School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne
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Questions of what or who is critical to managing the COVID-19 pandemic have been at the heart of media discussion, public recognition and government policy on a global scale. Such concerns – of what constitutes critical workers, material resources, public services and community responses – are being addressed and prioritised at local and national levels in different ways, even as collective anxieties over the COVID-19 pandemic vie for attention with other social, economic or political crises in given places. In this context, it becomes important to consider what is hidden or unseen amid a global pandemic, of how individuals, communities and other key workers are excluded from ‘frontline’ imaginings of crisis and pandemic. Drawing on research expertise and insights from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, India and Indonesia this Critical Issues panel event will explore these issues, asking what is both critical and hidden in the time of COVID-19.
The Narrm Oration is the University’s key address profiling leading Indigenous peoples from across the world in order to enrich our ideas about possible futures for Indigenous Australia. The 2021 Narrm Oration will be delivered online by Professor Papaarangi Reid from the University of Auckland on the theme of Navigating Indigenous Futures.
‘If you google Indigenous peoples, the images that come up are usually of people wearing traditional ceremonial attire, in cultural settings or in remote locations. As Indigenous peoples, we have spent most of our post-colonial time surviving genocide, demanding Indigenous rights, telling and retelling Indigenous histories, reclaiming languages driven close to extinction, protecting our other-than-human relations in natural environments, and rebuilding the legitimacy of Indigenous knowledge traditions. Such colonial imagery and these battles force us to be constantly focused on the past.
Meanwhile, our present is littered with the “C” crises – colonialism, capitalism, consumerism, COVID, and climate. These critical current challenges are impacting hugely on our futures, both the futures that emerge and those we dare to envision.
Māori have a saying – i ngā rā o mua – the days of the past are in front of us, and therefore we walk into the future bringing our experiences of the past. To live up to the expectations of both our ancestors and our descendants as yet unborn, we need to fully imagine and plan to navigate Indigenous futures; to heal our planet and ourselves, to find joy, and to rebuild respectful relationships. In this oration, I will discuss issues I believe will help or hinder our navigation points into our futures.’