Thank you Bawaka 3: Family, crocodiles and co-becoming with Country

This is the third in a series of blogs from students and teachers reporting on their recent Bawaka travels. The Bawaka team for 2017 included Shenay Bremner, Keelan Birch, Rachael Courtenay, Bethany Fryar, Victoria Ireland, Maartje Roelofsen, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Matthew Salamone and Jessie Wiseman.


So I found Bawaka to be one of the most incredible places I have ever visited, not only because of the natural beauty of the environment but I found being taught the traditional landowners connection to place, gave me a greater appreciation for the land and the experience. To be invited into their family by being given skin names made the experience personal and welcoming. I can’t wait to go back!!




Through my pre-readings and the stories passed on to me by past visitors, I had come to understand that Bawaka was a special place. A place for learning and for co-becoming Country. Our trip to Bawaka was indeed an incredible learning experience. We have learned about the Yolngu ways of life and the idea of Country through the people present there, but also through the animals, the plants, the tides, the sun and the spirits. Bawaka generously showed me that some knowledge may come exclusively in visceral and embodied ways – my first encounter with a fire ant was an example of that; spirits that dwell at Bawaka was another. I am very thankful for having been guided by Rrawun, Djawundil, Timmy, Shandi, Banbapuy, Laklak, Ritjilili and other Yolngu people in embracing such knowledge and understanding it as one of the many ways in which we connect to each other and to Country. And, as an early career scholar who has moved from Europe just recently, I learned so much from my Australian students and colleague Sandie. Being with them for a week has added much to my understanding of and enthusiasm for the context I am teaching in. An amazing Week!

lonely beach
Stunning Lonely Beach

Thank you Bawaka 2: Weaving on and caring for country

This is the second in a series of blogs from students and teachers reporting on their recent Bawaka travels. The Bawaka team for 2017 included Shenay Bremner, Keelan Birch, Rachael Courtenay, Bethany Fryar, Victoria Ireland, Maartje Roelofsen, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Matthew Salamone and Jessie Wiseman.


The Bawaka trip was the most amazing experience. We met kind and loving people who welcomed us into their family and shared their culture with us. We were given skin names and totems which gave us a connection to the family and their land. Sitting with the Indigenous women and having them share special stories that were only for women made us feel even more connected. It really was a trip of a lifetime.


Bawaka was a truly incredible experience that undoubtedly challenged my perception of remote Indigenous communities, as I was given the opportunity to immerse myself into a such beautiful and multifaceted culture. Overall, I learnt so much about the complex and unique nature of the Yolngu culture, people and the land itself. I hope to return in the future and would highly recommend this cultural experience for any other student given the opportunity.

Thank you Bawaka: The first in a series of Bawaka blogs

This is the first in a series of blogs from students and teachers reporting on their Bawaka travels. The Bawaka team for 2017 included Shenay Bremner, Keelan Birch, Rachael Courtenay, Bethany Fryar, Victoria Ireland, Maartje Roelofsen, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Matthew Salamone and Jessie Wiseman.

It’s the second time we’ve taken a group of third year students to Bawaka in North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory and we had such an amazing time. 9 students doing the Human Geography capstone unit GEOP380: Human Geography in Action went with 2 staff members and spent 8 nights in Arnhem Land, including 6 nights at Bawaka Homeland and 2 nights in the bauxite mining town of Nhulunbuy.

bawaka 1 2017
Group photo at Bawaka with our hosts Djawundil and Shandi


The undergraduate students apply to go on the field trip which has been set up as part of a long-term research relationships between human geography academics and Yolngu women from Bawaka. As part of their 6 credit point unit students learn about doing ethical and reciprocal research and focus on their own research topics around issues of Indigenous self-determination, cultural tourism and caring for Country.


