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COLLEGE OF INDIGENOUS FUTURES, EDUCATION AND THE ARTS

Available Postgraduate projects

We're looking for prospective students
Research Student Emma Barrett

We welcome prospective research students to undertake their research journey in our College and Northern Institute.

Our researchers in the fields of humanities, social sciences, and languages have national and international expertise in North Australia, Southeast Asia, the region and beyond.

Our staff can provide support for PhD, Master by Research, and honours students in a range of specialisations, including history, political science, Indonesian studies, Greek studies, arts, philosophy, literary studies and creative writing.

Essential Information

If you’re interested in a project, please contact the primary supervisor listed.

If you've been unable to find a project that you are interested in, you can use the researchers portal to find researchers from related fields.

  • Use one or two keywords to narrow down the list of researchers.
  • Each research profile will indicate if the researcher has the capacity to supervise.

Once you've found a suitable project, you can contact relevant researchers using the CDU directory.

Please see the CDU Research Scholarship page for further information regarding How to Apply for scholarships and key dates for application submissions.

Financial Assistance: Students will need to apply for a scholarship if they need financial support to undertake the research.

College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts

Building on Indigenous culture and language for school teaching and learning

Supervisors: Cris Edmonds-Wathen (contact: cris.edmonds-wathen@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin

Project Summary
Preservation of linguistic identity is widely recognised by Indigenous groups as essential to the preservation of both cultural identity and technical, scientific, and environmental knowledge. The use of a language in formal schooling is one key factor in language maintenance.

The PhD scholar will investigate how an Indigenous language or languages from their context country or region) can be used in school education, investigating theoretical, policy and practical issues. The specific context of the scholar will play an important role in the shape and direction of the project, but questions for investigation might include:

  • How does the policy environment of the context with respect to the use of Indigenous languages in education affect current practice?
  • What affordances does a specific language or group of languages have for school education in a specific curriculum area? What language development work is required for implementing the teaching of a curriculum area in the language/s?
  • How can the use of an Indigenous language currently used in basic or initial education be expanded into later years?
  • What support do teachers need to teach curriculum areas in an Indigenous language?
  • What are the similarities and differences in the context with those of Indigenous education in the Northern Territory (comparative study)? The candidate is also expected to contribute to developing theoretical perspectives on the relationship between language and school content knowledge in contexts of linguistic diversity. Proposals that focus on mathematics education are preferred; focus on other curriculum areas may be negotiated

Note: The candidate should either come from an Indigenous community (in their country or region) or have a close relationship with a suitable community that enables this research to be undertaken in a respectful, responsible and reciprocal manner. Prior studies in linguistics, as well as education, are greatly advantageous, as is being able to speak a target Indigenous language.

Identifying mathematical expression for teaching and learning mathematics in diverse Australian Indigenous languages

Supervisors: Cris Edmonds-Wathen (contact: cris.edmonds-wathen@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, other NT locations may be negotiated.

Project Summary
There is an exciting opportunity for a PhD scholar to work on a project that aims to improve the potential for delivering mathematics education in Australian Indigenous languages with the goal of improving the mathematical learning of Indigenous language-speaking students.

This project aims to identify the language structures required to develop mathematics registers in diverse Australian Indigenous languages. It will:

  • systematically investigate the mathematical affordances of Australian Indigenous languages, and
  • develop guidelines to identify and develop the language required to teach and learn school
  • mathematics in Australian Indigenous languages.

The PhD scholar will investigate how an Indigenous language can be used in school mathematics education, working closely with a specific school and community, focusing on the early years of primary school. The candidate is also expected to contribute to developing theoretical perspectives on the relationship between language and school mathematics knowledge in contexts of linguistic diversity.

Note: The candidate should have prior studies in education or linguistics. It is advantageous if you either come from an Indigenous community or have a close relationship with a suitable community that enables this research to be undertaken in a respectful, responsible and reciprocal manner. Being able to speak an Indigenous language is also greatly advantageous.

Supporting Students in Writing Scientific Explanations in Years 11 and 12 Through Student-Generated Multiple Representations

Supervisors: Felicity McLure (contact: felicity.mclure@cdu.edu.au), Cris Edmonds-Wathen & Janice Crear.

