Bruce Pascoe appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture

Indigenous author and advocate Bruce Pascoe has joined the University of Melbourne as Melbourne Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences (FVAS).

The role, which will sit within the School of Agriculture and Food, has been designed to build knowledge and understanding of Indigenous agriculture within the Faculty and to grow engagement and research activities in this area.

Mr Pascoe is best known for his 2014 non-fiction work, Dark Emu, documenting and arguing for the restoration of forgotten food production and land management techniques used by Indigenous communities over thousands of years.

Dark Emu
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books 2014

He said his interest in developing traditional Indigenous farming and foods for broader consumption was a particular driver in joining the University.

“I wanted to be in a position where I could be closer to potential research students,” Mr Pascoe said. “We’re identifying areas all the time where we need some research done.”

Mr Pascoe also sees an opportunity to open the door to greater collaboration with Yorta Yorta people at the Faculty’s Dookie agricultural campus in the Goulburn Valley region.

“Let's put our food science there. There must be incredible [native] flavours and salads and tubers and fruits that we can begin work on. So, we're going to need land and we're going to need a research facility that is Aboriginal-owned or has Aboriginal management.”

Mr Pascoe believes there is a great opportunity to understand more about Indigenous agricultural and food traditions by creating dialogue between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

The contribution from Indigenous Australians could also help contribute to carbon neutrality in food production.

University of Melbourne Associate Provost Professor Marcia Langton said, “Mr Pascoe’s appointment provides an opportunity to further our understanding of Indigenous agricultural practices and to support him in engaging with Indigenous knowledge holders to document these ancient practices for future generations.

“Bruce Pascoe’s commitment to the recovery of Indigenous agricultural practices and native plants will enrich our curricula and contribute to the recognition of Indigenous knowledge as part of the mission of our University community.”

Marcia Langton, Bruce Pascoe, Kate Howell, John Fazakerley
Bruce Pascoe photographed with (L-R) Professor Marcia Langton, Doctor Kate Howell and Professor John Fazakerley at the FVAS 2018 Research Week.

The University hopes to foster greater interest from young people in studying agricultural and food sciences in order to solve critical issues around reconciliation and sustainability, a sentiment aligned with Mr Pascoe’s own values.

“I've got enormous faith in young people,” Mr Pascoe said. “They're the people who write to me about Dark Emu because they want the world to change and they’re so serious about environmental damage. So, they’re my fellow conspirators. I’m very positive. I've got enormous hope.”

Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences Dean Professor John Fazakerley is enthusiastic about the greater potential for collaboration with first nations people to shape the direction of teaching and research within the Faculty.

“I’m looking forward to how Bruce Pascoe’s appointment will allow our students and academics to consider different ways we can approach issues as diverse as food nutrition and climate change mitigation.”

Acting Head of the School of Agriculture and Food Professor Brain Leury believes the impact on research will be enormous.

“We have an opportunity here to focus our scientific research on what has historically been an underserved area by incorporating Indigenous knowledge and culture.”

Professor Aaron Corn, Director of the Indigenous Knowledge Institute, said, “The Indigenous Knowledge Institute was established earlier this year to support communities to help sustain Indigenous knowledge systems, and to champion the inclusion and value of Indigenous knowledge and knowledge-holders in research. This appointment by FVAS helps further those aims with a clear commitment to deepening our understanding and investment in Indigenous agriculture and ecological knowledge. It will open up a range of opportunities for collaborative research partnerships with Indigenous communities and knowledge-holders..”

Mr Pascoe’s appointment commenced in late August.

Mr Pascoe is a recognised researcher and speaker on Indigenous agriculture, food production and land management; a former Adjunct Professor of Indigenous Knowledge in the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney; a board member of First Languages Australia; board member of the Twofold Aboriginal Corporation, Eden; and he received the 2019 UTS Vice-Chancellor’s Social Justice and Human Rights Award.

Banner image: Magabala Books.