Latin-America and Australia share Indigenous knowledge

7 December 2011

The integration of Indigenous knowledge into university research and teaching is one of the major aims of a ground-breaking public symposium starting at the University of Sydney today.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and academics from Latin America and Australia will share ideas at the Indigenous Knowledges Symposium, organised by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

"Indigenous knowledge is the body of knowledge of an Indigenous community collected over generations and includes technologies, skills, practices and beliefs," said co-convenor Dr Victoria Grieves, Indigenous Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

"This event builds on the success of the inaugural Indigenous Knowledges Symposium in 2009, developed at the same time as the Bradley Review of Higher Education that called for Indigenous knowledges to be incorporated into all aspects of tertiary education.

"Since the 1980s in Latin America there has been an explosion in recognition of the importance of Indigenous Knowledge and its contribution to academic teaching which has seen the creation of hundreds of specialised Indigenous universities in that region. This symposium hopes to benefit from those developments by beginning relationships with our colleagues in that part of the world."

The symposium will consider the ownership of Indigenous knowledges and how modern media can explore and document them. The symposium includes a festival of films on the culture, language, land rights and social justice systems of Indigenous peoples. How indigenous knowledge, including language, is transmitted in schools and universities will be a major theme of the symposium.

"Until very recently the exchange of Indigenous knowledge has been a conversation between (majority) English-speaking countries. The opportunity for these symposium participants to share ideas in Spanish, English and Indigenous languages is a world-first," said co-convenor Dr Vek Lewis, Chair of the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University.

"It is also a major development in the South to South dialogue now taking place among tertiary institutions following centuries of dominance of academic thought from the Northern hemisphere."

Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services), who will speak at the symposium on the use of Indigenous knowledge in higher education said, "The University of Sydney takes seriously the contribution Indigenous knowledges can make to our education, research and community engagement.

"This symposium is another step towards the University offering an education and a contribution to society that values Indigenous peoples' many tens of thousands of years of culture and knowledge.

"As part of this symposium Dr Janet Mooney, Lynette Riley and Dr Cat Kutay from the University of Sydney's Koori Centre will also discuss the development of the University's Indigenous Online Cultural Teaching and Sharing resource. This interactive site for students and staff gives them access to Aboriginal cultural knowledge relevant to their disciplines," Professor Houston said.

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