Len Collard

Professor

  • The University of Western Australia (M303), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated using citation counts from Scopus for publications in the UWA Profiles and Research Repository
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Personal profile

Biography

Professor Len Collard is with the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia. Len has a background in literature and communications and his research interests are in the area of Aboriginal Studies, including Nyungar interpretive histories and Nyungar theoretical and practical research models. Len has conducted research funded by the Australian Research Council, the National Trust of Western Australia, the Western Australian Catholic Schools and the Swan River Trust and many many other organisations. Professor Collard's research has allowed the broadening of the understanding of the many unique characteristics of Australia's Aboriginal people and has contributed enormously to improving the appreciation of Aboriginal culture and heritage of the Southwest of Australia. Len’s groundbreaking theoretical work has put Nyungar cultural research on the local, national and international stages. Finally Len is a Whadjuk Nyungar elder and who is a respected Traditional Owner of the Perth Metropolitan area and surrounding lands, rivers, swamps ocean and it's culture.

Funding overview

1. Aboriginal Fathering Project 1: Aboriginal fathering in the international literature. (2016-2017) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $10,000.

2. Nyungar Placenames Project in southwest of WA. (2016-2017) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $10,000.

3. Aboriginal and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth, Health and Wellbeing Project - WA Study no1. (2014-2015) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $10,000.

4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth, Health and Wellbeing Project – QLD Study no 2. (2014 – 2015) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $10,000.

5. Identification of funding to explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth, Health and Wellbeing. (2014-2015) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $5,000.

6. Understanding how to best engage Indigenous researchers from a diverse range of Indigenous backgrounds, geographic localities and organisations in a collaborative health and wellbeing project. (2014-2015) Australian Research Council: Discovery NIRAKN $5,000.
7. Noongar kaatdijin bidi – Noongar knowledge networks; or, Why is there no Noongar Wikipedia? Australian Research Council: Discovery. (2014 – 2015) $3.500,000.

8. Indigenous Participation in a Low-Carbon Economy. (2013 – 2015) Australian Research Council: Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development, Australian Research Fellowship Indigenous $600,000.

9. Nyungar Boodjera Wangkiny = The People's Land is Speaking: Nyungar Place Nomenclature of the Southwest of Western Australia. (2011 – 2013) Australian Research Council: Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development, Australian Research Fellowship Indigenous 399,000.

10. Kaarla Yarning: Stories of Perth City of Perth, Lotterywest, Department of Aboriginal Affairs (2013 – 2014) $30,000.

Research

My research area is Aboriginal studies with a focus on Nyungar Theory: Boodjar, Moort and Katitjin which are the underlying tenets of all my research projects.  My Nyungar theoretical framework is a ground breaking and innovative approach to contextualise theoretical and applied Indigenous ways of knowing.  My framework has been shared at local, national and international levels so that it can be applied by all researchers in their scholarly endeavours. 

Another focus of my research is utilising and/or developing digital technologies and platforms to showcase my research projects including; Noongar-pedia, Nyungar Placenames, Nyungar Tourism in the southwest of Western Australia, Nyungar Wardan Katitjin Bidi - Derbarl Nara,  Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy : a Nyungar interpretive history of the use of Boodjar (country) in the vicinity of Murdoch University, Perth, Quop Maaman: Aboriginal Fathering Project, as well as  the documentary film Noongar of the Beeliar.  I continue to contribute to a wide range of journal articles, chapters and books.

Aboriginal knowledge espistemology in research, teaching and community engagement
Nyungar Language and culture wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/multimedia/nyungar www.derbalnara.org.au
Aboriginal Placenames of the south-west of Western Australia www.boodjar.sis.uwa.edu.au
Nyungar-pedia NoongarPedia
Cultural respect and goodwill
Men's social and emotional well being
Collaborative approaches to research, teaching and community engagement

Teaching overview

I have been able to make significant contributions to the Learning and Teaching outcomes for students, the University and the broader community, because of my extensive research grants and their focus on Indigenous knowledge, history and culture.  

Furthermore, I have used my vast experience, gained over a lifetime of contact with students, to improve and deepen courses.  For instance, the development of units with significant on-country components has been a major success. This has allowed students, particularly international ones, to experience place and to share in the discovery of learning through ‘being and doing’. 

It is essential to teach material about ‘boodjar – country’ in a way that truly and authentically connects the subject matter with the experience. Taught correctly, these opportunities can create unexpected outcomes which truly enrich the student experience. For instance, staff and students from UWA’s School of Indigenous Studies discovered a rare nineteenth century glass spearhead on an excursion to Rottnest Island (Wedjemup). It was the third time that UWA staff and students have uncovered spearheads on the island when learning about the history of Indigenous prisoners on the island. For each student involved, this is an extremely rare and rewarding occasion, combining the actual lived experience of ‘place’ with theories of indigenous culture, colonisation, and physical evidence, along with research process and ethics. 

These findings are the result of being able to the blend historical knowledge of knowing what to look for, with geographical conditions such as soil and water erosion over time. Such natural discoveries illuminate the strength and technology of our cultural heritage, and also the importance of utilising our local history to educate current and future generations. 

When taking these units, students engage with Indigenous people, Elders in the community and guest speakers.  They also participate in a range of experiential activities, intensive sessions and field trips.  Students also have opportunities to explore a range of source material, including community and family histories, literature, art, poetry, music and film and to also critically engage with the issues covered, across a number of disciplines, and connect to contemporary Australian social issues. 

