Current Indigenous research initiatives

3 minute read

Installation view of the work Ancestral Memory by artist Maree Clarke

The University is home to exceptional Indigenous research, across all academic disciplines. Much of this work is Indigenous led or co-designed to benefit Indigenous people. And this, in turn, benefits Australia.

Over the past 10 years, our commitment to Indigenous research has gained momentum. This means an increase in investment, programs and initiatives, and academic output. And this momentum continues to grow.

We have increased research capability and expertise in Indigenous knowledge across many disciplines. This includes bioscience, engineering and design, linguistics, art history and ethnomusicology. We also engage in research partnerships with Indigenous leaders and knowledge holders.

Across the University, there is strong Indigenous representation among our researchers. Their breadth of knowledge, skills and experience is strong, from graduate researchers right through to renowned scholars. As a graduate researcher, you’ll be well supported on your research journey by fellow Indigenous researchers who are at varying stages of their career.

Indigenous research is making an impact

Safeguarding Indigenous languages

This was a collaboration between the Indigenous Studies Unit and the Melbourne Networked Institute at the Kanamkek-Yile Ngala Museum in Wadeye in the Northern Territory. Together, we digitised and preserved 40 years of community audiovisual records. This process helped to safeguard the Indigenous languages of the Daly region.

Designing and constructing for Indigenous communities

Since 2008, Dr David O’Brien from the Melbourne School of Design has led a series of design projects called the Bower Studio. In these projects, graduate researchers work with remote Indigenous communities in Australia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea to improve their built environments. The Bower Studio has completed 18 design and construction projects to date. And it continues to nurture positive relationships with those communities.

Building an Indigenous data network

This project is managed by the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. We are working with Indigenous communities to record information and store this as digital data. All information is being valued in line with Indigenous knowledge, traditions and worldviews. We are also helping to develop policies around the use of this data.

Digital storage of information becomes an asset for Indigenous communities. It enables cultural preservation, as well as creating strategic and economic benefits.

Protecting endangered quoll populations

Biologists from the University’s School of Biosciences worked with the Kenbi Rangers in the Northern Territory. This project involved a rigorous DNA testing trial of quolls.

We released 54 of these endangered marsupials onto Indian Island in May 2018. Our research goal was to measure their adaptation to the threat of cane toads. The findings will enhance the prospects for endangered quoll populations elsewhere.

Creating opportunities for Indigenous peoples

The Indigenous Knowledge Institute is a focal point for Indigenous research activity and programs at the University. It supports teaching and understanding of cultures that are the oldest on earth. The institute builds on exciting research and education activities in language, arts and music, life sciences, engineering, design and health.

Connecting Indigenous artists

The Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development is part of our Southbank campus for fine arts and music. Its goal is to connect Indigenous artists with a pathway to their future in:

  • visual and performing arts
  • design
  • film
  • television
  • production.

Through research, we learn how best to develop and promote Indigenous artists. And we learn how to create new opportunities for public engagement. This means we can share the longstanding traditions of Indigenous cultures with the rest of society.

Closing the gap on life expectancy for Indigenous peoples

The Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health is part of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences. Our main goal is to close the gap on life expectancy for Indigenous peoples. We also aspire to equal health outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

To do this, we work with respected Elders, and we collaborate with leading experts in Indigenous health and health education. This research informs new policy and clinical practice around Australia.

Another key goal is to encourage more Indigenous PhD candidates in health. This creates a strong network of researchers who want to improve Indigenous health outcomes.

Other Indigenous activities and programs

Leaders in their field

Several Indigenous academic staff have been recognised for their research excellence and leadership in their field. They include:

Image: View of the artwork Ancestral Memory by Indigenous artist Maree Clarke. Photograph Christian Capurro.

Indigenous clay pot from The Leonhard Adam Collection

Indigenous Collections

Learn about Indigenous life, including language, customs, trade, and knowledge of the natural world.