Taungurung Tales

Visit to the Tent Embassy

One of the great challenges facing academia in Australia, especially in the sciences, is the capacity to include, and be inclusive of, Indigenous knowledge systems.

There has long been an opportunity for researchers to be more inclusive of traditional knowledge systems. Yet, part of the problem has been that researchers have traditionally often viewed engagement with Indigenous communities as merely an exercise in extracting knowledge, rather than a collaborative learning opportunity. Traditional knowledge intersects with both the HASS and STEM disciplines, necessitating greater interdisciplinary collaboration and drawing on expertise beyond the scope of individual researchers or disciplines. As such, bringing together Indigenous communities and university academics is the pressing need to foster an ideal environment for scoping out better ways of integrating Indigenous knowledge and learning into education, research and training approaches.

CHL has consistently made this a focus area.

Back in 2018, as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), Associate Professor Janelle Stevenson and Professor Simon Haberle were first invited to visit and talk with the Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TlaWC) about the paleo science they do. In March 2019, the Archaeology and Natural History Program (ANH) at CHL continued to prioritise traditional knowledge exchange through “Karradjakdurrmirri: We Are All Working Together”.

Karradjakdurrmirri: We Are All Working Together

This was a week-long, partnership-building workshop on shared research and teaching with Australian Indigenous communities and funded through an Asia-Pacific Innovation Program Research Development Award. Indigenous Rangers from Njanjma Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) in Gunbalanya, Northern Territory, Taungurung Lands and Water Council, Victoria and Namadgi National Park, ACT participated in this workshop. It was a team effort, organised by Dr Tristen Jones, Janelle, and Simon, along with colleagues from across ANU.

Following the 2020 fires, TLaWC were awarded a Bush Fire Recovery grant to assess the cultural heritage of Mount Buffalo in Victoria. The amazing finds prompted TLaWC to ask Janelle if she could organise a repeat series of workshops, similar to those held in 2019, but with a slightly different focus. In this context, Janelle organised and hosted a series of workshops with Taungurung, held over 9–13 May 2022, which encompassed varied disciplinary approaches, from research and knowledge transference, to training on scientific processes of sourcing materials.

Laptop displaying A Learning Journey to Ngambri and Ngunnawal Country
Group Standing on Coombs building steps
Under a scarred tree

Taungurung 2022

The week started with a visit to AIATSIS, where community members carried out family research and investigated the repatriation process of cultural materials from overseas. On Tuesday, there was a visit to the Tent Embassy before being formally Welcomed to Country and to the ANU campus by Paul House. This was followed by a visit to Gubur Dhaura Heritage Park, led by ANU staff member and PhD scholar Dave Johnston.

The next three days of the workshop were focused on knowledge transference and training. CABAH AI and Intern Dr Michelle Richards and ANH PhD student Emily Nuttman led a session that was dedicated to learning about the basics of pXRF, a method used to source stone cultural materials back to places of origin on-country. On Thursday, Fenner PhD and ANU Grand Challenge colleague Anna Normyle introduced the group to GIS Mapping.

What’s Next?

The vision that arose with karradjakdurrmirri in 2019 was to achieve a more inclusive research and teaching practice at ANU and beyond in the years to come, through the application and practice of a sustained philosophy.

As such, a sustained effort to further the knowledge exchange with the Taungurung community is the way forward. Next on the agenda is a replication of many of these activities, with a broader cross section of the TLaWC community, including Taungurung Elders down on country at Alexandra.

Later in the year, a number of the younger community members are returning for a week-long experience of what it is like to be a student here at ANU, with an even broader experience of what our institution has to offer beyond CHL and the disciplines and interests that initially brought us all together.

Lab workshop
Viewing artefacts on screen
mapping on screen