Alice Springs campus to celebrate first PhD graduate 

It has been a big year for Jane Walker … a baby boy in April and now news that CDU has passed her PhD thesis

Charles Darwin University’s Jane Walker is poised to make history as the first Alice Springs-based student to graduate with a doctorate.

Jane recently put the finishing touches to her 80,000-word thesis that examines the management of a large and fragile portion of the Northern Tanami Desert near Lajamanu, 870 km north-west of Alice Springs.

“It was a research project that involved looking at the different expectations of the Warlpiri people, the Central Land Council and the [Australian Government’s] Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Community Agencies in relation to managing the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area (IPA),” she said.

“Importantly for me, it is a body of work with findings that can be applied to bring about improvements on-ground.

“I was able to identify positive aspects of current management practices. I also looked at areas that might merit reform, with a view to more effectively meeting partner expectations from management.”

Professor Giselle Byrnes, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Law, Education, Business and Arts in which Jane was enrolled congratulated Jane on her groundbreaking achievement, as did Alice Springs Campus Administrator David Reilly.

“Not only is this outstanding news for Jane but I think it is an indication of things to come in terms of higher education in Alice Springs. We have developed a strong reputation for delivering quality VET programs over a number of years, but it is just as important that we get some runs on the board in higher education,” Mr Reilly said.

“Jane has been a positive influence in the research area of the campus and has been a good role model for fellow doctoral students with the dedication she has shown towards her work.”

For Jane, news that Charles Darwin University has accepted her thesis, entitled “Processes for the effective management: Learning from agencies and Warlpiri People involved in managing the Northern Tanami Indigenous Protected Area”, was the culmination of a journey that began in Africa’s rugged Kalahari Desert.

“I’ve always been interested in deserts and had been working as an intern with South African National Parks when I saw Desert Knowledge CRC’s advertisement inviting applicants for a doctoral research project in the Northern Territory.”

Jane moved to Alice Springs and began fieldwork in 2005. Officers from the Central Land Council introduced her to the Traditional Owners of the 40,000km² Indigenous Protected Area, which was set up to conserve the ecological and cultural value of the Northern Tanami.

“I spent up to two weeks a month participating in community activities, attending meetings and going out on country with Traditional Owners and the Wulaign Rangers. More specifically, I was able to see first-hand the work that women do on country: collecting bush medicine, hunting for food, fire management, carrying out ceremony.

“That was particularly rewarding for me. I enjoy working with women and found great strength in their approaches and insights for looking after country.”

Jane will receive her doctoral testamur at the next Higher Education graduation ceremony in Alice Springs.