Monash University Professor awarded prestigious research fellowship to support Gunaikurnai archaeological discoveries

Monash University

Professor Bruno David from the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre has been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Industry Laureate Fellowship to research coastal archaeological sites and preserve Indigenous cultural heritage with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GKLaWAC).

Professor David is just one of eight new Fellows announced by the ARC across Australia, and one of only two Monash academics to receive the accolade.

The Fellowship, ‘Katungal: Managing archaeological sites threatened by sea level rise’, investigates coastal archaeological sites and landforms on GunaiKurnai Country that are endangered by sea level rise. The project aims to generate new knowledge on the distribution, characteristics and antiquity of archaeological sites in vulnerable landforms of the Gippsland coast.

The project is based on an extensive co-design process with GunaiKurnai Traditional Owners, working in partnership to protect the cultural landscape by uncovering stories left by GunaiKurnai Ancestors for countless generations. Building the capacity of community members is a permanent feature of GKLaWAC’s Whole-of-Country approach to managing GunaiKurnai Sea Country (Katungal).

Professor David said he was honoured to be awarded the Fellowship to research in culturally appropriate ways and support knowledge-sharing of GKLaWAC staff.

“I feel incredibly privileged to receive this Fellowship, which underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in Indigenous archaeology,” Professor David said.

“Through the ‘Katungal’ project, we aim to not only preserve coastal archaeological sites but also to empower Indigenous communities in managing their cultural heritage in the face of environmental challenges. None of the work I have done to date would be possible without the insight and support from GKLaWAC and the GunaiKurnai Elders and community.”

Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Katie Stevenson, congratulated Professor David on his Fellowship and well-deserved recognition for his academic efforts and ongoing collaboration with local Indigenous communities in the Gippsland region.

“Professor David has worked for decades in the field of Indigenous archaeology and has pioneered approaches that integrate archaeological-geomorphological methods to reveal how landscape features were actively formed by people as they socially engaged with their surroundings.

“This is a career-defining moment for Professor David that will also have a lasting impact on preserving important sites and landscapes of great importance to GunaiKurnai Traditional Owners. Monash University is privileged to have such a dedicated academic committed to his work and to the community,” Professor Stevenson said.

Through the Fellowship with GKLaWAC, Professor David will work to develop a new, nationally and internationally applicable method to predict and monitor the susceptibility of coastal archaeological sites to erosion, and the training of a generation of GunaiKurnai Traditional Owners in land-and-sea Country research, monitoring and management. This approach will provide significant benefits for the self-determining management of coastal archaeological sites and landscapes by Indigenous organisations for future generations.

/Public Release.