Suitable for: Masters by Research, can be continued to PhD

Project Location: Alice Springs. However, the student could be located elsewhere in Australia

Project Summary
The Thinking Frames Approach has been shown to be a powerful strategy using student-generated multiple representations (verbal, pictorial and written) for supporting students in Grades 8-10 in writing complex and elaborated scientific explanations of phenomena. Teachers often express concern that students of Biology, Chemistry or Physics in Grades 11 and 12 also struggle to link chains of reasoning explaining cause and effect to explain scientific observations in tests and exams. This pilot project will adapt the Thinking Frames Approach to support students in senior high school in improving their written explanations and creating links with underlying scientific theories. The efficacy of such an approach will then be studied to determine the degree to which students' writing improves as a result of the TFA intervention.
Management of Teacher Education in the New Normal: A Comparative and Explorative Study

Supervisor: Stephen Bolaji, stephen.bolaji@cdu.edu.au

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Casuarina / International

Project Summary
Since late 2019, teacher education program among other sectoral areas of education has been profoundly disrupted due to COVID19. The disruptions have been widely expressed in the form of closure of schools, academic interruption, social distancing measures, and geographical and border restrictions for many international preservice students among many others (Casacchia et al, 2021; Cornier, et al, 2021; Vilchez, et al 2021; Carolan, et al, 2021). Despite several strategies developed to address some practical aspects of the teacher education programs, those strategies seem not to be devoid of pivots and consequences (Scotts, 2021). While the new normal has given a new direction to teacher education using technology and online spaces for delivery, the inequalities and lack of access remain an issue yet to be addressed. Management of teacher education programs is an issue of concern, especially with the incessant government policy pronouncement centred on lockdown, border closure, social distancing, and school closure for placement students. Thus, understanding how both staff and students can navigate this critical situation is a matter of interest in this study.

Note: Student will need a good understanding of literature, Education systems, and NviVo for Qualitative Data Analysis and Interview Design.

Integrating Transformative Curriculum Outcomes in a Literacy Class with the 'Reading for Emotion' Model Utilising Multi-Sensory Language Learning Strategies

Supervisors: Dr Ania Lian (contact: ania.lian@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, CDU Casuarina Campus

Project Summary
As academics continue quarrel about the best way to teach reading and writing, evidence in terms of which these discussions follow limits itself to understandings and models developed decades ago. The use of technology also remains unexplored largely due to the paradigms that dominate the field. Stifled and in the grip of the past, the field generates little, if any, new knowledge that would contribute to the theory of language and the practice of language teaching. In addition, the transformative focus of the new national curricula challenges educators to design models that integrate the skills and values they involve, without reducing those to itemised lists to be “taught” one by one. Formalised processes for designing such integrative curricula are missing that include, rather than ignore, evidence from theory and practice in order to further inform those. Furthermore, as evidenced in the study by Sudimantara (2021), in Indonesia, the currently mandated genre approach that utilised the Systemic Functional Grammar is not popular among the students and, more importantly, has come short in comparison with the Reading for Emotion model, where all students improved significantly while the SFL group received either lower or equal scores to those obtained in the pretest. The proposed study will address the points raised above and will conduct a quasi-experimental project to compare the effects of a multi-sensory learning model, with the well-established genre approach commonly taught in schools and university preparatory courses in Australia and around the world.

Note: The study can be conducted at any level of education and any country, Australia or Asia

Rethinking Reflective Teaching in Early Childhood Contexts to Build Stronger Connections Between Colleges of Education, the Local Teacher Community, and the Broader Community

Supervisors: Dr Ania Lian (contact: ania.lian@cdu.edu.au), Georgie Nutton and Gavin Morris

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, CDU Casuarina Campus

Project Summary
Transformative learning outcomes that typify modern education curricula are also present in the Early Years Learning Framework. To enable the integration of these outcomes, the Australian government encourages teachers to engage in reflective practice whose objectives are specified in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and whose quality is assessed through the various audits that Early Childhood centres regularly undergo. As demonstrated in the context of a study that has recently concluded at CDU, EC teachers benefit from professional development activities. However, professional development requires “time on task” that, despite best efforts, is not available to practising teachers sufficiently to formalise and test the processes and knowledge that these experiences generate. It has been observed that it is critical to rethink professional learning experiences. This proposal describes a qualitative study in the Early Childhood context that seeks to design and explore a professional development model from the perspective of its impacts on teacher expertise, motivation, and professional status. The study will review the different forms of professional learning that institutions provide, the expectations that inform those and the forms of professional recognition that they make available to teachers. The aim of the project is to contribute new insights to the ongoing objective of Australian education institutions to strengthen the connection between the Colleges of Education, the local teacher community and the broader community.

