The return of land to the NSW Aboriginal community is escalating as of this year, yet the benefits of land-based entrepreneurialism in NSW have never been reviewed.
Research to inform the process and achieve the best results for communities is one of two UTS Indigenous-focused projects addressing critical issues in higher education, land rights and self-determination to win more than $1 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for 2018.
“Land rights is seen as central to exercising forms of self-determination and to delivering benefit to Aboriginal communities,” says Associate Professor Heidi Norman.
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences academic, working with Professor Jock Collins of the UTS Business School, has been awarded $724,000 by the ARC to examine every facet of the issues around Indigenous land recovery.
“I really want to look at it through the eyes of those Aboriginal landholders to gain a better understanding of the benefits and value of land,” says Norman.
“That includes approaches to managing the Aboriginal land estate in the face of a range of challenges including climate change and land degradation, along with planning and development constraints and the importance of cultural heritage management.”
Leveraging communal land holdings for economic advancement is a leading public policy objective in the process. The project will contribute to improving policy settings, practice, theoretical insights and Aboriginal lives.
From land to leadership, the second ARC Discovery Indigenous Project awarded to UTS will establish a model of best practice for the inclusivity of Indigenous leadership in higher education governance.
"This grant allows us to undertake crucial research to explore the way universities currently ‘do business’ with Indigenous Australians, through focusing on Indigenous leadership in higher education," says Director of UTS’s Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK) Professor Michelle Trudgett, who will lead the project with fellow CAIK researcher Professor Susan Page.
"It’s an absolute pleasure to be part of, and contribute to, a vibrant university that values the importance of Indigenous research."
UTS was the only university in Australia to attract funding for more than one Discovery Indigenous project, with 13 projects awarded nationally. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement) Professor Michael McDaniel says the result reflects the strength of UTS’s commitment to Indigenous outcomes.
“I attribute the success to our wonderful people and our comprehensive whole-of-university approach that we adopted in 2011.”
In addition to the UTS-led projects, Associate Professor Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews from the UTS Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) is working with an all Indigenous research team led by Kamilaroi scholar Dr Bindi Bennett (at the University of Sunshine Coast) on a Discovery Indigenous grant to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by informing culturally responsive practice for social workers.
“I particularly want to congratulate all those involved in these successes,” says McDaniel. “I also believe our best is yet to come.”
UTS secured a total of $15 million for 42 projects across four categories of ARC funding for 2018. This included $9 million for 26 Discovery Projects, $3.9 million for 11 Discovery Early Career Researcher grants and $1.4 million for three Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grants.
“This outstanding result is testament to the talent and dedication of our researchers, and the excellence of their research,” says Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Charles Rice.
“The Australian Technology Network universities – and UTS in particular – are coming into their own with top-tier government funding. I believe it reflects a growing recognition of the importance of ground-breaking research that is set to make a real difference in our communities – something we are proud to be leading at UTS.”