Scholars to discuss Indigenous identity


Senior Lecturer in Aboriginal Studies Dr Curtis Roman.

Senior Lecturer in Aboriginal Studies Dr Curtis Roman.

A panel of academics will debate the sometimes contentious topic of Indigenous identity at a public forum at Charles Darwin University’s Casuarina campus this week.

Convenor and Senior Lecturer in Aboriginal Studies Dr Curtis Roman said that Indigenous identity was more complex than many people realised, and largely misunderstood.

“Many people hold misinformed views about Indigenous identity while others lacked a basic awareness of the surrounding issues,” Dr Roman said. “Even the terms ‘indigenous’ and ‘aborigine’ are problematic because they fail to capture the rich diversity of this land’s first peoples.”

Dr Roman said the audience could expect to hear a diverse range of opinions from the four panelists, each of whom will share personal or professional perspectives. 

“This is a rare opportunity to understand and develop knowledge about Indigenous identity and to ask questions directly to the panel.”

Dr Roman said it was incumbent on the university to engage with the community and promote discussion about such matters.

“This is the first time our new College of Indigenous Futures, Arts and Societies has hosted a panel discussion of this nature, as we seek to broaden community knowledge and understanding about important matters.”

Dr Roman said that Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership and Regional Outlook, Professor Barry Judd, would participate in the discussion. A descendant of the Pitjantjatjara people, Professor Judd co-authored a recent article in which he was critical of “scientific” understandings of race imposed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In the article, he argued that there were shortfalls in “the idea that a distant ancestor in a family tree could somehow bequeath Indigenous identity via some kind of biological transfer of identity through blood or DNA”.

The other panelists are North Australia and Regional Studies Lecturer Dr Steven Farram, PhD candidate Tracy Woodroffe, and Dr Roman, who in 2012 became the first Indigenous man to graduate with a PhD from Charles Darwin University.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. It is scheduled to take place at Casuarina campus, Building Blue 5.1.1 at 12.20pm on Thursday, 22 November.

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