Note: The study can be conducted at any level of education and any country, Australia or Asia

Northern Institute

Re-creating the map: Collaboration, co-design and alternative modes of mapping in North East Arnhem land

Supervisor: Professor Jennifer Deger (contact: jennifer.deger@cdu.edu.au), 

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Up to twelve months fieldwork based in Gapuwiyak and surrounding outstations and work at CDU campus in Darwin.   

Stipend:$29,863 p.a.

Project Summary

This project is associated with an ARC Discovery Project ‘Caring for Cosmologies: Making Living Maps for West Miyarrka’ which investigates the potential for novel digital mapping practices drawn from Yolngu epistemic traditions under Yolngu authority to empower future generations of Yolŋu leaders to speak with, and from, the authority and custodianship of country.

The successful candidate will document, analyse, and evaluate this new expression of Yolŋu site-specific politics and epistemology alongside Yolngu project leaders, with a particular focus on how these digital resources can be used to build new capacity for intercultural communication, collaboration, negotiation and decision making.

We are seeking applications from researchers with First Class honours in science and technology studies, anthropology, human geography, critical cartography, curatorial studies or the creative arts.

You would join an exciting Yolŋu and non-Indigenous research team internationally recognised for its innovative methodologies and research outcomes.

Applicants should contact Professor Jennifer Deger for more information and to discuss an application. Final applications due December 2nd.

Indigenous-led management of Sea Country: Developing and implementing new models of protected area governance
Picture of researchers working on NT sea country

Supervisors: Jackie Gould (contact: jackie.gould@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin preferred but negotiable for the right applicant. Fieldwork will be required in northern NT and/or WA.

Project Summary

Traditional Owners (TOs) are increasingly finding ways of fulfilling their responsibilities to manage their land and sea Country, including through the formation of Indigenous ranger groups and the dedication of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs). Whilst the contributions of TOs and Indigenous rangers to terrestrial conservation have been widely documented, their contributions to Sea Country (SC) management are often overlooked. In addition, many management collaborations involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous marine managers reflect unequal relationships in decision-making power and knowledge authority.

The ARC Linkage Project ‘Indigenous Led Sea Country Management’ is addressing critical knowledge gaps and supporting relationship-building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous marine and fisheries managers, in order to improve the visibility, equity and conservation outcomes of SC management in northern Australia. It seeks to do so by collaboratively designing strategies for planning, implementing and evaluating SC and fisheries management under the dual authority of TOs and government agencies.

We are looking for a PhD scholar to join our team of experienced researchers with deep connections to the participating Indigenous communities. They will have the opportunity to contribute to projects which have been prioritised by our Indigenous collaborators as well as government agencies, which recognise Indigenous knowledge practices and authority, and have existing funding.

We are offering a competitive stipend substantially above the normal rate for a researcher with existing expertise and experience in partnering with Indigenous communities in a relevant academic or industry sector (such as conservation planning, Indigenous land and sea management, protected area governance, fisheries management, anthropology, policy or similar). Ideally the candidate would be based in Darwin for fieldwork and team coordination purposes, and would commence in Semester 1 of 2023, although these are negotiable. Indigenous applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applications will be open until 16th December, although prospective applicants should make contact with Dr. Gould as early as possible (and no later than 24th November) to discuss their research interests.

Mapping Knowledge of the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area to inform Indigenous-led management of Sea Country

Supervisors: Jackie Gould (contact: jackie.gould@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin / Maningrida

Project Summary

Earlier this year, sea country (SC) was officially included within the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), thirteen years after the terrestrial portions of the IPA were recognised by the Federal Government. A longstanding aspiration of the IPA’s SC Traditional Owners (TOs) and custodians has been to document the cultural landscape of their costal and marine estates. This project responds to those requests by collaborating with appropriate Indigenous knowledge authorities from across the Djelk Sea Country IPA to support them as they undertake this task. In doing so, multiple questions arise. What knowledge do TOs wish to record, in what forms, and for what purposes? These questions lead to others about knowledge authority and how this is exercised in the negotiation of relations within and beyond the region. By drawing on existing participatory mapping methodologies, but presenting these as a palette which TOs can pick up, alter or disregard as they self-author representations of their Country, this work seeks to:

  • understand the changing landscape of cultural transmission which knowledge authorities from the Djelk region are responding to
  • understand how representations of Country are being used to negotiate relationships within and across knowledge communities
  • provide practical resources that TOs can use to support their chosen life projects focused on coastal-marine people-places
  • innovatively respond to the challenge of developing decolonising mapping methodologies through a project which is fully co-designed and co-implemented with Indigenous knowledge authorities

Applications will be open until 4th November, although prospective applicants should make contact with Dr. Gould as early as possible to discuss their research interests.