Here we’d like to share some of the ways in which being on, with and as Bawaka Country affected us:


Travelling to Bawaka in remote North-East Arnhem Land left an impression on me that I’ll cherish forever. Learning Yolngu language, being accepted into the family kinship and telling amazing stories around a bonfire are just some of the experiences that have influenced my worldview and how I live my day-to-day life. This is such a valuable fieldtrip that I would recommend any uni student to undertake.

bawaka 4 2017
Bawaka as evening falls

Geographies of Disruption Symposium


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We are pleased to invite you to a symposium on ‘Geographies of Disruption’ at Macquarie University, funded by the Geographical Society of NSW. It will be held on the 19-20 April 2018.

Through Geographical Society of NSW funding, we are excited to be able to offer small grants to Early Career Researchers and Higher Degree Research students to participate in the symposium.

If you are interested in participating, please email before 18th December 2017.

Looking forward to discussing all things disruption next year.

Margaret Raven and Jess McLean

Graduation Address for the Faculty of Science and Education: Prof Richie Howitt

On 27th September 2017, Prof Richie Howitt gave the Graduation Address for the Faculty of Science & Engineering (Biology, Engineering, EPS and Environmental Sciences) at Macquarie University.

We thought people might like to read the text of that speech. Prof Howitt began by discussing the University’s responsibilities in accepting the Welcome to Country, and linked that to the power of inclusive science education (that encompasses the social sciences and humanities):

‘Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Colleagues from the University, distinguished guests, graduates, families and friends. Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this happy occasion, when we affirm the achievements of graduates from across the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Let me commence by acknowledging the generous Welcome to the traditional domain of the Wattamattageal clan, the Wullamai black snapper fish people, of the Darug nation. Not only do I appreciate the warm welcome offered to us all today, but I also reflect on the many other occasions that the traditional custodians of this land have welcomed the University and our staff, students and visitors to their Country.

In making such acknowledgement, I recognize that the Welcome to Country is not an empty ritual or tokenistic space for an Indigenous Australian to speak politely and then exit from the University’s core business. The Welcome to Country, like the graduation ceremony itself, is an institution, a custom and ritual that long pre-dates the establishment of this University.

As a guest in Darug territory, the Welcome to Country places me – us– in an obligation to behave well; to respect; to learn. As a learning community, the Welcome to Country also invites us to reflect collectively on the importance of the University’s ongoing relationship with the Darug nation, whose cultures and customs have nurtured, and continue to nurture, this place and its people for tens of thousands of years. It obliges us to ensure that, in paying our respects to their Elders past, present and future, we offer more than tokenistic or patronizing courtesy.’

The full text of the Graduation Address is available here.

PhD at Macquarie on Flood Risk Communication – with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre

Please see below information for a PhD opportunity at Macquarie University working with Mel Taylor (Psychology) and Kat Haynes (Department of Geography and Planning). The PhD candidate will link and align with a new research project funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre on Flood Risk Communication.

Faculty: Human Sciences
Department: Psychology
Project Name: Flood Risk
Closing Date: 31/10/2018
Allocation Number: 2017653
Project Description (suggested maximum 200 words)


This PhD opportunity will link and align with a new research project funded by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) on Flood Risk Communication. The project is part of the Communication and Warnings cluster of BNHCRC funded research.

Every year people put their lives at risk, with numerous near misses, rescues and fatalities, due to either driving into, or recreating in, floodwater. The main at-risk groups include younger and older males (driving) and children and younger people (recreating). The main project will investigate the decision-making processes, and contexts, in which these decisions are made and will evaluate the effectiveness of existing risk communication and community education materials.

The PhD research has flexibility to run alongside any component of the main research.

The lead researchers, Mel Taylor (Psychology) and Katharine Haynes (Geography) are looking for a strong candidate for this position, with an enthusiasm for applied research and a background in a social research discipline. Excellent writing skills, communication skills, and an inquisitive nature are core requirements.

Other Important information:


The successful applicant would also be eligible for a scholarship top-up from the BNHCRC of $14,000 per annum for 3.5 years (subject to suitable candidate and application), and the student would also be part of the BNHCRC post graduate student program.

As the BNHCRC encourages cooperative research with end user organisations. There will be opportunities to conduct research with emergency service agencies and to undertake field work, or lab-based research.

