Dr Sarah Wright
Dr Sarah Wright's research has taken her into Indigenous communities around Australia and also internationally to Cuba, South Africa, Kenya and the Philippines.
This year she has decided to take a leave from teaching and co-convening the Development Studies program at the University of Newcastle to intensively focus on writing a second collaborative book and continuing her research around food security and Indigenous ontologies.
Sarah has spent the last few years immersing herself in several projects that have included coordinating urban food production education projects and developing Indigenous-owned tourism ventures.
She states that collaboration is her passion and underpins her work at the University across research, service and teaching.
Since 2006 she has been working with Laklak Burarrwanga and her family in North East Arnhem Land to teach others about the Yolngu culture and the complexity of Yolngu knowledge.
Through this collaborative partnership that also includes colleagues from Macquarie University; Sarah co-authored her first book, Welcome to My Country which was published in 2013. They are now beginning work on a second book titled Songlines.
Equity is central to all of Sarah's work, especially her work with the Yolngu women from Bawaka in recognising Indigenous knowledge's and rights. She has no doubt there is a long way to go in Australia before achieving cultural equity.
"One of the most insidious and damaging assumptions of development work is that the expertise and agency for any development project must come from outside the community itself. Communities themselves need to be given the space to create their own solutions and their expertise needs to be acknowledged," she explains.
To further support her work, Sarah received funding from the Australian Research Council for a Discovery Project (ARCDP) to develop an intercultural framework based around Yolngu mathematics.
"Our work in Yolngu mathematics aims at supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in recognising and acknowledging Indigenous achievement in the area of mathematics. It is important that such learning is carefully and respectfully contextualised with people in place, so as not to risk trivialising cultural practices or imposing dominant Western school mathematics over a tokenistic engagement with other mathematics," she says.
Sarah highly regards the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle and the diverse pathways into university that are available to potential students. She also notes the initiatives within the Development Studies program to Indigenise the curriculum to include Aboriginal knowledge's and world views.
"I think the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education is an exciting and important area with lots of scope to reflect on practice and work towards improving it," says Sarah. "Particularly in ways that are driven through genuine collaborations," she adds.