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‘This is not our first pandemic’: Indigenous perspectives on crisis and repair

‘This is not our first pandemic’: Indigenous perspectives on crisis and repair

The opening keynote of the ADI 2021 International Conference, featuring Katerina Teaiwa and Bhiamie Williamson in conversation with Mark Rose

For Indigenous people and communities, the experience of catastrophic change is not new. As Bidjigal, Gweagal and Wandi Wandian elder Aunty Barbara Simms has stated, referencing the smallpox outbreak of 1789 that decimated Aboriginal communities around Sydney Harbour after being introduced by British colonists: “COVID’s not our first pandemic.” To this experience of infectious disease can also be added the experience of dispossession, of environmental destruction, and of the multiple forms of cultural and bodily violence associated with ongoing processes of colonisation. This keynote panel brings Aboriginal and Pasifika scholars together to reflect on both Indigenous experiences of, and responses to, these long histories of catastrophic change. What kinds of post-pandemic reconfiguration would it take to address the historical injustices and marginalisation that COVID-19 has exacerbated? What might be learned from Indigenous understandings, and practices, of resilience and recovery?


Bhiamie Williamson is a Euahlayi man from north-west New South Wales with familial ties to north-west Queensland. Bhiamie has a Masters in Indigenous Governance form the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the Australian National University. His research focusses on several areas including cultural land management, Indigenous peoples and disaster recovery and Indigenous men and masculinities. He is currently a PhD candidate and Research Associate at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU.





Katerina Teaiwa is of Banaban, I-Kiribati and African American heritage, born and raised in Fiji. She is Associate Professor in Pacific Studies and Deputy Director – Higher Degree Research Training – in the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University. She is Vice-President of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies, Chair of the Oceania Working Party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and Art Editor for The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. Katerina is a regular contributor to public discussion on the Pacific, author of Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba (2015), and a practising visual artist touring her multimedia installation Project Banaba curated by Yuki Kihara.



Mark Rose is an Aboriginal man traditionally linked to the Gunditjmara Nation of western Victoria. With a forty-year career in education Mark has contributed to a broad range of educational settings within the state as well as nationally and internationally. At a state and national level and with community endorsement Mark has served on five ministerial advisory committees. In 2003-2005 Mark co-chaired the Victorian Implementation Review of Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. For six years, Mark held the Chancellor position at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education Darwin where he saw Indigenous education engagement with Timor. Over the last fifteen years, Mark has held senior academic positions and in 2020 he became the inaugural Pro-Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Innovation at Deakin University.


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