Research and teaching of Indigenous language and culture leads to prestigious $300,000 fellowship for CDU academic 


Charles Darwin University’s Associate Professor Michael Christie has been awarded the 2008 prestigious Senior Australian Teaching and Learning Fellowship, valued at $300,000, to continue his work integrating Aboriginal culture and practices into tertiary teaching.

The aim of the Fellowship Scheme, awarded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council – formerly the Carrick Institute – is to advance learning and teaching in higher education by supporting leading educators to undertake strategic, high-profile fellowship activities in areas that support the continued development of learning and teaching in Australian higher education.

The program planned by Dr Christie, entitled “Increasing the participation of Indigenous knowledge holders in tertiary teaching through the use of emerging digital technologies”, is designed to further the collaboration between Yolngu educators and consultants in East Arnhem Land, the School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge Systems, the School of Education, and the School of Creative Arts and Humanities.

Dr Christie said that in a reverse of the conventional distance learning set-up, the project planned to have the students on campus and the Aboriginal lecturers on country in their remote communities, teaching languages and culture, including Indigenous art.

“The project will integrate and extend three ongoing collaborative research programs which have worked on the use of digital technology for traditional knowledge work, supporting homeland communities with internet connectivity, and professionalising Yolngu consultants and researchers,” he said.

“A key part of the project is finding ways in which Yolngu knowledge authorities can be paid and acknowledged properly for their work, and that their intellectual property interests can be safeguarded within the academic context.

“To achieve this, we need to continue our focus on the collaborative nature of the work.  The political, technical and social aspects of the work are inseparable.”

Dr Christie will establish a collaborative team of internationally recognised scholars and lead an extended seminar as part of the fellowship.

CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Garnett congratulated Dr Christie on the achievement.

“This is a great honour for Michael and his Indigenous co-workers and demonstrates CDU’s commitment to leading-edge education. The award supports Charles Darwin University’s stated commitment in its Futures Framework to be the best in Australia in Indigenous participation and relevance and to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and needs into mainstream University activities,” she said.