Contact Name: Mel Taylor
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 02 9850 8105
This scholarship is available to eligible candidates to undertake direct entry into a 3 year PhD program.

The value and tenure of the scholarship is:

  • The MQRTP full-time stipend rate is $26,682 per annum (in 2017 tax exempt, for up to 3 years (indexed annually)
  • The scholarship is comprised of a Tuition Fee Offset and a Living Allowance Stipend.

Applicants will need to complete a HDR Candidature and Scholarship Application Form and arrange for two academic referee reports to be submitted to the Higher Degree Research Office. The application form and further information can be found on the Application page.

To be eligible for a scholarship, applicants are expected to have a record of excellent academic performance and preferably, additional relevant research experience and/or peer-reviewed research activity, awards and/or prizes in line with the University’s scholarship rating guidelines. Refer to the Rating Scholarship Applicants section for more information about these guidelines.

Macquarie University will advise the successful applicant of entitlements at the time of scholarship offer. Please quote the allocation number on your application.

GeoPlan@Macquarie #IAG2017: July11-14 Brisbane

IMG_0849GeoPlan@MQ is on the move for the Institute of Australian Geographers Conference – this year we are enjoying beautiful Brisbane and the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland. Researchers from our department are participating in exciting sessions on diverse themes: Indigenous geographies, spaces of activism, sustainability, critical development studies, migration, more-than-human research praxis, interstitial landscapes and more!

We are especially proud that Professor Richie Howitt is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Institute of Australian Geographers Australia-International Medal.  This award recognises Richie’s international standing and his tireless commitment to teaching, service to the discipline, and community engagement.  Congratulations Richie!

Here is a quick look at what GeoPlan@MQ researchers are up to this week at the IAG. Please consult the IAG conference agenda for the final word on session details:

 Learning to Listen? Reflecting on wisdom, responsibility, coexistence as foundations for sustainable coexistence in pluralist societies

Richie Howitt

Session: Wednesday July 12, 10:40am-12:10pm; Sir Llew Edwards 14-32


In these troubled times, the wisdom of fostering pluralism is increasingly challenged by discourses of privilege, fear and violence. Inevitably, making geography count in nurturing generous and sustained coexistence in already-pluralist societies is made difficult by such circumstances. Ceremonial recognition of coexistence is often acknowledged by the dominant society through a brief, formal ‘Welcome to Country’ by Indigenous traditional owners. This is widely incorporated into government, educational and other meetings, but who has learned to really listen and respond? The welcome ceremony offers an opportunity to reconsider the foundations of sustainable coexistence in pluralist settings. This paper advocates listening methodologies as important in how dominant cultures respond to their dominance in pluralist societies. It particularly argues that the recipients of a welcome need to better understand what is involved in taking responsibility for being welcomed. Extending earlier work on Levinasian ethics, I argue that it includes taking responsibility to address the current legacies of past injustices and to bring all people in pluralist societies into relationships of shared and mutual recognition.


Yolŋu women’s keening of songspirals: centring Indigenous understandings to nourish and share people-as-place

Bawaka Country including Suchet-Pearson, S, Wright, S, Lloyd, K, Burarrawanga, L, Ganambarr, R, Ganambarr-Stubbs, M, Ganambarr, B and Maymuru, D.

Session: Researching With Indigenous Peoples 3: The Politics of Translation
Jul 12, 2017 3:40 PM – 5:10 PM


Songspirals bring Country into existence. In Aboriginal English usage, Country is much more than ‘the environment’. Country encompasses the seas, waters, rocks, animals, winds and all the beings that exist in and make up a place, including people. Songspirals (commonly known as songlines) are rich and multi-layered articulations, passed down through the generations and sung by Aboriginal people to wake Country, to make and remake the life-giving connections between people and place – people co-becoming as place (Bawaka Country et al 2016, Rose 1996, 2007). This paper draws on our close collaborative relationship with Yolŋu co-researchers as Bawaka Country to nourish and, where appropriate, share Indigenous and Country-led understandings of women’s keening of songspirals. Our spiral-based framework extends ideas of songlines to generate new knowledge which centres Yolŋu women’s conceptions of place and time. In a time of disruptive environmental change, supporting such deep place-based engagements, that are not only Indigenous-led, but are led by Country, are crucially necessary.

