Emma Lee is an Indigenous Australian, a Trawlwulwuy woman from tebrakunna country, Tasmania, Honorary Member of ICCA Consortium and former ICCA Consortium Council Member with special responsibilities Oceania and the Pacific. Her work to decolonise the relationships between Aboriginal Tasmanians and the Tasmanian Government has won the highest research award, the Foundation Graduate Award, from the University of Tasmania in May 2018.
Emma is the first Indigenous person to win the prestigious Award. She is a key architect, together with other Aboriginal Tasmanian leaders, of a 2016 whole-of-government strategy to improve conditions in the relationships between Indigenous and other Tasmanians. The strategy allows all people to attack the wicked problems of healing colonising traumas through focussing on Indigenous strengths and assets of kinship, reciprocity and culture to ‘reset the relationship’ for a future where governance is healthy and violence-free.
The reset the relationship strategy has drawn policy directions for Indigenous land and sea management back together under an Indigenous-led framework for mutual benefits. Emma says that “when country and people are healing together, in full view and support from other Tasmanians, then we can remove the anxiety of finding the safe spaces to recover our cultural practices – they are everywhere and open”. Her work is on-going, from assisting to develop the first Tasmania joint management agreement over the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area protected area (or TWWHA country), to establishing a market for cultural fisheries in Tasmania, and is shaped by the compact that ‘reset the relationship’ has with all Tasmanians to respect and learn from each other.
Emma says that the ICCA Consortium has been an invaluable inspiration to her work. She adds: “the power of an international network of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities reminds me each day that our cultures matter and our efforts are important to make good the world. While our ‘reset’ thinking is centred upon our local country, our Elders and Old Ways, these actions contribute to a global story of how Indigenous knowledges and practices can decolonise relationships without creating further hurt to anyone, Indigenous or other”.
Emma is currently continuing her work in cultural fisheries and ensuring Indigenous rights create broad benefit to all regions in Tasmania.
“The key here is that all Tasmanians gain from Indigenous leadership. We are not greedy people, we want everyone to feel welcome and share in our benefits when our rights are freed from discrimination and dispossession. We cannot reset the relationship if it is only one-sided, if only we gain. All people of Tasmania must gain from new approaches to Indigenous rights”.
Emma is located at the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology, as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Fellow and is also an Adjunct Lecturer at the Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania.
Read more on Emma Lee’s award and work:
- Tasmanian Indigenous researcher honoured with top University award, University of Tasmania, May 2018
- Reconciliation in the sea’s bounty, In Research Impact, issue 4, by Swinburne University of Technology, January 2019. Page 24