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

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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.
This theme is led by Dr Raj Yadav

(Law and Society)

Dr Raj Yadav is a decolonial scholar, a development enthusiast, and a multidisciplinary researcher. He was born in Nepal and studied in India and Australia. Currently, he works as a lecturer at the School of Law and Society, UniSC; and meantime, supersizes HDR students in various areas. He has published books, several journal articles, book chapters, and a magazine article.

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

Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Scheme 2023

This project aims to address an absence of true representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and knowledges in nursing and midwifery. Significantly it intends to co-create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurse and midwife theory and principles for practice. An anticipated goal of the research is to better understand how the theory and practice can be implemented in nurse and midwifery education (inclusive of clinical settings) in regional and urban areas. The intended outcome is to provide improved cultural safety in nursing and midwifery, greater cultural safety for health consumers and; stronger recruitment and retention of Indigenous nurses and midwives.

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia
Project dates: 2023-2027
Funding: $103 4235

Chief Investigators:

  • Professor Karen Adams
  • Dr Vicki-Lea Saunders
  • Professor Roianne West
  • Associate Professor Linda Deravin
  • Dr Lynne Stuart

Phase II Traditional Knowledge and Local Knowledge (TLK) DFAT - Australia Pacific Climate Partnership

There are many places around the world where western/global science-informed solutions for climate-change adaptation and disaster management are valued less than ones based on local people’s worldviews and understandings of the environments they occupy. This helps explain why many outside aid-funded investments in such places have failed to be either effective or sustained, a situation which has led to increased calls for the documentation and critical evaluation of traditional and local knowledge (TLK) for climate change and disaster management, and its meaningful incorporation into future adaptation strategies.

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia
Project dates: 2023-2024
Funding: $135 109

Chief Investigators:

  • Prof Patrick Nunn
  • Roselyn Kumar

ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Futures

ARC Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Futures aims to transform and improve the life chances of Indigenous Australians by utilising Indigenous knowledges in unique trans-disciplinary cross-sector designed research to enhance our understanding about the complex nature of Indigenous intergenerational inequity. The Centre expects to generate new knowledge to enable evidence-based policy formulation and implementation including best practice models. The Centre will be entirely led by Indigenous researchers working with communities, government agencies and practitioners to strengthen the delivery of outcomes and linkages intentionally focused on all four of the National Agreement Close The Gap -2020’s Priority Reform areas.

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia
Project dates: 2023 -
Funding: $978 152

Chief Investigators:

Brendan Hokowhitu; Aileen Morton-Robinson; Marnee Shay; Debbie Bargallie; Susan Beetson; Asmi Wood; Andrew Jolivette; Maria Raciti; Eddie Cubillo; Gail Garvey; Elizabeth McKinley; Jarrod Harr; Larissa Behrendt; Crystal McKinnon; Roxanne Bainbridge; Yvette Roe; Carmen Parter; Megan Williams; Paul Gray; Bronwyn Fredericks; Patricia Dudgeon; James Ward

Australian Research Council Linkage Project Scheme 2022

Reading Climate aims to investigate the connections between sustainability and Indigenous knowledge in the context of school English and directly responds to imperatives for climate education and racial justice in Australian schools. It links teachers, students, authors and scholars through book clubs, exploring the potential of literature as an interdisciplinary site for knowledge building and for reimagining social and environmental futures. With partners the Stella Prize, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Feral Arts and VoicEd Radio, the project will develop strong collaborations between literary education, industry, and Indigenous writing, producing an open access digital resource for use in schools nationally.

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia
Project dates: 2022 - 2024
Funding: $100 000

Chief Investigators:

  • Professor Larissa McLean Davies
  • Associate Professor Sandra Phillips
  • Dr Sarah Truman
  • Dr Clare Archer-Lean
  • Associate Professor Melitta Hogarth
  • Professor Marcia McKenzie

Implementing Indigenous Knowledge Approaches in Australian Doctoral Education

The purpose of this project is to decolonise and dehomogenise Australian doctoral education. The project aims to reform Australian doctoral education by foregrounding Indigenous approaches to knowledge production, being the a) power of stories; b) agency of Country and c) iterative, intergenerational and intercultural assemblage of knowledge.

Australian universities have been slow to recognize and accredit the knowledge systems, histories, and cultural practices of First Nations and transcultural doctoral candidates, unlike universities in Aotearoa/New Zealand and South Africa. However, increasing the participation and quality of Indigenous doctoral education has become a national priority in Australia.

This project aims to link Indigenous and transcultural ways of knowing to build epistemic solidarity and transcultural resilience, centered on a First Nations worldview and Indigenous protocols. The project seeks to reframe whiteness and the canon as the axes of normality and reposition the center of knowledge production.

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia
Project dates: 2021-2024
Funding: $277,459

Chief Investigators:

  • Catherine Manathunga, UniSC
  • Jing Qi, RMIT 
  • Maria Raciti, UniSC 
  • Kathryn Gilbey, Batchelor Institute
  • Michael Singh, WSU
  • Sue Stanton, Batchelor Institute

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

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: $3,000

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

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: UniSC 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

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: $3,000 (ITRC Seed Grant)

Chief Investigators

  • Dr Adrian McCallum, UniSC
  • Professor Patrick D. Nunn, UniSC

Culturally Safe Pedagogy in Higher Education

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: $3,000 (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

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: 2018-2020


  • $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

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).

Lead organisation: UniSC Australia

Project dates: 2016-2017

Funding: $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



Explore the Creative Cultural Practices and Community Capacity Exchange research themes.

Contact the Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre (ITRC) by email for more information.