Professor Bronwyn Carlson is Head of the Department of Indigenous Studies, Faculty of Arts, Director of the Centre for Global Indigenous Futures and Deputy Director Indigenous for the newly funded Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
She started at Macquarie University in mid-2017. Her research interests include Indigenous identities and digital lives, colonial commemorations, Indigenous Futurisms and eliminating gender-based violence. In short, she is interested in a world where Indigenous peoples are thriving.
1. Something you’d like staff to know about
On 1–2 December, the Centre for Global Indigenous Futures is hosting the 2022 Digital Intimacies conference on campus.
2. Something you feel proud of
The featured image is of my youngest, Connor Carlson, who graduated from Macquarie in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Indigenous Studies and Gender Studies. I was the first person in my family to go to university and Connor is the next generation to go. I was super proud to wear my cap and gown alongside Connor at the Walanga Muru Indigenous graduation celebrations.
I am also really proud of all the members of the Department of Indigenous Studies who always work extra hard and have many amazing achievements. All our HDR students are publishing which is outstanding. Our department is home to the first-ever Indigenous Queer Studies unit of study. We also offer the only Dharug-centred unit for students to really understand whose Country Macquarie University is built on. Our staff are amazing scholars and researchers and were recipients of the 2020 Faculty of Arts Award for Research. Then in 2021, they received the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Research: Five Future-shaping Research Priorities – Resilient Societies Award. You never know, we may also be successful in 2022.
3. A person you admire at Macquarie, and why
I admire my colleague Professor Sandy O’Sullivan, an ARC Future Fellow in the Department of Indigenous Studies (left). They are an Aboriginal trans/non-binary/queer scholar. They literally know everything there is to know and their tenacity is admirable, as is their generosity. They are an amazing scholar whose work is so timely and important and they are an ARC Future Fellow working on a project entitled Saving Lives: Mapping the Power of LGBTIQ+ First Nations Creative Artists.
This photo was my first visit to see Sandy, who lives on Kubi Kubi Country. Sandy showed me all the sites including the commemoration to the Bee Gees which may reveal our age. We are the only two Indigenous professors at Macquarie.
4. Something people usually ask you when they find out what you do for a living
When people find out I am a Professor of Indigenous Studies there is firstly silence and then I am told it is ‘really good that you are helping Aboriginal people and especially those in remote communities’ – such an eye-roll moment for me. I say I am interested in digital lives, which generally results in further silence, or if there is any interest, I get questions about whether Indigenous people are engaged with digital technologies or even online at all.
5. Something you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you
I am very interested in Indigenous Futurisms and in 2019 our department held a fabulous symposium on the topic. I love this article, Everywhen: against ‘the power of now’ by Mykaela Saunders. They write: “I am comforted knowing that sooner or later, all destructive systems destroy themselves – history shows it cannot be any other way. Toxic empires either change or they collapse. I might not see it in my lifetime, but I know it will happen.”
6. Your definition of success
The ability to support others to succeed.
7. The first person you go to for advice (and why)
My colleague, lecturer Madi Day from the Department of Indigenous Studies, because we think so much alike, but Madi is sensible and reigns my scheming in.
8. A personal quality you value in others
Care. I like people who care about others and not so much about institutions.
9. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence starts on 25 November and finishes on 10 December. The theme for this year is ‘UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls’. Can you briefly share the work that you have undertaken in this area?
Combined with my interest in digital lives I have written extensively on gender-based violence on digital platforms such as social media. My focus is Indigenous women and LGBTQAI+ peoples and technology-facilitated violence. I have also focused on the perpetrators, not just the victims.
This work led to an invitation by Senator Anne Ruston, formerly Minister for Families and Social Services and Minister for Women’s Safety, to be a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council and inform the next National Plan to end family, domestic and sexual violence.
Along with my colleague Madi Day, I am currently a Chief Investigator (CI) on a project led by Dr Debbie Bargallie from Griffith University, funded by the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector. ‘Make Us Count’ is a qualitative study of the experiences of Indigenous women in the Victorian Public Service. Preliminary results reveal that Indigenous women are subject to various levels of violence in the workplace.
Along with Professor Sandy O’Sullivan and Madi Day, I am a CI on a Media Diversity Australia project that is exploring the experiences of Indigenous and/or LGBTQAI+ journalists. Preliminary results reveal prominent levels of technology-facilitated violence.
I was also invited to be a Deputy Director for a Centre of Excellence bid led by Professor Jacquie True from Monash University for the now successfully awarded and funded ARC Centre of Excellence for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEVAW).
CEVAW has a pillar dedicated to Indigenous research, and I am the lead CI on two research streams, ‘Violence of Colonialism’ and ‘Racial Analysis and Anti-racism Praxis’. The third stream is ‘Future Lives’ which is led by Associate Professor Kyllie Cripps from UNSW.
Our research also has a focus on technology-facilitated abuse targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and LGBTQAI+ peoples. Overall, we are interested in what is needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to live a life free of violence and what needs to change for Indigenous peoples to live and work in safe and fulfilling circumstances.
10. What else should staff know?
13-19 November was Trans Awareness Week and Trans Day of Remembrance occurred on 20 November. Gender-based violence isn’t confined to the binary of men/women – to be inclusive means to read and understand the colonial project of gender and how this continues to exclude many who do not identify within this binary. A good read is the open access article published by Professor O’Sullivan, The colonial project of gender (and everything else).