For NAIDOC week 2020 we introduce you to UOW’s first Indigenous Postdoctoral Research Fellow – Yuin woman Dr Marlene Longbottom (@DrMLongbottom) - who also advocates for young researchers via UOW’s Early Career Researcher Disruption Committee.

One aspect of Marlene’s research focus is on systems and structures that can negatively impact Indigenous communities,  while also continuing to work in the area of violence and trauma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in NSW.

“I’m gathering a variety of different data at the moment related to how Indigenous people are dying and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. At the same time, I’m focussing on obtaining a better understanding of the responses to Indigenous people who experience violence and trauma.”

“To date, my work takes a systems focus to better understand what is commonly known as the pathway to prison. I want to know what that means. As an Indigenous person, you don't wake up on a daily basis and say, ‘oh I'm on a trajectory to go to prison’. I want to identify what those pathways are, and then try to fix it, so Indigenous people don’t continually become entrapped across multiple generations within these carceral systems. An example could be where Indigenous children are suspended from school as a starting point. Our kids are pushed out of school, and into the juvenile justice system. Over time this becomes cumulative, establishing a potential trajectory that will lead to prison in later life. But I want to know the why and how this happens.”

Looking at data about death among Indigenous people, she is often reliving the violence, and trauma of the stories of the people who have passed, and the emotional impact it has on her is something she has to watch.

“Hearing the stories of Aboriginal women in the work I completed in the PhD (currently being transferred into a book) were pretty traumatic. These experiences laid the foundation for the work that I do now, and has helped me immensely to understand trauma. In the analysis and write up phase of the PhD I cried a lot. However, I made the decision to complete the work and let the tears flow. As I have progressed from this experience, I talk about this time as being a necessary part of my learning journey and my tears honouring the stories the women shared with me. Moreover, I want the work I have completed to help other women, as well as making a contribution to addressing the areas of violence and trauma that impacts Indigenous communities.”

As a key member of the UOW Early Career Research Disruption Committee (EC-DC), Marlene hopes her input will help with strategies to employ First Nations academics at various levels within the institution.

“Part of my role at Ngarruwan Ngadju First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre, as the VC Aboriginal Post Doctoral Research Fellow is to complete the program of work for my fellowship, while also create innovative ways for others to follow. I am the first Indigenous woman in this role for UOW. Certainly, it is my intention that I will not be the last. I am hopeful that my advocacy in this role will continue to see more PostDocs come through, to build a critical mass of Indigenous academics.”

“I hope that I can demonstrate to other early career researchers (ECRs) that their place is important in the institution and they actually see a pathway for their career.

“NAIDOC is a great start to engage with community. It is one week in the year, so I encourage staff and students to reach out this week and attend events that may be held across the community or virtually in our new norm. This is a celebration of the world’s oldest living culture; we are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders all of the time.”

 Marlene Longbottom