Indigenous research students from around Australia assemble in Melbourne

March 15 / 153

Lecturers Odette Kelada and Genevieve Grieves with student Tess Ryan
Lecturers Odette Kelada and Genevieve Grieves with student Tess Ryan


This year’s summer school for Indigenous research students, run by the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, saw one of the highest levels of participation in its 13 year history.


Originally established under the direction of Professor Marcia Langton, the program welcomed 27 students from all states and territories. Thanks for the generosity of an anonymous donor, the University covered flights and accommodation for students who needed to travel. 


Professor Shaun Ewen from the Poche Centre said, “The University has a commitment, codified through the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), to support and accelerate Indigenous development, which includes establishing more avenues for Indigenous students to participate in the knowledge economy.” 


The program included a diverse panel of experts who ran workshops on practical skills for completing a research degree, impacts of Indigenous focussed research, and succeeding in an academic context. 


Panellists included influential anthropologist, advocate and Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University, Professor Marcia Langton; Director of Onemda Koori Health and Chair for Indigenous Health, Professor Kerry Arabena; and, medical anthropologist and Indigenous health expert Dr Richard Chenhall among others. 


University of Tasmania PhD student, Emma Lee, who is working on increasing Indigenous involvement in managing Tasmania’s world heritage sites, said she has started “a lifelong relationship with the cohort; we are not alone in this journey. Every day I just leap out of bed and can’t wait to start thinking. “ 


The practical outcomes of the course, for Emma, are being able to talk with the other students, many of whom are from different disciplines, and in recognising that Indigenous thought will carry beyond the week. “The application of our research gives us control over our future,” she said. “This self-determination brings respectful cultural life.”


“Everyone has drawn something from the week,” said Associate Professor Noel Stonehouse, who facilitated the day-to-day activities of the program. “They’re all at different stages of their PhD, and some benefitted from the archival workshops, while others wanted to refine and focus their research topic.”


Professor Shaun Ewen was very impressed with the large number of students with an interest in health research. “Health is interconnected to all aspects of life as an Indigenous Australian. Education, economic and social disparity – they all have a common underlying issue. And that is where we can make the biggest impact.”


“Having a deep understanding of Aboriginal health issues and their impact on contemporary health indicators is a core requirement for medical practitioners,” said research student Andrea McKivett, from the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle. “I'm interested in building the capacity of the health workforce to meet the health needs of Aboriginal peoples.”


The program also included a debate for students to argue the case for Indigenous research. 


Following the debate, Professor Langton, who led her group to victory, said she was “impressed by the enthusiasm of the group and quality of the arguments. The debate required brevity and the teams did just that.”


University of Canberra PhD candidate Tess Ryan said she wants “to get to a stage where it’s not a big deal for an Aboriginal woman to be a member of parliament” but until that is the case, “it’s important to showcase and highlight the community figures who are out there sharing their stories, keeping the narrative going."


By Lisa Mamone

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