Estimating the Demographic Characteristics of Subnational Populations

Supervisors: Sigurd Dyrting (contact: sigurd.dyrting@cdu.edu.au) & Andrew Taylor

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Negotiable

Project Summary
The Twentieth Century saw significant changes in national mortality, fertility, and internal migration rates through advances in global wealth, science, and public policy. However, there is recognition that these changes have not been uniform across populations, with inequalities persisting within countries. Understanding the characteristics and causes of subnational heterogeneity in key demographic rates therefore remains a focus for demographers, the private sector, and governments at all levels.

Demographers have developed methods for estimating rates and populations at the national level where heterogeneity is averaged-out, age resolution is high, and noise is low. However, when applied at the subnational level, these methods can sometimes fail to adequately account for local variations from the national age structure, or produce implausible profiles because ages are grouped and/or noise levels are high. This project will develop new methods for estimating key demographic rates and populations at the subnational level that are flexible, produce plausible profiles, and are robust in the presence of reduced age resolution and potentially large levels of sample or anonymization noise.

Understanding Causes and Consequences of Population Change in Australia’s North

Supervisors: Andrew Taylor (contact: andrew.taylor@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: TBA

Project Summary
National and State or Territory Governments have long aspired to grow Australia's northern regions' population significantly. However, while growth has occurred at times, many regions are depopulating and even the bigger cities have experienced stagnation in growth. Your opportunity is to examine what drives population change in our Northern reaches and its regions. Our North is vital strategically and economically but is growth best? What drives growth and how is this influenced by internal and external factors? What do governments really need to know to make good policy for 'the North', and what can we learn from the rich cultures of First Australians and their changing population trends?

To succeed you'll be enthusiastic, driven, flexible and have qualifications in sociology, regional studies, demography, statistics or a similar social science field. You'll work with some of the nation's leading researchers at Australia's most northern university. Our aim is to help you succeed and develop your career in your chosen area. Your research can be quantitative, qualitative or a mix, and your area of focus is from national to local. We'll help you design your study to make a real difference and generate new and important knowledge.

Examining waste as a socio-technical system in regional and remote Australia

Supervisor: Deepika Mathur (contact: deepika.mathur@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, Alice Springs

Project Summary
How can we expand the understanding of waste production through a social lens? The aim of the project is to examine various aspects influencing waste generation and its management. Waste management is very different in regional and remote Australia because of the lack of economies of scale, vast distances and little infrastructure. This study is not limited to any one waste stream or one waste sector and explorations of waste from construction, renewable energy systems or the general waste sector are all welcome.

Funds: Some funding for the right candidate and the possibility of working on paid research with the team.

Understanding links between social outcomes, social capital and demographic change

Supervisors:  TBA, Andrew Taylor, (contact: andrew.taylor@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Negotiable

Project Summary
This mixed methods research will deliver new knowledge for policy-making and enhancing community wellbeing through establishing links between social outcomes, social capital and demographic trajectories for communities, towns and cities in the Northern Territory, north of Australia or northern regions of developed nations elsewhere. You will work with CDU's Demography and Growth Planning research team. The team is internationally recognised for its innovative and robust research. Your opportunity is to work with us to design a research program that meets your passions and interests for a better world while delivering impact.

Funds: A small amount of funding will be made available to attend conferences. For the right candidate and it is likely that the candidate, and if desired, work may be available on research projects within the team (and under CDU guidelines).

Adaptive Social Protection for Climate Change and Disaster Management

Supervisors:  Jonatan Lassa, (contact: jonatan.lassa@cdu.edu.au) & Kerstin Zander

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Australia, Indonesia, Solomon Island, the Philippines (tentative)

Project Summary
Social protection programs for disaster management - such as cash transfers, payments and basic income - are often executed after disasters. Scholars, governments and NGOs are aware of the limitations. However, it is not easy to change the existing practices that are often reactive. The lack of anticipatory action makes the existing social protection program, despite being delivered, becoming less effective and very often too late to protect the most vulnerable groups including indigenous communities, women and children, smallholder farmers and marginalised labours. This research asks how can existing social protection programs can be made more adaptive and anticipatory under climate change and future disaster scenarios. This research is relevant for Australia and the nations around the world, with a focus on Oceania, Southern Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Note: The candidates still need to develop a proposal as part of their assessment for the HDR scholarship

