Public Lecture 04.06.2024 Decolonising research on Sea Country with Gimuy Walubara Yidinji

Redbird Ferguson, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University

4 June 2024, 6-8 PM, University of Bonn, Main Building HS XII

The world is grappling with the challenge of finding sustainable approaches to conserving and protecting our ocean and coastal systems, increasing the urgency to recognise and include Indigenous Knowledge and cultural values of Sea Country in our solutions. Sea Country is under threat and current approaches are falling short. It is proposed that Australia is at risk of losing 40% of its beaches by the end of the century. With more than 85% of Australia’s population (and 40% of the world) living within 50kms of the coast this will have a significant impact on lives and livelihoods. We need to consider every resource, and all knowledge systems. However, research has a long history of extractive practices closely tied to colonial state power, particularly when the research involves indigenous peoples. Decolonising research practice is fundamental to supporting and upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to ethical research. This project uses participatory methods and co-design to work in partnership with the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji, the Indigenous Traditional Owners of Gimuy, known as Cairns, Australia to bring together Indigenous Knowledge and Western Scientific knowledge to support cross-cultural approaches to managing Sea Country. We have produced a framework to support researchers and Indigenous communities negotiating research agreement negotiations, combined remote sensing with Indigenous Knowledge of estuaries, and contributed to policy change within the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. This project contributes to improving how Indigenous Knowledge and tribal science is recognised as more than an additional form of environmental knowledge. In turn, this supports and improves how heritage is managed and conserved for future generations.

Short bio: Redbird Ferguson is descended from Choctaw ancestors and European settlers of North America and now makes Australia her home. Redbird is an archaeologist, cultural heritage manager, spatial scientist, and post-graduate researcher. She has worked with Indigenous communities on projects in the Pacific and Northern Australia. Her current project is based in Australia. She is committed to preserving and protecting Indigenous cultural knowledge and heritage for future generations. Redbird believes that understanding the world around us and our connections to the past is key to our future success and survival. This commitment underpins her work as a PhD candidate at the Nguma-bada campus of James Cook University in Gimuy, also known as Cairns, Australia. Participatory methods are a cornerstone of her research. She works alongside and collaborates with the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji people, the Traditional Owners of Gimuy (Cairns), to co-design a leading practice framework to improve cross-cultural approaches to managing Sea Country.

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