Reigniting Connections: Aboriginal women and cultural burning in NSW

Ms Vanessa Cavanagh1

1University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia


There is a long relationship between Aboriginal people, fire and Country. In Australia this relationship supported sustainable livelihoods for thousands of generations. European invasion resulted in Aboriginal people being displaced from our lands and cultural practices, including the use of fire. Recently, there has been a push from Aboriginal groups to reinvigorate cultural burning practices. Cultural burning can produce environmental and social outcomes, such as bushfire hazard reduction; benefits can include strengthening cultural identities and communities, encouraging continuing cultural practice and intergenerational knowledge transfer. Working within an Indigenous research framework, this research aims to better understand Aboriginal women’s engagement in cultural burning in NSW. In this presentation I examine the gendered dimensions of cultural burning in NSW including barriers to participation, meanings and outcomes. My research seeks to positively influence cultural burning policy development and management, to support an increase in Aboriginal women’s participation.


Vanessa Cavanagh is from the Bundjalung and Wonnarua Aboriginal nations. Her career is focused on Indigenous in caring for Country relationships, of which Vanessa has both practical and theoretical experience. Vanessa is a PhD candidate and an Associate Lecturer within ACCESS in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at UOW.

Diverging water and land property rights: Historic acquisition pathways and implications for contemporary Aboriginal water access

Mrs Lana D. Hartwig1,2, Dr Sue Jackson1, Dr Natalie Osborne2

1Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

2School of Environment & Science, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia


In Australia, territories have been returned to First Nations peoples’ ownership and/or control under a variety of settler-colonial redress and restitution regimes since the 1970s. By comparison, matters relating to Aboriginal property rights in and to water both within and beyond these regimes remain largely unexplored. Many interconnected and complicating factors likely contribute to this dearth of awareness, including the historic bundling – and more recent separation – of land and water property; very delayed recognition of Indigenous peoples’ unique water interests in Australian water policies and legislation; and the lack of water redistribution mechanisms introduced for Aboriginal peoples’ benefit. Research in 2009 compiled known Aboriginal-held water entitlements across Australia for the first time, and found most were within NSW. However, analysis or explanation about how and why these entitlements (and not others) were acquired remains undeveloped. This paper addresses this gap by identifying the major processes of Aboriginal water acquisition in NSW, drawing from archival research and interviews. In doing so, we illuminate specifically how historical injustices from Aboriginal land access are critical to understanding contemporary patterns of and constraints on Aboriginal water holdings and access. Aboriginal water holding trends over the last decade will also be briefly considered.


Lana Hartwig is a final-year PhD student at the Australian Rivers Institute and School of Environment & Science at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Lana’s PhD research explores struggles over Aboriginal water access within contemporary neoliberal water governance in the State of New South Wales.

Cultivating boundary crossers – trespass gardening by urban Maori as Indigenous leadership and critical pedagogy

Dr Brad Coombes1

1University of Auckland


Those who pursue Indigenous resurgence in cities often encounter vexatious counter-claims about authenticity. Multiply disenfranchised, urban Maori contest claims against their legitimacy, but they also engage in alliance building, cross-cultural and intergenerational learning. In south Auckland, one alliance practises landscape rehabilitation to prove cultural connections to whenua (land) and to achieve visibility for overtly social and political goals. Its trespass cultivation defends cultural heritage from urban sprawl, but it is also entangled with social construction of urban indigenous identities and various forms of moral leadership. With intent to cross boundaries set by Pakeha and Maori, clandestine restoration has become more daring, less legal, and more conspicuous. Children and families perform this boundary crossing through ‘plant bombing’ and ‘guerrilla gardening’ – generative practices that create new or resurrect old connections to land, and which sustain critical thinking and intergenerational politics. This approach to critical pedagogy demonstrates flaws in other modes of environmental learning, suggesting that the academy may need to leave the classroom or lyceum to achieve relevance in Indigenous communities.


Brad Coombes ( – Kati Mamoe – Ngati Kahungunu) researches postcolonial politics at the intersection of debates about indigenous resurgence, environmental in/justice and political ecology. He regularly contributes to Treaty and claims settlement processes and he chairs a Maori land incorporation in south Otago. Brad is a member of the board of trustees for the urban Maori group he will discuss in his presentation.

Bringing Indigenous Standpoints to Trans Geographies

Ms Corrinne Sullivan1

1Western Sydney University


The emergent field of transgender geography centers the specificity of transgender experience in

space and place building a strong foundation for empirical and theoretical scholarship situated in the embodied experiences of trans people, but as a whole has not yet engaged with trans experiences of Indigenous peoples and people of colour.  Drawing on Indigenous Standpoint Theory (Nakata 2007; Moreton-Robinson 2013) and trans geographies this paper discusses the lives of Indigenous trans people through the lens of sex work detailing the ways in which sexuality, gender and emotion are navigated. In doing so, this paper complicates concepts of race, gender and sexuality, contributing narratives from Indigenous Standpoints which enrich the trans geography literature.


Corrinne Sullivan is an Aboriginal scholar from the Wiradjuri nation, a Senior Lecturer at Western Sydney University, and a PhD student in geography at Macquarie University. Her research interests focus broadly on experiences and effects of body and Identity in relation to Indigenous peoples. Corrinne’s knowledges stem from the disciplines of Indigenous Studies and Human Geography, she utilises both to understand the ways in which Indigenous peoples are affected by their experiences of space and place.

About provides delegate registration, website and app solutions, and financial management for conferences, conventions and scientific meetings.

Terms & Conditions

All registrations and bookings are subject to our standard term and conditions.

Contact Us

Please contact the team at with any questions regarding the conference.
© 2017 - 2020 Conference Design Pty Ltd. is a division of Conference Design Pty Ltd.