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Cavanagh, Vanessa I.

Associate Lecturer

  • Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
  • School of Geography and Sustainable Communities

Overview


I'm a Bundjalung and Wonnarua Aboriginal person from NSW, Australia. My research interests are in Australian Indigenous Geographies. 
I have over two decades of experience in environmental and heritage conservation management, within government, community and corporate sectors. I worked in the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, within its joint-management unit, cultural heritage division and national park operational group. I worked in the corporate sector as the project manager of the Georges River Aboriginal Riverkeeper Team.
My PhD research engages with Aboriginal women and cultural burning in NSW. My PhD supervisors are Associate Professor Michael Adams, and Dr Laura Hammersley.

Top Publications


Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    Interaction
    2016

    Published In
    Australian Indigenous Law Review
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2008

    Published In
    Protecting Country: Indigenous Governance and Management of Protected Areas
    Publisher
    Canberra
  • Conference Paper

    Year Title
    2018

    Published In
    Restore, Regenerate, Revegetate: A Conference on Restoring Ecological processes, Ecosystems and landscapes in a Changing World
    2017

    Published In
    Australian Society for Limnology Conference
    2016

    Published In
    Proceedings of the 8th Australian Stream Management Conference

Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p>During the summer of 2019/20 Australia suffered unprecedented wildfires. The fires burnt across 10 million hectares, decimating wildlife, forests, agriculture and infrastructure with 3,000 homes lost. Amid the crisis, people sought for solutions to better address fire management. Attention turned to Aboriginal fire knowledge and practice. For Aboriginal people, who are the longest continuing culture on Earth, fire is an integral feature of Aboriginal culture, and is founded on a healthy respectful relationship of coexistence within the natural world. This is sometimes referred to as caring for Country.</p><p>Aboriginal people successfully cared for Country for thousands of generations prior to European colonisation. Indigenous knowledge and systems of caring for Country are now increasingly being acknowledged and valued around the globe. As part of Aboriginal peoples' self-determining action to respond to relationships with, and responsibilities to Country, as well as developments in natural hazard management, efforts are being made to maintain and reinvigorate Aboriginal fire knowledge and practice. Such efforts are now centred on the south east of the continent, where the effects of European colonisation were first experienced.</p><p>Prior to colonisation, Indigenous women were just as engaged in cultural land management as were Indigenous men. In some places, women are the knowledge keepers and hold cultural knowledge around fire. The revival of cultural burning in NSW, however, has exposed the intersectional challenges that Aboriginal women experience, and the impacts this has on their full participation in caring for Country roles and activities. In response to the underrepresentation of Aboriginal women in land and fire management, this project focuses on Aboriginal women’s engagement in cultural burning practices in NSW. In particular, the research seeks to promote the voices of Aboriginal women, and better understand how and why they want to participate, and what challenges prevent them from participating.</p><p>Drawing on Indigenous research methodologies and community protocols, the research process itself aims to empower Aboriginal women to participate in caring for Country activities (where appropriate), and to strengthen Indigenous leadership. As part of this project, I have been able to promote an Indigenous-led approach to fire management, as well as contribute to strengthening Aboriginal cultural burning communities, and their ability to influence fire management policy, and policy implementation at multiple levels. For example, through many conversations with Aboriginal women, I was able to share, represent and submit their voices as evidence to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in June 2020. It is possible that I was the only Aboriginal female to be invited as a key witness. I was also invited to join a hearing of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry. My participation resulted in multiple interview, publication, presentation and community consultation requests from local media, national and international universities and community organisations.  </p><p>Indigenous land management is critical to addressing catastrophic bushfires and ongoing caring for Country initiatives. This research continues to advocate for Aboriginal voices, in particular, those of women, so they can inform fire management policy and its implementation.</p>

Education And Training


  • B Science (Hon) in B.Sc (Hons (Class I)) Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, The NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Bundjalung Aboriginal Nation

Teaching Overview


  • 2016 - Subject Coordinator GEOG123 Indigenous Geography, Contesting Country at UOW

Full Name


  • Vanessa I Cavanagh

Mailing Address


  • School of Geography & Sustainable Communities

    University of Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Top Publications


Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    Interaction
    2016

    Published In
    Australian Indigenous Law Review
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2008

    Published In
    Protecting Country: Indigenous Governance and Management of Protected Areas
    Publisher
    Canberra
  • Conference Paper

    Year Title
    2018

    Published In
    Restore, Regenerate, Revegetate: A Conference on Restoring Ecological processes, Ecosystems and landscapes in a Changing World
    2017

    Published In
    Australian Society for Limnology Conference
    2016

    Published In
    Proceedings of the 8th Australian Stream Management Conference

Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p>During the summer of 2019/20 Australia suffered unprecedented wildfires. The fires burnt across 10 million hectares, decimating wildlife, forests, agriculture and infrastructure with 3,000 homes lost. Amid the crisis, people sought for solutions to better address fire management. Attention turned to Aboriginal fire knowledge and practice. For Aboriginal people, who are the longest continuing culture on Earth, fire is an integral feature of Aboriginal culture, and is founded on a healthy respectful relationship of coexistence within the natural world. This is sometimes referred to as caring for Country.</p><p>Aboriginal people successfully cared for Country for thousands of generations prior to European colonisation. Indigenous knowledge and systems of caring for Country are now increasingly being acknowledged and valued around the globe. As part of Aboriginal peoples' self-determining action to respond to relationships with, and responsibilities to Country, as well as developments in natural hazard management, efforts are being made to maintain and reinvigorate Aboriginal fire knowledge and practice. Such efforts are now centred on the south east of the continent, where the effects of European colonisation were first experienced.</p><p>Prior to colonisation, Indigenous women were just as engaged in cultural land management as were Indigenous men. In some places, women are the knowledge keepers and hold cultural knowledge around fire. The revival of cultural burning in NSW, however, has exposed the intersectional challenges that Aboriginal women experience, and the impacts this has on their full participation in caring for Country roles and activities. In response to the underrepresentation of Aboriginal women in land and fire management, this project focuses on Aboriginal women’s engagement in cultural burning practices in NSW. In particular, the research seeks to promote the voices of Aboriginal women, and better understand how and why they want to participate, and what challenges prevent them from participating.</p><p>Drawing on Indigenous research methodologies and community protocols, the research process itself aims to empower Aboriginal women to participate in caring for Country activities (where appropriate), and to strengthen Indigenous leadership. As part of this project, I have been able to promote an Indigenous-led approach to fire management, as well as contribute to strengthening Aboriginal cultural burning communities, and their ability to influence fire management policy, and policy implementation at multiple levels. For example, through many conversations with Aboriginal women, I was able to share, represent and submit their voices as evidence to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements in June 2020. It is possible that I was the only Aboriginal female to be invited as a key witness. I was also invited to join a hearing of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry. My participation resulted in multiple interview, publication, presentation and community consultation requests from local media, national and international universities and community organisations.  </p><p>Indigenous land management is critical to addressing catastrophic bushfires and ongoing caring for Country initiatives. This research continues to advocate for Aboriginal voices, in particular, those of women, so they can inform fire management policy and its implementation.</p>

Education And Training


  • B Science (Hon) in B.Sc (Hons (Class I)) Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, The NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act and the Bundjalung Aboriginal Nation

Teaching Overview


  • 2016 - Subject Coordinator GEOG123 Indigenous Geography, Contesting Country at UOW

Full Name


  • Vanessa I Cavanagh

Mailing Address


  • School of Geography & Sustainable Communities

    University of Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Geographic Focus