“Indigenous Policy and the Scientific Gaze” seminar with Grant Paulson, Casey Bird and Brooke Prentis for the Emmanuel Centre on Friday 7 April 2017, 12 noon–2.30pm. RSVP here.Western scientific knowledge separates out many things. It separates facts from meanings, technical questions of instrumental effectiveness from questions of value and purpose, and it separated the material from the spiritual. Western people can also readily separate the commercial and the political from the moral (we call that “realism”) and this separation is tied to the way we think about “merely” factual knowledge. To us Westerners, instrumental effectiveness, material reality and commercial “bottom lines” are facts and techniques that can be known and applied; but meanings, values and the spiritual are not matters of objective knowledge but of private belief. Indigenous understandings of knowledge — and hence of power and community — are not like this. To start with, the spiritual and the material are inseparable.
In Indigenous policy our state-run service providers presuppose distinctly modern and scientific ways of defining, understanding and addressing social problems. Sadly, many areas of Indigenous policy are also defined by a deeply persistent failure to achieve desired outcomes. Perhaps there is something wrong with the understanding of knowledge and reality assumed by the scientific gaze? Perhaps there are failure-entrenching power agendas served by the Western approach to knowledge and policy solutions? Three deeply thoughtful and community-active Aboriginal speakers will explore these questions and other features of the relationship between Indigenous policy and the scientific gaze in the seminar.
Grant Paulson is a Faith and Development Advisor with World Vision Australia and an Aboriginal Christian leader with an academic interest in exploring the importance of Aboriginal spirituality and social change. He has been a member of the Indigenous reference groups of Oxfam Australia and TEAR Australia, and has worked previously with Reconciliation Australia, the Foundation for Young Australians and the Collins Street Baptist Church. In his current role with World Vision, Grant is pursuing a “two way” approach to project design, implementation and evaluation, using a spiritual lens to amplify cross-cultural connections and enhance child and community wellbeing.
Casey Bird is an Aboriginal man born on Mandandanji country in the town now known as Roma. Casey’s cultural connection to country is through his great-grandmother whose mother was a Juru woman, part of the Birri Gubba nation, and father who was a Wulkurukaba man from the area encompassing Townsville. He has worked within the juvenile justice space for the last 16 years, starting as a youth worker in the then Department of Families. He completed his Bachelor of Psychological Science at the Australian Catholic University in 2012. For the past 12 months he has completed work focusing on better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who come into contact with the youth justice system. He has seen first-hand the mechanisms of policy development and their impact on the inequity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the Queensland Youth Justice System.
Brooke Prentis is an Aboriginal Christian Leader who is a descendant of the Waka Waka peoples. Brooke is the Aboriginal spokesperson for Common Grace, a growing movement of Christians focused on Jesus and Justice. Brooke is also the volunteer Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering, a national gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders. Brooke works ecumenically speaking on issues of justice affecting our nation and sharing a message of reconciliation as friendship. Brooke is a community pastor, speaker and advocate who has a vision “to build an Australia on truth, justice, love and hope”. Brooke is also a senior finance professional and holds a Bachelor of Commerce, a Bachelor of Arts, and a postgraduate qualification as a Chartered Accountant.