Research projects

A History of Indigenous Stolen Wages in Victoria

Research Leads: Andrew Gunstone Sadie Heckenberg

For well over one hundred years, governments and their agencies largely controlled the wages, savings and pensions of Indigenous Victorians. This occurred through a range of Stolen Wages practices, including non-payment or underpayment of wages, employment controls, and withholding of social security benefits and pensions. This project will investigate the history of these Stolen Wages practices and the impact of these practices on Victorian Indigenous communities.

Assessing the Social Impact of Australian Rules Football with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

Research Leads: Chelsey Taylor (PhD Candidate), Prof Emma Sherry, A/Prof Adam Karg, Dr Andrew Peters

SUPRA Growth Scholarship

A collaborative, co-funded research project with the AFL assessing the social and cultural impacts the AFL has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. This project works with a variety of AFL programs including professional AFL clubs and state sporting associations across each state. The project focusses on understanding a range of impacts across each layer of the ecosystem including individuals, communities, the AFL and governments. The research will also explore how programs are designed with community to achieve outcomes.

“In a land far away but very close to home…”  Co-creative story-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people

Swinburne Researchers: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek and Joanna Gardener

Research Partners: Melbourne Indigenous Transition School and Australian Chamber Orchestra

This research involves digital stories conceived, animated and narrated by students from the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, Australia. The ideas and messages explored provide insights into the challenges and experiences associated with living and studying in Melbourne, away from families, and often remote communities. By centralising the student’s own voices, the stories serve to communicate their cultures, languages, values, interests and histories to a wider audience. Stop motion animation was chosen as the digital storytelling medium because of its tactile, inclusive and hands-on nature. Stop-motion facilitates experimental design and image-making processes and often serendipitously unplanned for visual outcomes driven by the student’s own interests and capabilities, which in turn builds pride and self-confidence. Innovative in its co-design process, this place-based digital storytelling program is a collaboration between the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, Swinburne University of Technology and Australian Chamber Orchestra. It is focused on facilitating a culturally safe co-creation space for learning and telling stories resulting in unique films in both visual aesthetic and design, with narration in the student’s own languages.  This research illustrates how Indigenous storytelling and stop-motion animation – as a mode of cultural production and language revitalisation – can activate social transformation, creating a shared space of understanding.  ABC TV has acquired 3-year licencing in 2020.

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Indigenous Documentary Media: Talking about Ochre

Swinburne Researchers: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek

Research Partners: Warmun Art Centre, Gija Elders and Dolorosa Carrington

Museum of Western Australia and Moondani Toombadool Centre

This research examines the participatory processes that shaped the making of the documentary film Jarrag nimbirn-boorroo mawoondoom (2019), which loosely translates as ‘Talking about Ochre’. This animated documentary was produced with members of the Gija community in Warmun, East Kimberley, Western Australia. In 2018, Warmun Art Centre was invited by the Western Australian Museum to develop innovative digital content for the permanent Continuous Culture Wing, opening in 2020. Gija artists are renowned for their use of ochres in painting and other cultural practices, sourced on their traditional lands. These natural clay pigments were chosen as the rich subject matter and storytelling medium to be explored in the film. Talking about Ochre was conceived as a vehicle for the preservation and revitalisation of cultural heritage, intergenerational and intercultural collaboration, media training and knowledge transfer. By means of using an interactive and poetic mode (Nichols 1991), multiple voices, documentary media forms and representational strategies (live action, still imagery, animation, soundscapes), cultural traditions and differentials of skills or access to knowledge could be explored according to Gija ways of ‘talking’ and sharing.

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Measuring the Impact of Swinburne’s Reconciliation Action Plan

Research Leads: Andrew Gunstone Sadie Heckenberg Ash Francisco

In 2017, Swinburne implemented its 2017-19 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This was the first university RAP that Reconciliation Australia endorsed at its highest level of Elevate. Swinburne’s RAP had seven themes: leadership and governance, culture, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, engagement, teaching and learning, and research. The project will analyse the RAP and the impact of the RAP across the university.

Reconciliation Survey

Research Lead: Andrew Gunstone

Since 2005, I have commissioned social survey companies every five years to conduct surveys that investigate the attitudes and knowledge among the wider Australian community regarding a range of areas relating to reconciliation and Indigenous affairs. This longitudinal study, conducted in 2005, 2010, 2015, and soon in 2020, provides significant insights into the attitudes and knowledge of the wider community regarding reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs.

