I was raised in a village located in the heart of the wheat-growing region of the Adelaide Plains, South Australia. I also spent much of my youth contributing to our family’s commercial fishing business on the Yorke Peninsula. In summer, I would help out on my grandparent’s vineyard and orchard in the Riverland region of South Australia. My upbringing on the land and the sea, and agricultural experience, gave me a strong grounding in natural history and landscape systems. I later became interested in how the land had been shaped by Indigenous people.
These combined interests drew me to the study of landscape architecture, which I undertook at the bachelor, honours, and master’s degree level at the University of Adelaide (1995-2002). My Honours project involved a study of the Indigenous seasonal round of the Adelaide region (Kaurna Country), which was supported by funds from the Queen’s Trust for Young Australians on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As well as featuring in many classrooms around Australia – and serving as inspiration for built environment projects – the Kaurna Calendar project has been utilised by the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology in their Indigenous Weather Knowledge program.
My master’s thesis at Adelaide University took me to the the University of Montreal (UdeM)and Arctic Canada, where I wrote on Inuit and non-Inuit ways of knowing and seeing the Arctic landscape (2000-2002). I studied under the direction of Prof Peter Jacobs at the UdeM and Prof David Jones at Adelaide University. I conducted fieldwork in Nunavik, Arctic Quebec for the project. Following my MA, I enrolled in the PhD program at McGill University’s geography department, where I continued research in Nunavik. My supervisors were Prof Peter Jacobs and Prof Wayne Pollard.
My PhD thesis, an ethnography, discussed Inuit knowledge and perceptions of the land-water interface. It was primarily based on a case study of three generations of Kangiqsualujjumiut (Inuit people of Kangiqsualujjuaq) hunters. I presented findings on their knowledge of the land and the sea, including the terms they used in Inuktitut for describing land and sea features, and places. I also researched Inuit myths and legends, particularly in relation to their senses of space and place. I lived with the Annanack’s, an Inuit family in Kangiqsualujjuaq, for my studies. I continue spending time with them and maintain an active interest in their community. My PhD was supported with funds from the John Crampton Travelling Fellowship, Australia.
Following my PhD completion (2007), I joined the University of Melbourne’s landscape architecture program as lecturer. There, I developed a popular course titled Indigenous Conceptions of Landscape. As part of my teachings, I introduced students to Indigenous communities in Western Victoria (Budj Bim/Lake Condah) and the South East of South Australia (Coorong).
In 2010, I was awarded the Roberta Bondar Postdoctoral Fellowship in Northern and Polar Studies at Trent University’s Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies. Taking up the position in Canada, I embarked on a major project that involved researching and compiling unpublished natural history material on the Eastern Canadian Arctic, held in the Smithsonian Archives. This material was generated between 1882-1884 by the Smithsonian naturalist, Lucien M. Turner.
The project involved travelling to the Arctic to conduct interviews with Inuit elders on natural history, as well as working directly with the Turner’s Collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Centre (ASC) in Washington, D.C. The research formed the basis of a natural history book that I prepared with, Kristofer Helgen, then curator of mammals at the Smithsonian. Our book, Mammals of Ungava and Labrador, was published by the Smithsonian in 2014. The volume brought together material on mammals that Turner recorded and collected. Importantly, contemporary Inuit knowledge on mammals was provided alongside Turner’s historical accounts. Our book received an honorary mention from the William Mills Prize in 2016. This organisation recognises the best Arctic or Antarctic non-fiction books published throughout the world.
Following the Roberta Bondar Fellowship, I returned to Australia and joined the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra in 2011. As assistant professor and later associate professor, I championed Indigenous issues on campus and advocated for expanding the teaching of Indigenous knowledge across the design disciplines. I led several student field trips to Indigenous communities in South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Fiji. Teaching across landscape architecture, cultural heritage, and indigenous studies, my courses were drawn directly from my research projects, and with Indigenous community support.
In recognition of the meaningful impacts of my activities with Indigenous partners, I received a Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Equity and Diversity in 2014. A year later, my research was recognised again with a University of Canberra’s Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Research.
I’ve presented my research at over 40 conferences and forums in Africa, North America, Europe, South Pacific, and Australia. I’ve served as an international reviewer for the Canadian Government’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council, and served on the University of Canberra’s Human Research Ethics Committee from 2012 to 2018.
My most recent research project involves working alongside iTaukei (Indigenous Fijians) on a cultural mapping project in Taveuni, Fiji.
Awards and Honours //
- 2019 Award for Planning Excellence – Cutting Edge Research and Teaching (Award to Research Team for project: Recasting Terra Nullius Blindness) Planning Institute of Australia (Victoria).
- 2019 National Award of Excellence for Research and Communication (Awarded to Research Team: Recasting Terra Nullius Blindness), Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
- 2019 Endeavour Executive Leadership Award from the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training
- Award of Excellence (Team award for Research Project: Recasting Terra Nullius Blindness), Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (Victoria Chapter), 2019
- Honorary mention William Mills Prize for the best Arctic or Antarctic non-fiction books published worldwide, 2016
- University of Canberra’s Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Research, 2015
- University of Canberra’s Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Equity and Diversity, 2014
- Roberta Bondar Postdoctoral Fellowship, Trent University, 2010
- John Crampton Travelling Fellowship, Australia, 2002-2006
- Queen’s Trust for Young Australians, 2000
Boards and Advisory Roles //
- Commission Member (joined in 2017) 2021-2025, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP)
- Expert Advisory Group Member, Kokoda Track Military Heritage Plan, PNG National Museum and Art Gallery
- Advisory Board Member, Rural Communities Australia: http://www.ruralaus.com/
- Advisory Group Member, Creative Barkly: Sustaining the Arts and Culture Sector in Remote Australia, ARC Linkage Project, https://creativebarkly.org/
Professional Memberships //
- American Anthropological Association
- American Association of Geographers
- Australia Global Alumni, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Arctic Institute of North America
- Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand
- Australian Anthropological Society, Fellow
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
- Canadian Anthropology Society
- Canadian Association of Geographers
- Institute of Australian Geographers
- Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative