Our aim is to provide high-impact research and partnerships creating positive change for Indigenous peoples, our students, staff and the wider Australian community.

We commit to research projects that directly support Indigenous peoples’ engagement in higher education studies, employment and career progression through Swinburne's Reconciliation Action Plan.

Current projects

Research Lead: Carrisa Lee

This is a qualitative study into cultural safety and cultural loads for First Nations staff and students at Swinburne University of Technology. Part of this data will inform Swinburne's new Reconciliation Action Plan. This research will explore ways to potentially prevent instances of racism, lack of cultural competency from fellow students and staff, and ways Indigenous Knowledge can be included in curricula.

Past projects

Research Leads: Andrew Gunstone and 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 investigated the history of these Stolen Wages practices and the impact of these practices on Victorian Indigenous communities. 

Research Leads: Chelsey Taylor (PhD Candidate), Professor Emma Sherry, Associate Professor 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 worked with a variety of AFL programs including professional AFL clubs and state sporting associations across each state. The project focussed on understanding a range of impacts across each layer of the ecosystem including individuals, communities, the AFL and governments. The research also explored how programs are designed with community to achieve outcomes.

Research Lead: Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek 
Research Partners: Warmun Art Centre, Gija Elders and Dolorosa Carrington 
Funding Body: Museum of Western Australia and Moondani Toombadool Centre 

This research examined 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.

Watch the short film

Swinburne Researchers: Dr 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 three-year licensing in 2020.

Research Leads: Professor Josephine Barraket and Dr Emma Lee

Australian Research Council Discovery 

This project aimed to clarify the institutional and cross-sectoral conditions needed for successful implementation of emerging social procurement policy reforms. 

Research Leads: Andrew Gunstone, Sadie Heckenberg and 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. This project analyses the RAP and the impact of the RAP across the university.

Research Lead: Andrew Gunstone

A longitudinal study, conducted in 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2020, to conduct surveys and provide significant insights into the attitudes and knowledge of the wider Australian community regarding reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs.

Research Leads: Andrew Gunstone and Ash Francisco

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 aims to 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 demonstrates the interlinking nature of histories of place, and the University's journey toward reconciliation in the present.

Research Leads: Associate Professor Stephane Shepherd, Professor Thalia Anthony (UTS), Professor Elena Marchetti (Griffith), Dr Justin Trounson

Australian Institute of Criminology Grant

This project set out 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

Research Leads: Emma Gavin (PhD candidate), Professor Josie ArnoldDr Jill HoltDr 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 sought 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 sought 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.

Research Lead: Dr 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.”

Watch the short film

Research Leads: Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek, Dr Max Schleser, Professor Kim Vincs  
Research Partners: Warmun Art Centre, Mung and Purdie families   

Australian Government, Visions of Australia Grant Scheme 

This multisensory exhibition celebrated 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 combined live performance within virtual 3D scenography, digital projection art and 360-video to create immersive and interactive audience experiences. 

This project enabled these song and dance cycles to be enacted and experienced publicly outside the East Kimberley for the first time.

Reconciliation at Swinburne

Swinburne also has the National Centre for Reconciliation Practice that leads national academic, industry and community understandings of reconciliation, and contributes to national systemic change in reconciliation.

Learn more

Want to contact the Moondani Toombadool Centre?

There are many ways to contact our the Moondani Toombadool Centre here at Swinburne. For general enquiries call the +61 3 9214 8000 or contact Jessica Berry on +61 3 9214 5101 or via jeberry@swinburne.edu.au.

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