These research themes coincide with the Strategic Research Priorities nominated by the Australian Research Council.
Areas of research expertise at NCIS
Law and Native Title
How has State and Federal law impacted upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and what are the current most pressing issues? How can an understanding of Western legal philosophy broaden knowledge of the development of key historical and contemporary legislation? What are the current debates in Native Title and Constitutional Reform? How can international legal instruments be used (or not) in local indigenous contexts?
Human rights, social justice and governance
This research is led by Professor Mick Dodson, who has an international social justice reputation, has participated in the crafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and was Australia's first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. The research strand analyses the intersection of Indigenous rights with the complexities of equality and equity for First Nation peoples. It also explores how processes of government and self-determined aspiration articulate with mechanisms of law, policy and civil society.
Policy, development and engagement
This strand of research at NCIS examines the relationships between Indigenous policy formulation and the aspirations of Indigenous people for a self-determined future. We do this by asking – how and where do Indigenous development futures intersect with the interests of the state and other stakeholders? At what levels and in what ways are Indigenous interests strategically engaging in, or withdrawing from, discourses of development, both internationally and domestically? How are policy settings affecting current development directions and what is the evidence telling us about outcomes? Through such research questions we aim to widen the often polemical and narrow debates that characterise contemporary Indigenous policy and development debates.
Social determinants of a healthy life
Exploration of the social determinants of a healthy life is undertaken through a variety of projects which NCIS researchers are involved in. These projects include collaboration with the Indigenous Offender Health Research Capacity Building Group and other research projects investigating Indigenous incarceration and alternatives to incarceration. Specific projects investigate the use of Citizens' Juries to explore alternatives to incarceration for Indigenous Australians, whilst other projects aim to test the theory and methodology of Justice Reinvestment and the impact of social exclusion on individuals and communities. In partnership with the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), NCIS has ongoing involvement in the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children with Professor Mick Dodson as Chair of the project steering committee.
NCIS HDR scholars: Kerrie Doyle.
Education and knowledge
Education is often touted as the 'key' to a better future for Indigenous people. Research at NCIS aims to critically explore what this actually means and how this can happen. We do this by examining the complexity of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous educational communities, by challenging the orthodoxies and binaries that characterise Indigenous education and by critiquing contemporary and historical policy approaches. Our education research interests include, but are not limited to, remote education, policy and pedagogy, higher education, literacy and numeracy, Indigenous knowledge, urban education, lifelong learning and education, and employment pathways.
Culture, heritage, history and repatriation
NCIS research broadens understanding and awareness of the rich culture, heritage and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Projects undertaken by staff and HDR scholars at the Centre are varied, and include ethnomusicology and the study of dance, biography, historiography, rock art and archaeology, the repatriation of human remains, and perceptions of Aboriginal heritage held by non-Aboriginal people.
Representation, discourse and identity
For many Australians, what is 'known' about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture is frequently learned from sites of representation such as the media, which may have little relation to how Indigenous Australians would represent themselves. There are compelling reasons to understand more about such definitions and constructs of 'Identity' and how these shape our social world, whether in the past, present or future.