Sandie is also speaking on the panel: More-than-human research praxis IAG panel discussion Thursday 13, 1:40-3:10

Sustainability, Hope and Disappointment: Embracing Reflective and Unreflective Transformation

Greg Walkerden

Session: Wednesday, July 12, 3:40-5:10pm; Steele 03-228


Sustainable development, as an aspiration, embraced a tension: embracing welcome change, while conserving precious stabilities in socio-ecological dynamics. In local arenas, over modest timeframes, and on specific measures, and occasionally at larger scales, for longer periods, and on wider issue sets, something akin to sustainability has been achieved. For the most part, though, if one cares about large places over the long term, longings for sustainability invite grief. Socio-ecological systems analysis and environmental history demonstrate the challenges: exponential growth in either population or per capita consumption, in many locations, speaks to our de facto commitments. Lessons from action research, in projects in regional NSW and Queensland, show how provisional pursuit of sustainability is, at finer resolutions. Political instabilities loom large. Interdependence and vulnerability are a modus vivendi. What then can we do as geographers? One way to respond is to focus on developing adaptive capacity in the communities of emerging professionals we teach, and the professional networks we engage through action research. Fostering reflective practice, creative thinking, triangulating technically, politically and managerially, and embedding innovations through capacity building processes, show ways transformation – both thrust upon us and and arising from new forms of hope – can be embraced.

Towards Just Resilience: Anticipating the Risks of Climate-Related 

Forced resettlement in response to climate change
Fiona Miller

Session: Wednesday 12 Jul, 10:40 – 12:10 in Chamberlain 35-102


Forced resettlement in response to climate change raises critical questions of justice at multiple scales. Unlike migration, which tends to reflect people’s agency in response to changing environmental and economic risks and opportunities, resettlement is often imposed by the state. Although often premised on the assumption that it will reduce vulnerability to climate change, resettlement can create new environmental, social and economic challenges for people. This paper seeks to contribute to a rethinking of the concepts of justice and resilience in relation to climate-related resettlement, with a particular focus on the ‘climate hotspot’ of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The concept of just resilience is proposed as a lens through which the consequences of resettlement for people’s connections to place, each other and familiar ways of life can be understood. Through attention on the procedures underpinning decision making on resettlement, the distribution of outcomes, and recognition of diverse knowledge the concept of just resilience can potentially support communities and governments to better anticipate and resolve some of the humanitarian, livelihood and ecological challenges associated with resettlement.

Who’s(e) the Indigenous Community: Methodological Pitfalls in the Indigenous Research Space

Corrine Franklin

Session: Jul 12, 10:40am-12:10pm,


Research in Indigenous spaces, and with Indigenous communities, continues to grow and expand in Australia. Yet an area that remains significantly under-examined is what constitutes an Indigenous community. This presentation will draw on the findings of two Indigenous focused research projects as I explore the notion of the ‘Indigenous community’ and pose the question – who has the right to speak with them?

Spatializing climate justice: the practice and possibility of climate activism in the Asia Pacific

Sara Fuller

Session: Jul 12; 3:40-5:10pm; Chamberlain 35-103


Climate justice activism emerges in multiple spaces, with individuals and groups pursuing strategies ranging from traditional organised activities to more diverse and spontaneous forms of ‘everyday’ activism. Much of this action has sought to articulate the connections between climate change and human rights, while also drawing attention to questions of rights and responsibilities. Beyond issue-based campaigns, however, there is a need to understand the contested sites and spaces of climate activism and the implications for justice. This paper draws on empirical research with activist and advocacy organisations in Hong Kong and Singapore – cities which offer unique political and institutional environments for mobilisation around climate justice. The paper reflects on the inherent contradictions associated with climate justice activism in these cities, and how questions of rights and responsibilities are considered. The paper argues that while the power of ‘everyday’ action and activism should not be overlooked, such explorations should be framed by a more nuanced understanding of how space and place come to matter in not only enabling urban climate activism but also in capturing dynamics of justice, care and responsibility in the city.

‘Can We Love Our Monsters? Digital Justice in the Anthropocene’ in the session Encountering Feminist Geographies 

Jessica McLean

Session: Thursday, July 13, 3:40 PM – 5:10 PM; Steele 03-228,


Our use of digital media has ecological implications both in terms of our physical reliance on infrastructure and tools to connect to digital spaces, and what we do within digital spaces. However, the contribution of digital spaces to the Anthropocene is not yet well-explored and digital activism in particular may play a role in working towards more just futures. In bringing together geographies of digital change and the Anthropocene, this paper focuses on interventions originating in digital spaces and networking through, around and beyond these. This paper will consider issues of justice and the Anthropocene within the context of change originating from digital spaces. By exploring a case study of online digital action as manifest in the Climate Council’s creation and continuation, important aspects of what is made possible from within digital spaces will be highlighted.

Assembling Plant Based Food in Sydney: Prefigurative Politics, Collaborative Experiments

Donna Houston, Andrew McGregor, Tasmin-Lara Dilworth

Session: Thursday July 13; 10:40-12:10pm; Chamberlain 35-103


This paper explores how plant-based food cultures are being assembled in metropolitan Sydney.  The interest in plant-based food has grown considerably in recent years with urban agriculture, farmers markets, food social movements, and ethical consumption practices changing how and what people eat, and creating new knowledge and skills in urban foodscapes.  Drawing on an ongoing research project investigating environmental and ethical food production and consumption in Sydney, the paper focuses on how plant-based food cultures are being assembled.  We focus on three elements: (1) relational foodscapes – how different actors (growers, makers, local governments and businesses) are putting together new spaces for plant-based food in the city; (2) prefigurative politics – how does shifts towards plant-based food prefigure worlds that people want to live in as an ethical response environmental and social change? (3) apprehensions – what are some of the pitfalls and problems in making just transitions towards plant-based food (for example, bodily and spatial gentrification, food justice)?

Geography and Planning scholars are also involved in the following sessions:

Roles, Responsibilities and Emotions – Negotiating the Politics of Forced Social Housing Relocations in Sydney

Marilu Melo and Kristian Ruming

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Session: The Financialisation Of Housing And Australian Cities 2; Room: Sir Llew Edwards 14-116, 2:00 PM – 2:20 PM

Situating Resident Attachments to Home in Objection to Higher Density Housing

Nicole Cook and Kristian Ruming

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Session: Who Counts In The City? Interrogating Urban Power, Presence, And Representation 2; Room: Chamberlain 35-519, 2:00 PM – 2:20 PM

Assembling ‘The News’: Urban Politics, Urban Regeneration and the Media

Jill Sweeney, Jenelle Monahan, Kathy Mee, Pauline McGuirk, and Kristian Ruming

Contact Zones, Coexistence and Encounters: Urban Regeneration and Indigenous Presence and Absence in Newcastle

Kathleen Mee, Faith Curtis, Pauline McGuirk, Kristian Ruming and Jill Sweeney

Thursday, July 13, 2017; Session: New Directions In Cultural Geography 2: Assembling Room: Steele 03-229, 4:00 PM – 4:20 PM

Bread and Circuses

Wendy Steele, Jean Hillier, Diana MaCallum, Jason Byrne, Donna Houston

Wednesday July 12: 3:40-5:10pm; Session Resist, Refuse Re-Common, Critical and Creative Geographies of Activism 1 

Failure-Tolerant Adaptation?: Enabling Social Innovation for Climate Change Response via Local Government Initiatives

Jason Byrne, Jean Hillier, Diana MacCallum, Donna Houston

Friday 14 July, 2017: Session Frontiers of Ecological and Environmental Justice: Who and What Counts? 10:40am-12:10pm, Chamberlain 35-103