Universities can play a positive and crucial role in the relationship between Indigenous communities and government, Associate Professor Daryle Rigney (pictured) told a capacity audience at a recent Flinders University-Anglicare SA seminar.
Speaking to a more than 200 people at the ‘Research to Practice Seminar’ at The Adelaide Pavilion, Associate Professor Rigney said that as the Ngarrindjeri nation established their Regional Authority and associated governance structures, the research capacity of Yunggorendi First Nations Centre and Australian Studies at Flinders had played a key role in support.
Associate Professor Rigney said that work by the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority’s Research Policy and Planning Unit, based within Yunggorendi, is a critical element in enabling the contractual agreements between the Ngarrindjeri and the State Government on cultural heritage and natural resource management in the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region.
“We are also acting as advisers for the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority with respect to the suitability and priority of research projects and proposals,” Associate Professor Rigney said.
“There are decades of research work to be done in Indigenous community contexts, but research activity must be negotiated in a way that is respectful, strategic, collaborative, long-term and supportive of what the communities want and what they need to support their agendas and future well-being.
“So a lot of the research we have undertaken recently is not about researching the Ngarrindjeri – it’s about the researching the spaces that we work in, the contact zone.”
Associate Professor Rigney said that by transferring employment funding for projects in areas such as natural resource management into the Indigenous communities, governments can help to build a community’s capacity to engage with the issues and to generate its own future.
“It’s a fundamental shift away from how governments have often worked in the Indigenous context,” he said.
“And it’s working: we now have a Regional Authority that employs nearly 30 people who are doing wonderful and important work under an agreement with the State Government.”