Investing in Aboriginal Languages

Supervisors:  Steven Bird, (contact: steven.bird@cdu.edu.au), Michael Christie & Michaela Spencer

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, and sites across the NT and WA

Project Summary
The project will develop a comprehensive account of Aboriginal language programs and what makes them effective and sustainable. This will help local and national organisations to know how to invest in Aboriginal languages, and what kinds of returns they can expect. The project will build local capacity to design and evaluate programs, supporting local decision-making. In this way, the direct benefits of the project are cultural, keeping our languages strong so that Australia's first voices can continue to be heard. Strong cultural identity supports community wellbeing and improved race relations, contributing to national reconciliation, a social benefit. Aboriginal languages are tied into local country and so keeping languages strong supports caring for country, an environmental benefit. Language programs provide culturally meaningful work for Aboriginal people, linked to stable employment and to participation in the local economy, leading to commercial and economic benefits.

Mobile-Assisted Oral Language Learning

Supervisors:  Steven Bird, (contact: steven.bird@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin

Project Summary
Community workers who engage with linguistic minorities usually operate through a vehicular or contact language. Some choose to learn the local vernacular language because it promises greater access and insights into the society they have entered. This pattern is found across the world, in disaster and relief settings, and closer to home in urban minorities and in remote indigenous communities. As Dixon and Deak (2010) have observed, "the desire of non-Indigenous people (such as teachers, nurses and other community workers) to learn a Pilbara language was recognised as having the potential for positive flow-on effects throughout the community, in terms of improved provision of key services (especially in the health and education spheres), as well as increased awareness of Indigenous people’s language rights." In many such places, the local language is primarily oral; there may be a writing system but it is not in widespread use, or not relevant to the work that newcomers are performing. In this project, the PhD student will work with local people to co-design new methods for learning an oral language. Of particular interest is mobile technologies which can serve to capture key pieces of language in context, and which can support learning of those pieces through guided repetition. The project will leverage the interactional context, such as the opportunities for two-way language learning, and the desire of newcomers and local to work together more effectively. For example, in a healthcare setting, how can mobile technologies support medical professionals and their clients to acquire concepts and practices in both directions, when understandings of disease and risk may be radically different? Similar opportunities are common wherever people seek to work together across a linguistic and cultural barrier and where well-established, simplistic approaches to translation break down. The ideal candidate would be a First Nations Australian or an Indigenous person from outside Australia, or have established connections in an Indigenous community.

Reducing Waste in Regional Towns

Supervisor: Deepika Mathur (contact: deepika.mathur@cdu.edu.au)

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: Darwin, Alice Springs

Project Summary
Regional and remote communities face a number of challenges in managing waste and recovering and reusing resources. These challenges include access to markets for recyclables, distances and road conditions between towns and waste facilities and the recruitment and retention of staff. Strategies for waste reduction and management are strongly influenced by demographic and geographic factors in regional and remote areas.

We are seeking passionate and skilled students to work on projects that explore the social construction of waste in regional areas and in particular the materiality of waste. Moving away from the technical perspective, we want to examine waste from a social science perspective, an approach more suited to regional Australia.

Understanding Migration and Social Change from COVID-19 and Other Disasters in Australia

Supervisors: Andrew Taylor, (contact: andrew.taylor@cdu.edu.au) & Associate Professor Kerstin Zander

Suitable for: PhD

Project Location: TBA

Project Summary
From 'tree change' to 'sea change', the COVID-19 pandemic has supposedly led to new waves of migration out of our big cities and into 'rural' towns and cities. But there is almost no research examining and distinguishing whether and how the Pandemic has altered Australian's migration patterns and our perceptions about what matters most socially, economically and health-wise. Your opportunity is to uncover fundamental knowledge about how the biggest global disaster in living memory has shifted our societal and individual thinking on what matters for a good life.

To succeed you'll be enthusiastic, driven, flexible and have qualifications in sociology, demography, disaster studies, statistics or a similar field. You'll work with some of the nation's leading researchers on migration and social change at Australia's most northern university. Our aim is to help you succeed and develop your career in your chosen area. Your research can be quantitative, qualitative or a mix, and your area of focus from national to local. We'll help you design your study to make a real difference and generate new and important knowledge.