Songlines of Country: Biaime, the Mundaguddah and the Seven Sisters

Research Leads: Dr Lorina Barker (UNE), Dr Sue Anderson (UniSA), Dr Sadie Heckenberg

This research tracks three significant Songlines—Biaime’s Ngunnhu, the underground tunnel systems and pathways of the Mundaguddah, and the tracks and law making of the Seven Sisters in northwest NSW—and the intersecting and interconnected cultural relationships between northwest NSW Aboriginal language groups and their neighbouring language groups northeast of the Darling River and into northeast SA and the Corner Country. Indigenous oral history methodologies will provide a dynamic rich and deep cultural knowledge and history of each site. The intellectual significance of the project is in bringing together the methodologies and insights of Indigenous oral history to both research and document peoples’ relationships to place.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History of Swinburne

Research Leads: Ash Francisco Andrew Gunstone

From PAVE's vocational teaching in the Northern Territory to the Koori Centre and the establishment of the Moondani Toombadool Centre, Swinburne's relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is extensive. This project will provide a way for staff, students and the greater community to engage with a detailed narrative of Swinburne's engagement and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. Central to under-pining the University's Elevate RAP, a comprehensive history of place and Indigenous involvement with Swinburne will be able to demonstrate the interlinking nature of histories of place, and the University's journey toward reconciliation in the present.

The consideration of culture in pre-sentence reports

Research Leads: A/Prof Stephane Shepherd, Prof Thalia Anthony (UTS), Prof Elena Marchetti (Griffith), Dr. Justin Trounson

Australian Institute of Criminology Grant

To explore the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and community issues are addressed in Victorian pre-sentence reports and to identify differences in the nature of pre-sentence reports between the County Court and Koori County Court

Walking in Two Worlds Together: A Reframing of Approaches to Research with Indigenous Communities

Research Leads: Emma Gavin (PhD Candidate); Professor Josie Arnold; Dr. Jill Holt; & Dr. Emma Lee. 

Community Contributors: Aunty Helen Fejo-Frith; Uncle Rossi Fejo-Frith; Aunty Jemima Miller; Aunty Dinah Norman; Uncle Jack; Clara Roberts. 

This research project seeks to reframe approaches taken to research with Indigenous communities, in order to ensure research is culturally appropriate to the specific Indigenous community; and ensure that it has tangible benefits to the Indigenous community. This involves a reworking of all aspects of a research project, beginning with the research design; ensuring Indigenous academics are in the research team; using Indigenous methodologies and knowledges; ensuring Indigenous understandings of consent (dual consent processes); elder approval and involvement; to the production of a research publication that is usable and beneficial for Indigenous communities. This project also seeks to recognise and dismantle the limitations of the current academic system and its rigid inflexibility (coined "white-tape" in this research project) towards research by Indigenous academics working with Indigenous communities, in order to allow Indigenous researchers to research and publish in a manner which is not only culturally ethical, but which does not enforce western publication formats and rankings systems. 

Warrmarn Ngarrangarni

Swinburne Researchers: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek (Co-Producer)

Research Partners: Warmun Art Centre, Zakpage Storytelling, Brown Dog Productions

Department of Communication & Arts, Indigenous Arts and Language Grant Scheme

“Warrmarn Ngarrangarni” (Warmun Dreaming) is a Gija Aboriginal production from the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The short film fuses the Dreaming of the totemic founder of the Gija lands, the wedge-tailed Eagle with the contemporary creation story of the world-known Gija artistic and cultural movement now known as Warmun Art Centre, through one of its founding artists the late Rover Thomas, who interprets his dream into a Joonba (corroborree). The film was proudly funded by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts fund, and its production was part of the 2019 “International Year of Indigenous Languages.” 

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Woorra Woorral: Mermaid Sightings Immersive Exhibition

Swinburne Researchers: Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, Max Schleser & Kim Vincs
Research Partners: Warmun Art Centre, Mung and Purdie families 
Australian Government, Visions of Australia Grant Scheme

This multisensory exhibition celebrates contemporary cultural expressions of Gija women’s song and dance cycles, known as Moonga Moonga, such as the water dwelling spirit woman dance. Moonga Moonga is a specific form of public performance narrative which incorporates painting, theatre, story and history. A collaboration between Warmun Art Centre and Centre for Transformative Media Technologies, this exhibition combines live performance within virtual 3D scenography, digital projection art and 360-video to create immersive and interactive audience experiences. This project will enable these song and dance cycles to be enacted and experienced publicly outside the East Kimberley for the first time.