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Exploring the role of First Australian languages to illustrate research impact

Exploring the role of First Australian languages to illustrate research impact

Kakadu National Park

The ARC’s assessment of engagement and impact of research—conducted for the first time in 20I8—shone a spotlight on impact studies that allowed universities the opportunity to literally ‘tell the stories’ of the impact of their research. The many highly-rated impact narratives published as part of the inaugural Engagement and Impact (EI) Assessment provide a rich source of information beyond the results alone. In this International Year of Indigenous Languages, we take a closer look at impact studies that were part of EI 2018, along this theme.

For impact studies submitted for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research discipline, the role of Indigenous languages featured in many ways along the pathway from research to impact. In some impact studies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were the focus of the impact itself. Other impact studies demonstrated that Indigenous languages and associated knowledges contributed to the research that led to research impact. There were also impact studies where communicating in First Nation languages and in culturally appropriate ways was important for researchers partnering with communities and in creating beneficial impacts for those communities. 

In impact studies that focussed on Indigenous language as an impact in itself, revitalisation and preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages was the main topic. In one example from The University of Adelaide, a researcher worked in partnership with Ngarrindjeri Elders to deliver accredited Certificate III and IV courses of the language as well as develop resources. In addition to teaching the language to community members, the work enabled Ngarrindjeri language teachers to be trained to deliver school programs.

An impact study that demonstrated the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages to impactful outcomes came from Macquarie University. This impact study discussed the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in facilitating cross-cultural knowledge exchange as part of the research. Researchers collaborated with the Ngukurr community in South East Arnhem Land. The community comprised more than seven traditional language groups, and partnered with the researchers to draw on the traditional languages and knowledges to survey and learn about biodiversity in the region. Findings from the survey were documented in the national Atlas of Living Australia online database and included two species previously undescribed by Western science.

Many impact studies also outlined the role of culturally-appropriate communication, including First Nation languages, in disseminating findings and creating positive impact within a community. For example, The University of South Australia outlined the inclusion of clinical guidelines on diabetes in pregnancy for Aboriginal women in the Minymaku Kutju Tjukurpa – Women’s Business Manual. This manual enables Aboriginal women’s health matters to be treated privately and separately from other health matters in accordance with their wishes. In the case of the Macquarie University impact study, field guides were developed in the seven languages of the Ngukurr community to enable members to contribute their knowledge to the survey. The University of Wollongong also collaborated with Aboriginal artists to create visual representations of the research on health projects to facilitate dissemination to communities.

All impact studies, and the wonderfully rich and diverse stories they tell, that have been published from the EI 2018 assessment are available via the ARC data portal.

The ARC would like to thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, Elders and community members for agreeing to share their stories and for allowing those stories to be published on the ARC website.

Image: Kakadu National Park. Credit: Flickr: Marc Dalmulder.

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