National Reconciliation Week 2018—Don’t Keep History a Mystery

 Image credit: Reconciliation Australia.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) recognises and celebrates National Reconciliation Week, which is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. This year, the theme of National Reconciliation Week is ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’, which presents an opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, as a number of research projects funded by the ARC are helping us to do.

The Australian Government, through the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP), supports a wide variety of research projects that are exploring indigenous histories and cultures. This includes projects funded through the Discovery Indigenous scheme, which are led by Indigenous researchers. To highlight a few:

  • A Discovery Indigenous project at The Australian National University, led by Warlpiri elder, Steven Wanta Patrick, is assessing collections of Warlpiri cultural heritage and using them for local youth engagement initiatives.
  • Dr Clint Bracknell, a musician and ethnomusicologist at The University of Sydney, is also using a Discovery Indigenous grant to reclaim and enhance Noongar cultural heritage, particularly the stories and regional dialect of the south coast. Dr Bracknell is reigniting the deep memories from a powerful and reverential oral tradition that has transmitted Noongar songs and their associated dance and stories through millennia. 

The ARC also supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research and researchers across all other research funding schemes of the NCGP. The ARC’s Discovery Projects and Linkage Projects schemes support a number of research projects, by Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, into Indigenous history, including:

  • Dr Shino Konishi is a Discovery Project grant recipient at The Australian National University who has launched a collaboration between Indigenous researchers and the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) to write the Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography, a supplementary volume of the ADB that will focus on 190 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Professor Scott McQuire is leading a Linkage Project on digital storytelling at The University of Melbourne, in which Victorian Aboriginal youth are using digital technology to tell stories, asserting and affirming their identities. The project is supporting creative approaches for building digital literacy, while increasing understandings of Aboriginal culture.

Many ARC fellowship recipients are also actively researching in the field of Indigenous history, including:

  • ARC Future Fellow at The University of Queensland, Associate Professor Gary Osmond, is working with Indigenous communities to research and reframe their sport histories, and is helping to show how sport helped create identity in Australian Indigenous communities during the twentieth century.
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Ann McGrath, from The Australian National University, is analysing Australia's epic Indigenous narratives, alongside relevant new scientific evidence in order to create a big picture history of Greater Australia (which includes Papua New Guinea and is known as ‘Sahul’), and as a result transform the scale and scope of the region’s history.

The ARC’s Centres of Excellence scheme is uniting science and indigenous history, through the ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). Based at the University of Wollongong, CABAH is creating a world-class interdisciplinary research program to understand Australia’s unique heritage, by forging new connections between the sciences and humanities. Archaeologists at the Centre are working with the Mirrar Aboriginal people to unlock the secrets of Australia’s oldest known campsite, which sets a minimum arrival of the first Australians at 65,000 years or more.

The ARC has an ongoing commitment to liaise with researchers and community members to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priorities in research, build participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and students in the research and broader workforce, and feature Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander achievements in our publications. The ARC’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), recently updated for 2018–19, forms an integral part of this commitment, and of the broader commitment to reconciliation and to supporting and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through all our core business activities.