Teaching philosophy

My academic career has primarily focused on Nyungar society, Australian Aboriginal society, Australian society and the international audience. My research focuses on Nyungar language and nomenclature; Nyungar Interpretive history, tourism and youth studies. I have had considerable involvement and success with academic research in these fields.  I am one of only a handful of Australian research scholars who has made an outstanding contribution to Aboriginal studies, and the only academic in Australia focused on Nyungar language, history culture and Nyungar place names.  

My lifelong understanding of the value of Indigenous knowledge and my commitment to cultural diversity arises from the philosophical base of my cultural values which include the following principles:

Windja Noonook Koorliny or Where are you going?; (Interrogating the student’s own motivation and desire): The first step in any process of recognising the importance of Indigenous knowledge involves a student interrogating their own motivation and desire – asking the question: where am I going and what motivates my learning?

Nitja Nyungar Boodjar or this is Aboriginal land (Land & Place); A student’s journey begins with a recognition that the south west of Western Australia is Nyungar Boodjar or Nyungar Country. This means that a principal theme, which must run through curriculum design, is recognition of Indigenous knowledge of legal, cultural, linguistic, and custodial obligations and rights to country. Students are taught to be mindful of their moral and personal obligations to recognise and respect the prior ownership of Indigenous cultural intellectual property. 

Moorditch Boordier or strong path-makers (Strength and Leadership); Indigenous people have often acted in leadership roles, influencing, directing and shaping economic, cultural, social and academic life for other Australians growing up in the south-west. Students are taught to shift their thinking in order to understand the strength and resilience of other local Indigenous cultures.

Kura, Yeye Boorda or the past, today and in the future (Continuity); It is a mistake for students to assume that Nyungar culture and land use, while once important, is no longer powerful. Curriculum designers must be mindful of the need to include a balance in the design between “old stories” and contemporary stories and that Indigenous land use has always been dynamic. 

I work on the premise of maximising engagement, influence and impact.  My effectiveness is supported by my deep knowledge of my fields, my intellectual and collaborative abilities, strict adherence to research governance and personal discipline.  

While my research has often been ground breaking, it is also practical, having been utilised locally, nationally and internationally. Results have been applied across a range of disciplines such as Sociology, Archaeology, Aboriginal Studies, Linguistics, and Environmental Studies among others. In addition my Nyungar community and other Aboriginal academics and community people recognise me as a leader and key contributor to Nyungar culture and history, Nyungar language and Nyungar placenames.  

I have taken the many opportunities through my research and grants to ensure that the Nyungar language is a core component of my publications and other digital platforms because language is more than just a means to communicate, it is an essential characteristic that makes people and communities unique, and plays a central role in a sense of identity. Language also carries meaning beyond the words themselves, and is an important platform within which much cultural knowledge and heritage is passed on.   The best available estimates put the number of pure Nyungar speakers at only 240 out of more than 30,000 Noongar people in Western Australia.  Today Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia are speaking out about the need to maintain, preserve and strengthen Indigenous Australian languages. There is currently a wave of activity, with people in many communities working to learn more about their languages, and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation.  My current work is paramount to meeting this wave of activity.

My Noongar katatjin bidi knowledge networks; or Why is there no Noongar Wikipedia? is a platform to build and protect Nyungar language for future Nyungar generations.  

Another aim of Noongar kaatdijin bidi – Noongar knowledge networks; or, Why is there no Noongar Wikipedia? is to use the Noongar language to model and assess the extent to which minority languages can thrive by using globally accessible Internet technologies. It will generate critical insights into the relations between knowledge, culture and technology and how oral and informal knowledge sources can be accessed for a text-based website in the digital era. 

Because the University encourages the indigenisation of its courses, many of our units are broadening units for degrees such as the; the Bachelor of Commerce, the Bachelor of Design, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science. Thus, I teach cohorts with widespread cultural beliefs, values, goals, opinions and motivations. To be an effective and inspirational teaching academic, I assess and constantly refine my arsenal of teaching methods in order to increase positive outcomes and to challenge each individual’s assumptions. I am also aware that many students must deal with complex external circumstances. Inclusivity of opportunity is a cornerstone of my teaching philosophy.  

In order to assist students to reach the high-level aspirations I seek for them, I utilise a range of assessment techniques. On occasions, when circumstances threaten to overwhelm individuals I willingly consider student requests for appropriate alternative assessment arrangements. I am conscious of thoroughly investigating all available strategies to ensure an individual does not fall unnoticed, through the cracks. This willingness to ‘individualise’ my approach has coincided with the encouraging growth of students enrolling in our broadening units.

My philosophy is that it is not enough to only increase a student’s IQ. My teaching philosophy is not limited to improving my understanding of my motivations, but also holds that it is my responsibility to help a student understand their own motivations. Once a student is armed with this knowledge I can then maximise a student’s learning experience, by appropriately introducing some of the layers of additional context. My fostering of their self-awareness leads to the self-reflection necessary for students to excel in these units, in their degrees and in their post-university lives. 

In order to continually improve the learning experience, I welcome feedback and evaluation of the content and on my delivery.

External positions

Adjunct Professor, University of Notre Dame Australia

2020 → …

Adjunct Professor, Curtin University of Technology

2015 → …

Industry keywords

  • Children and Young People

Research expertise keywords

  • Nyungar Language, Culture, Families, Country and knowledge systems
  • Indigenous higher education
  • Indigenous well being and cultural health
  • Indigenous men and boys
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander international collaborations
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theoretical and applied research
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges with particular focus on Nyungar

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