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DECRA funds investigation into racial dignity for Africans in Australia


Sharlene King, media office at Southern Cross University
11 October 2022

A Southern Cross University academic has received an Australian Research Council grant worth more than $450,000 to examine the challenges Black Africans face integrating to Australian society.

Dr Kathomi Gatwiri, a Gold Coast researcher at the Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP) and senior lecturer in social work, received $456,607 in funding for her research project Beyond Inclusion: Belonging and Racial Dignity for Africans in Australia. The project is funded under the ARC's highly prestigious Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

Dr Gatwiri said the project aims to investigate why Black Africans in Australia experience significant integration challenges in comparison to other migrant groups.

“This project is a culmination of the gap I observed within this space over the last many years, where African communities expressed their concerns with the ongoing negative discourses about them. The concerns moved beyond inclusion and belonging to longing for dignity within their everyday lives as Australians from a minoritised community,” said Dr Gatwiri.

The negative discourse has been highlighted by the trending #AfricanGangs social media hashtag which prompted national debates in the media and parliament about ‘failed multiculturalism’ and led to calls for Africans struggling to integrate within Australia to be deported.

Dr Gatwiri’s project aims to identify significant African practices that foster wellbeing, resilience and dignity. She defines racial dignity as “the immutable, unconditional worth of Black people as human beings. It is to be seen through a humanised lens and to be afforded basic respect in private and public relationships within a complex society that predominantly mistreats the Black body.”

“This DECRA research project will apply a unique and innovative Afrocentric methodology to generate a new understanding of racial dignity as key to belonging for Black Africans in Australia,” Dr Gatwiri said.

“This knowledge will be used to develop a tailored, culturally appropriate practice framework for relevant human service organisations.

“I am always excited about telling and hearing the stories of Black communities both as a researcher and as a psychotherapist. It is quite common for the stories of marginal communities to be told by others. So, in a way, this is a reclaiming process and a creation of space where we can engage with Black experiences through dignified sociological framework and cultural nuance. I hope the presence of more Afrodiasporic stories in academic literature will promote more community, healing and a sense of collective worth.”

The research team will reach out to Black Africans across most parts of Australia.

Southern Cross University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Academic Capability) Professor Mary Spongberg said the grant is great outcome for Dr Gatwiri and the University. “I was so pleased to see this result for Kathomi. She is a really hardworking researcher and her project is a truly significant one. This is also an amazing result for the Faculty of Health and CCYP, whose research is going from strength to strength.”

The research grant follows the release of Dr Gatwiri’s book, co-authored with Dr Leticia Anderson, Afrodiasporic Identities in Australia. Articulations of Blackness and Africanness. The book provides an in-depth theoretical exploration of mainstream attitudes towards immigration in Australia that can impact Black African migrants, and analyses themes of nationalism, colonialism, racism and belonging.

The project is one of 200 hundred being funded by the Australian Research Council under the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme. The grants aim to provide promising early career researchers with the opportunity to develop and apply their research skills.