University of Sydney leads field in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research

8 November 2013

The University of Sydney leads the field in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research in the latest round of Australian Research Council funding, earning three Discovery Indigenous grants to pursue transformative research in gender and cultural studies, education and science.

The University received more than $37 million in Future Fellowships, Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, Discovery Indigenous grants, Discovery Projects and Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grants.

"Congratulations to all those who have secured funding from the ARC in this round," said Professor Jill Trewhella, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).
"We are thrilled to see that Sydney received the highest amount of funding for projects under the Discovery Indigenous Scheme, which will benefit research in the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, and Science.

"Our success in Discovery Projects spanned topics from the impacts of fire on our native and non-native animal populations, mitigating risk in supply chains and transportation networks, human capital and labour market outcomes, health systems, the basic science of DNA repair, and nanomaterials and engineering. Sydney's broad disciplinary research strengths and commitment to research that advances the knowledge frontier and has impact is clear in these results."


The University of Sydney's Discovery Indigenous grants for 2014 include:

Dr John Evans, Faculty of Education and Social Work, will lead a Discovery Indigenous project to explore the remarkable success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in sport and the sociocultural and educational factors that contribute to their success. Despite significant social disadvantage and alarming underachievement in educational outcomes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians achieve extraordinary success across a range of high-profile sports. While their achievement in sport is often explained as a result of inherited racial characteristics, this project will explore the success as a process of education.

Dr Victoria Grieves, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, will investigate the outcomes of many thousands of mixed-race children who were born in Australia due to a range of circumstances when more than one million allied troops were stationed here during the Second World War. These children are the embodied challenge to all of the nations involved, to provide the opportunity for a family background for identity and wellbeing. In seeking to understand the circumstances that brought them into the world, some have been able to resume relationships with family in the United States. This project will contribute to addressing the unanswered questions of these children by exploring the social contexts and interplays of gender and race in the extremities of wartime.

Dr Laura Parker, School of Molecular Bioscience, will lead a project investigating the impact of environmental change on larval energetics of molluscs on the southeast coast of Australia. The southeast coast of Australia is a climate hotspot characterised by rising ocean temperatures, fluctuations in salinity and we expect in the near future ocean acidification (OA). Mollusc larvae show extreme sensitivity to OA, but the impacts of other stressors remains unknown. It is predicted that OA will reduce the capacity of larvae to cope with temperature and salinity, particularly when food supply is low and in populations which have had no previous exposure to OA. Understanding the response of mollusc larvae to environmental change will support ecologically and economically significant mollusc populations over this century.

Other highlights of this round of ARC funding include:

Professor Robert Boakes,School of Psychology, andDr Kieron Rooney, Faculty of Health Sciences, will investigate the effect of flavour on food consumption and obesity thanks to a Discovery Project grant. Consumption of a food is greatly influenced by its flavour, and the properties of flavours are largely learned. Their project will examine how what is learned about a flavour influences both short-term and long-term food consumption by rats and humans.

Professor Chris Dickman, Faculty of Science, will undertake a Discovery Project on the effect of bushfire habitat destruction on native wildlife. Wildfires deplete food and shelter resources for many native animals, exposing them to increased predation from invasive predators such as the red fox and feral cat. Focusing on the fire-prone spinifex grasslands of central Australia, the project will identify the role of specific refuge habitats that provide native species with protection in the post-fire environment, and then propose an innovative experimental program to quantify and mitigate the impact of predators. It is hoped the results will stimulate new thinking about predator-prey theory and, in an environment predicted to experience more wildfires in future, provide guidance about how to project Australia's rich biodiversity.

Professor Gerard Goggin, Department of Media and Communications, has been awarded a Future Fellowship to conduct the first ever comprehensive investigation of how we invent, design, implement and regulate technology for people with disabilities. With disability a major area of Australian reform, technology is crucial to securing historic goals of full social participation. The project will propose better ways to align human rights frameworks, policy, and technology design to ensure digital participation for Australians with a disability.

Professor David Feng, Director of the Biomedical and Multimedia Information Technology Research Group in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, will lead a research team to develop methods of extracting and harnessing knowledge from the immense volume of biomedical imaging data that is currently generated in health care through innovative information technologies. These technologies will allow a 'virtual functional human body' in a realistic, comprehensible visual format to be built, which will be accessible to researchers and laypeople.

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