Engineering educator Jennifer Turner is contributing to Swinburne’s reconciliation journey by transforming learning through cultural immersion.
Ms Turner facilitated the seven-day ‘On Country Conversations’ Study Tour, allowing a group of 11 staff and engineering students to visit Indigenous Nations across Victoria last November. The participants connected with local Aboriginal peoples, country and Indigenous knowledges, and built cross-cultural competencies they can embed into their work and study.
The experience was especially meaningful for the engineering students who will work on country, providing them with insight into working effectively alongside Indigenous communities, as well as a wealth of Indigenous knowledges relating to land.
Ms Turner received a Vice-Chancellor’s Reconciliation Award at the 2019 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for her role in realising the tour.
“Because engineers have that potential to influence and impact society, it’s really important to develop an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but also to make sure we are respecting and caring for country, and being really respectful to the communities in which we work,” says Ms Turner.
The study tour group hiked through Gunditjmara country.
A ripple effect
Representatives of the Indigenous Nations visited by the group expressed their gratitude for the interest and respect the participants showed in learning about their culture, history, contemporary realities and work.
It is hoped the learnings from the ‘On Country Conversations’ Study Tour will now ripple through each participant’s network, with many eager to share their experience.
“I was inspired by the resilience and strength of each Nation we visited and learned from, the pride they have in their country and culture and their dedication to the sustenance of all life forms,” says Swinburne teacher in Community Services, Suzette Cameron.
“Their knowledge transcends western concepts of time – connecting past to present and into the future – and they helped shed light on untold and hidden truths, which has motivated me to continue my learning journey, seek further understanding and share this learning with all in my contact.”
Ms Cameron - who facilitates the Promote Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety unit as part of the Certificate IV in Community Services and Youth Work – draws on the experience in her teaching, while other staff who participated in the tour have presented their learnings to groups both internal and external to Swinburne.
Engineering social impact
Ms Turner has an extensive background in engineering education, with a focus on immersive learning and social impact. Working within Swinburne’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, Ms Turner builds and manages relationships with community-based partner organisations, providing students with the opportunity to create real-world impact while they study.
Jennifer Turner was recognised for contributing to Swinburne's reconciliation journey at the 2019 Swinburne Vice-Chancellor's Award.
Prior to joining Swinburne in 2017, Ms Turner worked at Engineers Without Borders Australia. There, she taught students and practitioners about the local and global application of engineering, design and technology to create positive social impact, and facilitated a variety of immersive study tours aimed at building leadership, cross-cultural and human-centered design skills.
Ms Turner is also completing a PhD in Engineering at Swinburne, exploring the role of engineers in creating social impact.