Converging pathways: community cultural heritage and university research

Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Dr Jane Palmer
Angelia Walsh

This paper follows the journey taken by an Indigenous organisation and a university to develop an Indigenous Cultural Trail through 6 communities in SW Queensland. The driving force behind the Cultural Trail project was a small Aboriginal non-government organisation, which worked with five other Indigenous communities and employed the University of Southern Queensland to gather stories from community members and prepare material for tourists and visitors. However the NGO had embarked on a cultural heritage development process long before this community-university collaboration. 

How do researchers then perform a role that adds value and takes the project in a direction that the community wants, while engaging in research that is not alongside, but actually supports the project? This paper discusses the crucial elements that brought about the partnership between and Aboriginal NGO and the University of Southern Queensland. We explore the paths to trust and commitment and knowledge-sharing that are founded both on the specific interactions between University and NGO personnel, and on something that goes back further in time – the transformative process engaged in by the NGO well before the University’s involvement, which enabled the NGO to retain leadership both at the contractual and practical levels of the project.