Critical Indigenous Studies: overcoming exclusion 

“A staggering 36 Australian universities, including Australia’s wealthiest, have not demonstrated the fiscal leadership to fund an Indigenous Studies department” Aileen Moreton-Robinson writes for the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Of the others, Macquarie U alone has a Department of Indigenous Studies with Curtin U, James Cook U, Charles Darwin U, Charles Sturt U and UWA having schools.

Professor Moreton-Robinson sets out the founding focus of the discipline as “the study of (not by) Indigenous People.” The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies was established by the Menzies Government in 1959 but Philip Roberts, the first Aboriginal member of its council, was appointed in 1970.

And she argues that Indigenous Studies continues to be minimised, with majors tied to general disciplines,  citing linguistics, prehistory, public health history, anthropology, education and political science.

“The predominance of non-Indigenous academics in these programmes marginalises Indigenous scholarship about our history, culture, social, political, and economic development even while it provides some undergraduate students a filtered insight into the lives of Indigenous people. “

Professor Moreton-Robinson points to a similar circumstance in research, where the Australian Research Council awarded 72 Discovery grants 2016-2021 allocated to Indigenous FOR codes, out of 2000 . 

“We endure both the university sector’s disinterest in our knowledges – except when they can be appropriated and commodified – and the lack of financial investment in our research and teaching in university structures,” she states.

However Professor Moreton-Robinson adds indigenous scholars “remain committed” to developing the discipline of Critical Indigenous Studies, “to challenge the knowledges that have been produced about us.”

Uni Queensland and the Academy will host, Indigenous Studies and Courageous Conversations, September 28-29. It will be a “critical examination of the discipline’s recent pasts, transformative practices, and potential futures, and how First Nations’ perspectives are redefining the Australian humanities.”



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