A GROUNDBREAKING STEP: Macquarie enters new territory with its new Indigenous Queer Studies Unit

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Words || Katelyn Free

Macquarie has made a landmark change to their Indigenous unit offerings through the introduction of a new hybrid unit looking to centre the experiences of queer Indigenous peoples. 

As part of Pride Month, Indigenous Early Career Academic Fellow Andrew Farrel gave an online presentation titled ‘Developing and Delivering Indigenous Queer Studies,’ exploring the themes and concepts behind Macquarie’s new Indigenous Queer Studies unit. In explaining the creation of the new unit, Farrel stated that “While generally treated as separate fields of research, Indigenous Studies and Queer Studies share many empirical, political, and theoretical considerations.” Farrell further noted that the unit and event were aimed at exploring “the need for a better understanding of Indigenous queer identities and the specific challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ+ people continue to endure.”

This announcement came alongside Macquarie’s decision to join in with a program of Pride Month events for the first time, in collaboration with other Australian universities. This collaboration is part of the recently created NSW/ACT Higher Education Pride Network, described as “a collective effort by several universities to foster LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the Higher Education sector by sharing leading practice on policy, processes and systems, learning and teaching, and leadership from our organisations,” by Izzy de Allende, Coordinator of Workplace Diversity and Inclusion at Macquarie and Network member.

The unit seeks to combine the fields of Indigenous and Queer studies as they both focus on the subjugation, marginalisation, and violence that minority populations experience. While both fields have sought to prioritise the voices of Indigenous and Queer peoples respectively, the new unit addresses the need for a better understanding of Indigenous queer identities and the specific challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ+ peoples experience under colonisation. As of yet, no other Sydney universities have sought to create a program that bridges the two fields of research. This makes Macquarie the first to take this practical step in combining the disciplines to create richer cultural understandings and educational offerings. 

The stories of Queer Indigenous peoples have historically been more in the territory of VICE documentaries and Junkee articles, however Macquarie’s new unit is changing that gaze. By centering these experiences in its academic offerings, the university has taken an important step forward in acknowledging the nuanced experiences of our First Nations people and recognising that these experiences are a fundamental aspect of contemporary Australian culture. 

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