Meet our Researchers

Meet the people behind the science at Northern Institute. From top experts to graduate students publishing their first findings, researchers at all career stages contributing to social & policy research in our region, nationally & internationally.

 

Jeanie Govan

Researcher & PhD Candidate

Why did you become a researcher?
I didn’t intend on becoming a researcher but in 2012 I was employed by CDU to examine the underlying vulnerabilities, adaptive capacities and population movements of Indigenous people in four communities in northern Australia – Broome in WA; Maningrida and Ngukurr in NT; and Wujal Wujal in far north Queensland. This exposed me to how the world of research and academia works. 

What are you working on at the moment?
I am exploring what is the understanding by NT Aboriginal communities of the ‘White Paper’ on Developing Northern Australia and how can they participate as equal partners that benefit (social, culturally, environmentally and economically) from development projects on their land. 

What are the most interesting developments in your field today?
Slowly, and yet to be fully understood is how the professional planning sector can incorporate Aboriginal values in planning, development, governance, rules and regulations that goes broader than the existing approach - cultural values. Aboriginal people know what they want for their communities but they cannot be the drivers of their future and be autonomous when decisions are made on their behalf. Land legislation, tenure, rules and regulations have made Aboriginal people ‘legally invisible’ as they have had to forego their cultural rights in pursuit for economic development. We still have a lot of work to do but I don’t think the constraints are fully understood by governments and the wider public. 

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Meeting people who share their knowledge, tap into your knowledge and support your development as a researcher. We both learn from each other in this process. 

How will your research make a difference?
As a qualified Urban and Regional Planner I am hoping we can approach development on Aboriginal land differently to previous attempts of failed government policies, human rights and social-justice, legal and property rights to land. Land is important to us all and we associate different values to land. But it remains unclear to me how governments are going to engage with Aboriginal communities in developing northern Australia. Aboriginal people are not against development on their land. In all the government media about developing the north, it is all about major projects, how much money the Chinese and South East Asia have to invest and what governments identify as key priority areas. Where is the Indigenous voice in all of this? The complexities are not just about Native Title, Aboriginal Freehold and land tenure constraints.  The complexities include serious dialogue and actual engagement with Aboriginal people. There are multiple opportunities to create a better relationship between governments, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal land owners across many sectors such as tourism and hospitality, cultural tourism and the environment, pastoral, fishing and aquaculture etc. Since the resources sector has declined nationally there is a lot of worry in urban, regional and remote Australia and we need to find a better balance when it comes to northern Australia, development and the environment. 

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
My hobby is landscape photography and I have a Facebook page called ‘Photography by Jeanie Govan’. Send me a request and explore my world of photography. 

 

Dr Christine Black Christine Black Northern Institute

Senior Research Fellow 

Why did you become a researcher?

I became a researcher to better understand Indigenous legal traditions from around the world. 

What are you working on at the moment?

I am researching along with a team of researchers from across the university as to what it means to be spatially literate and the power of this literacy as medium for communication in the multilingual global context. This research has already gain interest for researchers and industry partners locally in the area of health and justice and internationally in the area of graphic fiction.  They are all looking for more effective ways to communicate with Indigenous people. This research therefore focuses on the way the medium for communication can be designed and produced in the local communities and comes out of the positive values found in Indigenous law/culture, as well as the dynamic innovation needed to cope with the intergenerational gap in communities. 

What are the most interesting developments in your field today?

The most interesting development in my field is the rise in the use of the graphic fiction, comics and manga to critically engage with questions of law, justice, governance and authority as well as morality and human values. In December I will be a keynote speaker at the Law and Literature conference to be held at the Hong Kong University Law School and I will be speaking about Indigenous visual jurisprudence and this research. Also my latest book A Mosaic of Indigenous Legal Thought: Legendary Tales and Other Writings. (Routledge) relates to these new developments in my field. The book is a transition text - in that in its present form it is a written text, but in the future can be turned into a visual production within an e-book. The target audience for the book are Indigenous academics and cyber-youth. 

How will your research make a difference?

The impact of this research will enhance the team’s ability to design research projects which interact with Indigenous students and communities in the NT and overseas through spatially orientated projects, that are not limited by the English language or English literacy. 

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

In my spare time I like to do mindful colouring in and go for strolls in Nature. 

Christine’s book ‘A Mosaic of Indigenous Legal Thought: Legendary Tales and Other Writings’ is due to be released at the end of 2016 .

You can read more about Christine Black and her research on our website HERE