ARC Indigenous research grants announced

The Australian Research Council has announced $7.5 million for 10 new projects, under the ARC’s ‘Discovery Indigenous’ scheme.

The grants are for funding research projects led by an Indigenous Australian researcher, independently or in collaboration with other research colleagues.

The awards provide salary support for up to five years, for an eligible Indigenous Australian researcher.  

Chief Executive Officer of the ARC, Ms Judi Zielke, says that ‘Discovery Indigenous’ ensures that outstanding researchers contribute to Australia’s broader research and innovation goals.

“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander researchers will lead projects that investigate issues impacting their communities and that lead to outcomes that benefit all Australians,” Zielke says.

Read more: Seven stories about Indigenous science from 2021.

Some of the research projects to be undertaken in 2023 include:  

  • Dr Rowena Ball from the Australian National University, as a Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award (DAATSIA) recipient, will unify the Indigenous mathematics that produced sophisticated ‘star maps’ with the European-based mathematics that underpins today’s signal and image analysis.
  • Honorary Professor Henrietta Marrie, a DAATSIA recipient from the University of Queensland, will build community-based databases to protect, preserve and facilitate community-controlled use of ethnobotanical knowledge – the study of indigenous or traditional knowledge of plants.
  • Associate Professor Bindi Bennett from Bond University will enhance the skills of social work and allied health graduates to be culturally responsive by engaging students in an Aboriginal-based virtual reality program.
  • Dr Dylan Crismani from the University of Adelaide aims to redress the cultural power imbalance between Indigenous and western musical traditions and ensure a more prominent role for Indigenous music in Australia’s national voice.

Professor Anne Poelina, Co-Chair Indigenous Studies at the Nulungu Research Institute at the University of Notre Dame, received one of these grants in 2002: “Living in Harmony: A case study on Aboriginal Mental Health Promotion.”

Professor anne poelina, indigenous scientist
Professor Anne Poelina. Credit: Alexanderhayes via Wikimedia Commons

The grant was to develop an understanding of the capacity of Indigenous Australians where mental health problems in Australian Indigenous peoples are a major public health issue.

Poelina told Cosmos dedicated Indigenous ARC funding is critical: “…firstly, to acknowledge Indigenous leadership and communities are leading the world’s better practice in innovation, entrepreneurship, and the new economies.

“Our ARC Project is investing in this intergenerational knowledge transfer to ensure these learnings are transferred across disciplines and societies.”

In last year’s ARC “Outcomes report” the “First Australians Collaborations and Knowledges” listed six research projects including ‘Ancient food debris tells the story of 65,000 years; Graffiti records stories of conflict; Healing land and people with biodiversity research; and the first underwater Indigenous sites found on the Australian seabed.

A spokesperson for the ARC told Cosmos: “The ARC recognises the importance of participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the research workforce and the further development of a cohort of honours and higher degree by research students.

“The Indigenous Discovery grants enrich Australia’s knowledge base, build on and strengthen the participation of Indigenous Australians in academia and industry, and deliver economic, commercial, environmental, social, and cultural benefits.

“For advice on ways to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, the ARC engages with research leaders and institutions, including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the ARC Advisory Council, the ARC College of Experts, and selection advisory committee members.”

The full list of funded Discovery Indigenous projects can be found here.

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