New research centre to harness strengths across cultures - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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New research centre to harness strengths across cultures

6 Jul 2020

Australians may be facing restrictions on travel, but the opportunity to learn from all cultures is already on our doorstep, say the leaders of a new research group at USC Australia.

USC recently launched the Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre to foster a sharing of ideas across scientific disciplines and cultures, including First Nations peoples, migrants, refugees and culturally diverse communities.

The team is led by three directors, Professor of Marketing Maria Raciti, Professor of Education Research Catherine Manathunga and Professor of Geography Jennifer Carter, all from USC.

Professor Manathunga said the group planned to build on existing exchanges of cultural knowledge and community capacity in Australia and around the world, with a focus on listening to under-represented communities.

“All knowledge systems should be seen as equally important and complementary,” she said. “Rather than just sticking with one way of doing things, we can thrive in diversity.”

She said the centre had adopted a “strengths-based approach” that recognised the significant contributions First Nations people and those from transcultural communities make to knowledge production in Australia and globally. Key themes of the centre include knowledge systems, creative cultural practices and community capacity exchange.

“For example, we have a new project on Indigenous foods and their potential in sustainable tourism, and we plan to draw on Indigenous approaches to doctoral education which includes the agency of country and the power of story and the ways that knowledge is developed across generations and cultures,” Professor Manathunga said.

“In terms of creative cultural practices, we hope to revive, document and extend the cultural practices of culturally diverse peoples.”

“In partnership with all traditional owner and historical Aboriginal groups within the USC footprint, we plan to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders, communities and families, along with university and high school staff and students, to present poetry in exchanges that build on existing forms of ‘wandiny’ (gathering together and listening with the heart).”

The centre’s third theme of “capacity exchange” is about enhancing community aspirations and researching practical skills, strengths and capabilities that already exist and can be shared between communities.

Professor Raciti said global connectivity and multicultural communities across Australia meant that knowledge could be shared more easily than ever before.

“The Sunshine Coast is a microcosm of the whole world, and we don’t need to travel to take the opportunity to learn and draw from the wisdom of diverse cultures,” she said.

“Each community brings with it its own particular knowledge, skills and abilities – all of the strengths that enrich Australia as a multicultural society.” 

USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland De Marco said the University was well-placed to lead this research centre.

“Our expanding footprint into new communities has also brought us opportunities to build genuine and close partnerships with Indigenous and transcultural communities, placing us in a position to contribute more knowledge in this space by undertaking key research,” he said.

“The Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre also offers opportunities for Higher Degree by Research students, early and mid-career researchers, research fellows and collaborating partners.”

Professor De Marco said the centre was planning a research showcase for October that would bring together researchers, community members and local representatives.

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