Reflections on Western Archaeology Training from a First Nation’s Perspective: Whose Knowledge and Whose Methods?

Posted by : David Jones Sept. 12, 2022

Contact : David at Maps

Some driving forces of our research into First Nations engineering is for creating a space that is relevant and supportive to Indigenous students who may wish to join the profession and educating our professional engineers to work with Indigenous communities, to know who to consult when they dig up artefacts The need to change the focus of engineering includes engaging students who can make this change. Kelly Anne Blake provides here both an understanding of the depth of knowledge our Indigenous students bring to the discipline and the issues they will confront during their study. Alex Devlin, an Aboriginal Construction Engineer talks about the importance of Aboriginal stories for informing engineering planning[1] and Kelly Anne provides the depth to these stories which are based so strongly in the history of Australia they create a spiritual basis to First Nations’ existence. We hope you enjoy this contribution from a different perspective.

Kim-Barne, Wadawurrung Tabayl. Welcome to Wadawurrung Country.

I’d like to acknowledge and honour Wadawurrung Country, the traditional lands on which my spirit connects to. The place of my ancestors, the origin of my bloodline. I pay my deepest respects to my elders, past, present and emerging. I honour all of which belongs to Country, lands, mountains, waters, seas and sky. I pay my respects to all living creatures great and small who share Wadawurrung country. I acknowledge and give thanks to my fellow brothers and sisters, the Wadawurrung people, the traditional custodians of the lands on which we respectfully care for and protect.

Koling wada-ngal - Let’s walk together.

Narrik (My name is) Kelly Ann Blake. I am a proud Wadawurrung woman. I wish to acknowledge my ancestors Nyatne (Thank you).

I never thought in my wild dreams that I would be writing this narrative or writing anything at all. I am 42 years old, I am a mother of three children, a mature aged student studying my master’s degree in Professional Archaeology and I work for my mob, the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC 2020). I have been asked to write this reflective narrative as a First Nation person’s collation of self-reflections about my journey through Western archaeology education.

Who am I and what do I know?

My journey in education throughout my years as a child, adolescent and now as an adult has been like a creek, ebbing and flowing. I am forever seeking knowledge but sometimes I am scared. Scared to learn because maybe I will get it wrong, maybe I am not smart enough or deserving enough to learn or to have a place in higher education; after all who am I? I didn’t come from a rich family, I was raised by my grandparents, who had little education. I had come from a small country town in central Victoria where it was a big deal to be employed at the local IGA.

It has always been a struggle for me to grasp concepts and content which is delivered through Western pedagogy. I’d like to say that my learning has been impacted by my diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, however, many people who have learning challenges believe it to be more than that. The Western ways of teaching, particularly in the academic discipline of Archaeology, seem so unfamiliar. Sometimes I am unable to relate to the ‘science of archaeology’ and feel so out of my depth within all of it. I feel off Country! Unfortunately, some people really make me feel this.


Extract from Chapter 14, Indigenous Engineering for an Enduring Culture, edited by Cat Kutay, Elyssebeth Leigh, Juliana Kaya Prpic and Lyndon Ormond-Parker. Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Author: Kellie-Anne Blake

Location: Wadawurrung 86 Mercer Street, Geelong VIC, 3220