kefu, a PhD student with Batchelor Institute, explained her research focusing on the role of learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and history in the Australian primary education curriculum.

Janine Oldfield, from Batchelor Institute, collaborated with Vince Forrester in presenting an exploration of how her PhD research on an NT language education policy, ‘Compulsory Teaching in English For the First Four Hours of Each School Day’, led to the synergy of research evidence from two knowledge systems.

Other presenters included leading researchers from across the country. You can find the full program HERE.

The event was a resounding success, with participants snapping up all the free tickets well and truly before doors opened.

As well as presenting her work, Dr Hall was also a key part of the team that organised the event.

“When the seed for this idea was planted a couple of years ago it came from the notion that there is such good research work and writing being done in the central Australian region, and that we needed to create opportunities to come together and listen to each other and share ideas,” said Dr Hall.

“This idea then began to grow again as a few of us who work at Batchelor Institute were completing our PhDs and sharing our findings informally – as we had morning teas at work to celebrate. Once again, the stimulation of listening to each other talk about these deep and important ideas made us think that it would be good to find ways of intentionally bringing people together around such conversations.”

The event also included a marketplace, selling fabrics and designs from Batchelor Institute’s visual arts students. As well as a collection of Batchelor Institute Press publications and a library information stall.

Batchelor Institute has had a long and important association with central Australia and has a strong track record of successful research partnerships with a range of Indigenous organisations, government and non-government bodies, industry and other research organisations.

You can learn more about Batchelor Institute’s research division HERE.