Cultural Transformations Projects

    Our goal is to support cultural expression, creativity, identity and the preservation and documentation of tropical cultural and linguistic heritage.

    Language projects

    Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence

    ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Origins and Transformations

    Indicative Funding: $4,914,000 over 7 years (administered by University of Wollongong)

    This Centre will create a world-class interdisciplinary research programme to understand Australia's unique biodiversity and heritage. The Centre will track the changes to Australia's environment to examine the processes responsible for the changes and the lessons that can be used to continue to adapt to Australia's changing environment. The Centre will support connections between the sciences and humanities and train future generations of researchers to deal with future global challenges and inform policy in an interdisciplinary context.

    Investigators: Richard Roberts, Susan O'Connor, Jennie Lawson, Zenobia Jacobs, Timothy Cohen, Simon Haberle, Michael Bird, Sean Ulm [Cairns Institute Theme Leader & Fellow], Chris Turney, Martin Nakata, Darren Curnoe, Alan Cooper, Corey Bradshaw, Laura Weyrich, Bruno David, Lynette Russell, Barry Brook and Chris Johnson in collaboration with Brit Asmussen, Chantal Knowles, Robin Torrence, Michael Slack, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Matthew Leavesley, Gifford Miller, Stephan Stephan and Michael Storey (University of WollongongAustralian National University, College of Science & Engineering, College of Arts, Society & Education, The University of New South Wales, Aust Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Centre, University of AdelaideMonash UniversityUniversity of TasmaniaQueensland MuseumAustralian MuseumScarp Archaeology Pty LtdUniversite de SavoieUniversity of Papua New GuineaUniversity of Colorado - BoulderMax Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and Natural History Museum of Denmark)

    Australian Research Council - Discovery - Future Fellowships

    Developing accurate trans-holocene coastal and ocean chronologies: Resolving fundamental problems in the dating of marine shell in the tropics

    Indicative Funding: $699,593 over 5 years

    Archaeological and quaternary science in tropical Australasia is heavily reliant on radiocarbon (14C) ages on marine materials. However, radiocarbon ages obtained on marine samples are not directly comparable to contemporaneous terrestrial samples owing to variability in the way 14C is distributed in marine environments (the 'marine reservoir effect'). Marine reservoir effects are highly variable and can introduce uncertainties of up to several hundred years into ages obtained on marine samples, creating a key obstacle for advancing archaeological, sea-level and climate change research. This project establishes a reliable model of marine reservoir effects across tropical Australasia that can be used to calibrate marine 14C ages.

    Investigators: Sean Ulm [Cairns Institute Theme Leader & Fellow] (College of Arts and Society & Education)

    ARC Linkage Project (LP110100658)

    Land, language and heritage

    Indicative funding: $304,724

    Building on academic work by RMW Dixon and educational initiatives by Ernie Grant, this large- scale cooperative initiative will produce comprehensive documentation of the Jirrbal Aboriginal tribe from North Queensland, in written, audiovisual and web-based form. It embraces traditional culture, recent history and language adaptation, enhancing the work of Partner Organisation, Echo Creek Cultural Centre, in the cross-cultural training it provides. The project is cast within the framework of the Holistic Approach (linking land, language and heritage), integrating and promoting indigenous knowledge. We work towards the empowerment of Indigenous Australians, reaffirmation of their identity and sustainable use of traditional environment.

    Chief Investigators: RMW Dixon, Alexandra Aikhenvald

    Collaborating School/Organisation: School of Arts & Social Sciences; The Cairns Institute; Echo Adventure and Cultural Camp


    The Ndu languages of New Guinea 

    The project investigates the structure and the spread of the Ndu languages of the East Sepik, PNG, the biggest language family in the Sepik area.

    The project will result in a number of grammars of Ndu languages, and an account of their migrations and history.

    Chief Investigator: Alexandra Aikhenvald

    Collaborating School: School of Arts & Social Sciences; The Cairns Institute

    The Tariana language revival (Amazonas, Brazil) 

    This is an on-going project focussing on description and maintenance of the Tariana language, the major Arawak language in the multilingual Vaupés area of Amazonia.
    The project provides continuous benefit to the community by producing grammatical studies, pedagogical materials, dictionaries and support for language maintenance and revival.

    Chief Investigator: Alexandra Aikhenvald

    Collaborating School/Institution: School of Arts & Social Sciences; The Cairns Institute; The Association of the Tariana of the Upper Rio Negro


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