Building Knowledge Systems | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Building Knowledge Systems

Research theme 1

Building Knowledge Systems: In partnership with Indigenous, transcultural and international communities, our researchers seek to respectfully engage with and support the retrieval, retention, extension and further creation of First Nations, migrant, refugee, culturally diverse and international knowledge, building recognition and engagement with Indigenous, Southern, Eastern and other knowledge systems.


Our innovative, transdisciplinary research projects harness expertise at UniSC and beyond


K’gari of old: Indigenous Memories and Archaeological Evidence of Habitation Before Current Sea Level

Project Synopsis

Sea level reached near present levels about 7000 years ago. Before this time, Indigenous People inhabited country that is now submerged. In collaboration with Indigenous elders, we aim to identify stories and/or submerged archaeological evidence that documents when Indigenous people inhabited areas of the Great Sandy Strait, along possible walking routes, from K’gari to the mainland.

Collected stories show that walking along these routes was commonplace, and midden mounds and other habitation-evidence have been found in abundance on K’gari and on smaller islands en route to K’gari. However, now-submerged/buried mounds/artefacts have not been identified within the Great Sandy Straits. Recollection or identification of midden / artefacts in now submerged areas of the Great Sandy Strait, where people once used to walk, would provide valuable regional insight and highlight the importance of oral traditions in Indigenous contexts, in Australia and elsewhere. If stories exist documenting this habitation, permission will be sought to record and publish these, together with estimates of the longevity of these stories, derived from the history of postglacial sea-level change.

Lead Organisation UniSC Australia
Project Dates 2021-2022
Funding $3000
Chief Investigators

Adrian McCallum, UniSC

Lisa Stewart, UniSC

Adjunct Researchers

Allen Gontz, Clarkson University (US)

Glen Miller, Butchulla Elder


Measurement and evaluation of Indigenous social work practice

Project Synopsis

The purpose of this project is to develop and create a range of reflexive tools that will adequately evaluate and measure cultural responsiveness practices within social work. These tools would complement existing frameworks and help to facilitate the development of culturally responsive, inclusive social work practitioners. This project uniquely sought to embrace, prioritize, support, and highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholder views of cultural responsiveness, utilize Indigenous standpoints and methodology.

The project addresses a key Australian Research Council priority area, by focusing on improving the health and wellbeing for Indigenous people. The development of such measurement tools translates to better models of health care and services that improve outcomes for Indigenous people for both urban and regional communities. This project will provide social work practitioners with efficient ways to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of their cultural practice and therefore provide clear outcomes to a range of stakeholders who are focused on improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing.

These tools will enable the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) to uphold social works professional core values and advance teaching practices, with the potential to expand to other societal intuitions. This further ensures students effectively integrate culturally responsive practice into their professional development in line with the AASW code of ethics.

Lead Organisation UniniSC Australia
Project Dates 2017-2021
Funding $373,754
Chief Investigators

Dr Bindi Bennett, UniSC

Prof. Gawaian

Stakeholder governance group

Download resources

If you wish to access any of the three UniSC Cultural Tools above, please use the citation below for referencing:

Bindi Bennett and Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, 2021, Continuous Improvement Cultural Responsiveness Measurement tool, retrieved from


Walking to K’gari:  Indigenous memories of when Fraser Island was connected to the mainland

Project Synopsis

In collaboration with Indigenous groups, this project aims to identify whether stories exist that recall when it was possible to walk between mainland Australia and what are now offshore islands. Given that such stories have been found in other (about 25) coastal contexts around Australia but not yet in Southeast Queensland, this project will work with Badtjala (Butchulla) and Gubbi Gubbi peoples to identify whether such stories exist for K’gari (Fraser Island) and with Bayali and Darumbal peoples to identify stories for Curtis Island and the Keppel group.

Where such stories are found to exist, permission will be sought to record and publish these, together with estimates of the longevity of these stories derived from the history of postglacial sea-level change. Given that sea level reached its present level only about 7000 years ago, such stories are at least this old, something with wide-ranging implications for the understanding of the importance of oral traditions in Indigenous contexts in Australia and elsewhere.

Lead Organisation UniSC Australia
Project Dates 2020-2021
Funding $3000 (ITRC Seed Grant)
Chief Investigators

Dr Adrian McCallum, UniSC

Professor Patrick D. Nunn, UniSC

To see a video presentation about this project, please see the video below or click the following link:


Culturally Safe Pedagogy in Higher Education

Project Synopsis

The purpose of this project was to review existing frameworks and practices for embedding First Nations’ perspectives across a variety of education providers from both national and international contexts. This project explored how practices aligned to UniSC’s Framework for Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges and Perspectives in Curriculum

The findings aimed to advance teaching and learning to effectively embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment practices across UniSC, and with the potential to expand to other societal institutions.

Lead Organisation UniSC Australia
Project Dates 2019-2020
Funding $3000 (ITRC Seed Grant)
Chief Investigators

Dr Sharon Louth, UniSC

Dr Amy Mortimer, UniSC

Natalie McMaster, UniSC

Dr Rachael Dwyer, UniSC

Dr Beverly Dann, UniSC


Building Australia-China research capabilities for intercultural knowledge collaboration

Project Synopsis

This project will increase knowledge collaboration, educational connectivity and cultural engagement between Australia and China. It aims to improving the transcultural research capabilities of research supervisors and students in China and Australia. This project will create and trial five research-based modules on Chinese and Australian history and culture, multilingual knowledge co-construction, supervisory relationships and time mapping.

This multi-sited project will generate community energy through art exhibitions, which showcase time maps of supervisors’ and students’ intellectual trajectories in Sydney, Beijing and Changchun. A project website will be developed. Williams’, Bunda’s, Claxton’s and MacKinnon’s 2017 Indigenous Knowledge global decolonisation praxis approach will promote transformative learning experiences and draws upon Indigenous Knowledge principles of respect, relationality, reciprocity and responsiveness.

Lead Organisation

UniSC Australia

Project Dates

August 2018 to June 2020


$208,125 (cash and in-kind)

$30,000 DFAT Grant

Chief Investigators

 Professor Catherine Manathunga, UniSC

Dr Qi Jing, RMIT

 Professor Tracey Bunda, UQ and Ngugi/Wakka


The 'university place': How and why place influences the engagement and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students

Project Synopsis

This project aimed to enhance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student engagement and retention in university study by understanding the impact of the ‘university place’. A case study approach was used involving two case universities and the use of mixed methods. Interviews and focus groups were used to collect data from Indigenous students, academic staff, and administrative, professional and technical staff, and surveys of Indigenous students and academic teaching staff.

Findings suggest that universities should understand that ‘university places’ are an intersection of Indigenous peoples’ social identities (as a student, as Indigenous, as an emerging professional). Several research outputs have resulted from this project including the Project E-booklet (PDF 4.8MB)

Lead Organisation

UniSC Australia

Project Dates

2016 to 2017


$40,000 (PELTHE Grant, Australian Government Department of Education and Training)

Chief Investigators

Professor Maria Raciti, UniSC and Kalkadoon-Thaniquith/Bwgcolman woman;

Professor Jennifer Carter, UniSC

Associate Professor Kathryn Gilbey, UniSQ and Alyawarre woman