Each month Griffith Library discovers more about a remarkable Griffith researcher. This month we spoke with Dr Troy Meston, Gamilleroi Senior Research Fellow in the Griffith Centre for Social and Culture Research.
Troy’s work employs critical Indigenous studies and decolonial praxis to investigate the intersections between education, technology and Indigenous studies. He has amassed diverse work, constructed curriculum and industry outputs across Indigenous sport, financial literacy, cognitive science, Indigenous health and education.
Troy applies national research acumen from roles with peak bodies, such as the Australian Sports Commission and Australian Institute of Sport, where he developed the Yulunga: Indigenous Games publication and managed Indigenous athletes in a program that led toward the Beijing and London Olympic games. He is a former Research Fellow with the Australian Council for Educational Research, where as part of an Indigenous team, he produced outputs for the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Research Council Science of Learning Research Centre.
Can you tell us a bit about the projects you are currently working on?
I am the Indigenous pedagogy leader working with Indigenous learners in a remote Queensland school as part of Griffith Spotlight initiative, Digitising the deep past: Machine learning, rock art and Indigenous engagements with 21st-century technology. As the world’s oldest continuing culture, in one of the remotest corners of Australia, Aboriginal cultural heritage is helping to pioneer new archaeological techniques using cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In this Spotlight, our team of archaeologists, computer engineers and educators are being led by traditional owners and Aboriginal rangers to preserve sacred sandstone rock art galleries. With the onset of recent catastrophic climate events, like bushfires, extreme heat and the threat of air pollution, sacred rock art galleries have become increasingly threatened. Driven by traditional owners wanting to protect these galleries for future generations, archaeologists travelling with Aboriginal rangers have been photographing images of traditional art motifs. Some of these images then form part of a digital collection used in an app designed by a Griffith information technology team to help catalogue the motifs.
The connection between cultural heritage and advanced technology has led Griffith educators to design and implement a culturally appropriate digital technology curriculum in our site school.
What sparked your passion for this topic?
My motivation stems from my background as a teacher and parent with Aboriginal children in school. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap centralises education’s role in building safe, healthy and economically independent Indigenous communities. However, despite the national agreement’s intent, scope and investment, comprehensive data indicates that Indigenous learners remain underserviced and culturally alienated in Australian schools.
In parallel to the continuing education challenge, many Aboriginal communities and families also face various socio-technical challenges that hamper benefitting from the possibilities of digital technologies. These challenges include sporadic internet connectivity in remote regions, the scaling cost of digital devices and the internet, and basic digital literacy to navigate the online realm properly. Summarising the gap between those with access to digital technologies and the internet and those without is the term the digital divide. Our research is helping to provide much-needed, innovative thinking to help bridge the challenges of school and the digital divide to ensure Aboriginal children have the same opportunities as others in Australia.
What advice would you give to researchers just starting out?
Research is often an isolated activity, so new researchers must ensure they are self-directed and can be the source of their motivation. Also, prioritising time to write is essential. I have found that blocking off the first part of my working day for uninterrupted writing (free of email, meetings, social media, and the line) is useful. Routines and structure help drive productivity when motivation wanes.
You are listed as one of our experts on Griffith’s Voice to Parliament web page. Can you share your thoughts on how an Indigenous Voice to Parliament could help enhance Australian schooling and educational outcomes?
To clarify, I am certainly no expert on constitutional recognition. My contribution to Griffith’s voice was my own thoughts and concerns, writing from the position of an educator with ‘skin in the game’, so to speak. I believe most Indigenous Peoples would consider a Voice to Parliament an essential component in Australia’s approach toward a shared governance model, although not the sole component.
As First Peoples and traditional custodians of Country, it would seem logical for Indigenous Peoples to control what is happening inside Indigenous communities. I worry, however, that the Voice functions only in an advisory capacity, without influence over what happens outside of Indigenous communities. In the absence of the power of veto and without the power to control funding, issues connected to climate or matters of international relations and diplomacy will be left exclusively to governments. History has proven that governments do not always have Indigenous interests at the forefront of decisions, particularly on mining, agriculture and water rights.
Pragmatically, I wonder also if a Voice is the most impactful intervention to initiate meaningful, generational change for Indigenous families. I would imagine immediate economic allowances under the current governance model, such as elite school entrance, higher education without fees, transitional income without taxation and home ownership without interest, would initiate greater change at the site where it’s most needed, in Indigenous homes, quicker than a far-off advisory body in Canberra. From little things, big things grow, I guess…
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