Scott Heyes – Geographer, Ethnographer, Landscape Architect, Public Speaker

Dr Scott Heyes is a recipient of the 2019 Endeavour Executive Leadership Award from the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor (Research) in Australian Indigenous Archaeology, at Monash University’s Indigenous Studies Centre, Faculty of Arts. Scott holds a research associate position at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center in Washington D.C. His research and teaching interests centre on Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous heritage issues in Indigenous Australia, Fiji, and the Inuit homelands of Arctic Canada.


Raised in country South Australia near the River Wakefield, and on the shores of the Yorke Peninsula, Scott grew up exploring the land and the sea with a strong interest in natural history and Indigenous knowledge. His interests in the environment, and the way in which the Australian landscape has been shaped by Indigenous people, led him to undertake a bachelor, honours, and master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Adelaide (1995-2002), including study abroad at the University of Montreal (2001). His Honours project, a study of the Indigenous seasonal round of the Adelaide region (Kaurna Country) was supported by a grant from the Queen’s Trust for Young Australians on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Following his master’s by research study at Adelaide University on Inuit and non-Inuit ways of knowing and seeing the Arctic landscape (2000-2002), which included undertaking fieldwork in Nunavik, Arctic Quebec, he joined McGill University’s geography department in Montreal to take up a PhD in 2002.

His PhD thesis explored Inuit knowledge and perceptions of the land-water interface, primarily based on a case study of three generations of active Kangiqsualujjumiut (Inuit people of Kangiqsualujjuaq) hunters. The ethnographic study explored their knowledge of the land and the sea, including their Inuktitut vocabulary for describing land and sea features and places, their understanding of myths and legends associated with the local region, and how they compartmentalise space. Scott lived with an Inuit family in Kangiqsualujjuaq for some time as part of his studies, and he continues to spend time with this family today. His PhD was supported with funds from John Crampton Travelling Fellowship, Australia.

Upon completion of his PhD (2007), Scott was appointed as lecturer in landscape architecture at the University of Melbourne, where he developed a popular course based on his research called Indigenous Conceptions of Landscape. Scott ran field trips to Indigenous communities in Western Victoria (Budj Bim/Lake Condah) and the South East of South Australia (Coorong), and curated exhibitions, through this course.

In 2010, he was awarded the prestigous Roberta Bondar Postdoctoral Fellowship in Northern and Polar Studies at Trent University’s Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies. Taking up the postdoc position in Canada, he embarked on a major project that involved researching and compiling unpublished natural history material of the Eastern Canadian Arctic region that was generated by the Smithsonian naturalist, Lucien M. Turner between 1882 and 1884. The project involved travelling to the Arctic to conduct interviews with Inuit elders on natural history, as well as working directly with Turner’s Collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center in Washington, D.C. The research carried out on Turner’s Collection during this period formed the basis of a natural history book that Scott prepared with the Smithsonian zoologist, Kristofer Helgen, titled Mammals of Ungava and Labrador. Published by the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press in 2014, the volume brought together material on mammals that Turner recorded and collected. Contemporary Inuit knowledge and terminology of mammals was provided alongside Turner’s historical accounts. The book received an honorary mention from the William Mills Prize in 2016, which recognises the best Arctic or Antarctic non-fiction books published throughout the world.

Based in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, Australia, since 2011, Scott has championed Indigenous issues on campus by leading student field trips to Indigenous communities in South Australia, Queensland, NSW and Fiji, and by advocating for expanded teaching of Indigenous knowledge across the disciplines of design. He has taught across the disciplines of landscape architecture and cultural heritage, with subject content drawn directly from his research projects, and with Indigenous community support. In recognition of the significant impact of his activities with Indigenous partners, Scott was awarded a University of Canberra’s Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Research in 2015, and an Vice-Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Equity and Diversity in 2014.

Scott has presented his research to a range of audiences in Africa, North America, Europe, Pacific countries, and throughout Australia. He serves annually 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. He is a member of anthropology and geography associations in Australia, Canada, and the US.

Research Interests

  • Indigenous knowledge systems
  • Indigenous heritage issues
  • Participatory design
  • Indigenous mapping and navigation
  • Ethnographic research methods
  • Ethnobotany
  • National parks and protected areas
  • Natural History of the Eastern Canadian Arctic

Awards and Honours

  • 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
  • Recipient of the Roberta Bondar Postdoctoral Fellowship, Trent University, 2010
  • Recipient of the John Crampton Travelling Scholarship, Australia, 2002-2006
  • Queen’s Trust for Young Australians, 2000

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