View all news

Indigenous research in focus at Gnibi


Jane Munro
24 February 2011
The new head of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Professor Adrian Miller, aims to develop research programs that will enable the College to reach its full potential as a significant player in the national and international Indigenous higher education sector.

Professor Miller said Gnibi’s research program would be built on a foundation of developing credibility through authentic collaboration within Indigenous communities and Indigenous organisations.

“I think Gnibi has got an exciting future and I will be working with my colleagues, and the community of people who want to be involved, to shape it together. In regards to the research agenda, the essential framework will involve Indigenous communities, Indigenous organisations and the broader community,” Professor Miller said.

“For the past 10 years I have been working in a highly productive mainstream academic centre as a senior academic at James Cook University. That centre was heavily focused on teaching and research and I plan to bring some of those skills into this environment and see how well we could develop a similar program in a strictly Indigenous-focused setting.

“For example I am interested in incorporating international Indigenous relations as a study area, including the introduction of international Indigenous exchange programs and the development of international collaborative projects in Indigenous research.

“Another area that I have a strong interest in is the social determinants of health, particularly socio-economic issues and how they impact on health. My current research area is investigating barriers to infectious disease interventions in Aboriginal communities with a focus on H1N1, strongyliodes and scabies.

“I think the paradigm in Indigenous higher education has changed since I first started as an academic 15 years ago. In the 90s the focus was to empower and develop Indigenous communities and Indigenous organisations by educating people through higher degree programs.

“Now I think the paradigm has shifted to include research where it is recognised that we have the opportunity at universities to do service to Indigenous organisations and Indigenous communities by doing applied research that answers specific questions.

“A big part of that opportunity is listening to what communities and organisations come up with in terms of what they want addressed. This shift is a positive one in my experience and that is why I really want to develop a research culture at Gnibi.

“In terms of engagement with the local community, I see local Aboriginal communities and local broader communities as absolutely significant to any future direction we take. The way I see engagement working is by taking a ‘concentric circles’ approach where we start within the University, then move out to the local communities, then to regional centres and then more broadly to national and possibly international settings.

“I think the foundations of good research can only be built on genuine engagement. If you haven’t got local engagement then there is no use looking overseas. As far as I am concerned your credibility and your authenticity comes from your local engagement.

“A local project that is already under way is the result of a local elder coming to me with a fantastic idea. It is basically an oral history project that records the stories of elders. Our hope is that we can incorporate what we record in our teaching programs - so we get vignettes of wisdom incorporated into the curriculum.

“That project is an example of what is really exciting about the College in that projects can be initiated by communities coming to us and saying ‘we want to do this’, and we are able to say, ‘yes, we have the capacity to do that’. Projects like this enhance not only our research but also our future.

“Another area that we will be looking at over the next few months is the curriculum for the courses run by Gnibi Gollege. I plan to hold a teaching and learning forum in the next couple of months which will be a highly collaborative process designed to ensure we are providing the highest quality of education based on good evidence and good research.

“Overall, I think Gnibi is positioned quite nicely to be a significant player in good collaborative research and teaching both nationally and internationally. I would like to see the College working within the broader collaborative framework of ‘Indigenous business, everybody’s business’ - and so it should be.”

Professor Miller’s previous role was as a senior academic with the Anton Breinl Centre, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services at James Cook University (2000 – 2010) and prior to that he was the foundation head of Warawara, Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University (1998). He is an Aboriginal man of the Jirrbal people of North Queensland.

Photo: The new head of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Professor Adrian Miller.