When initially beginning my directed study the thought of starting a research project sounded simple and straightforward. The project began with a discussion between myself and my industry partner Vincent Branson, chairperson of Ngadjuri heritage, and sounded something like this:
ME: Vincent, I am enrolling in a directed study, would Ngadjuri be interested in being my industry partner and support me to do a small research project that I could present to Ngadjuri as a written report.
VINCENT: Yeah, Yeah.
ME: Cool, umm, what sort of project would you recommend.
VINCENT: Ngadjuri are really interested in things related to the Barossa region, you know what I mean, and there is not enough information within this region.
Easy as that, or so I thought. The methodology for me tackling this project was “simple”, research the area using ethno-history, find the ethno-history in archives, interpret the history, end of project – and all in one semester.
The first clue that perhaps this was not going to be as easy as all that, came two weeks into my project when most of my time was being consumed, not by research but by talking and consulting with archivists and others which returned little interest and even less information in regards to my research. Furthermore, after meeting with Dr Amy Roberts it became obvious that the scope of the research was becoming much broader then I had anticipated.
Currently Dr Amy Roberts holds a lecturing position at the Flinders University. Prior to this Dr Roberts was a ‘senior professional officer with South Australian Native Title Services’. Vincent suggested that I speak with Dr Roberts due to her experience working with Ngadjuri in the past and any advice she offered would be both in Ngadjuri’s best interests and mine.
After consulting with Dr Roberts it became quite clear that this research, while meaning well, was too complex for a direct study. For example, from her own experience, analysing ethno-historical information for a project like this is a process that doesn’t take a day or a week but could take months – and I didn’t have months to do this.
A later issue that I also had to grapple with was the complexities of group compositions in the Barossa. The South Australian Museum ethnographer Norman Tindale, for example, had interpreted this area as being historically a locus of three groups: Kaurna, Ngadjuri and Peramangk. My research in this area could potentially have consequences for other groups as well as Ngadjuri. With this in mind and the support of Vincent Branson I abandoned this project. Nevertheless, not all was lost and a more discreet project was negotiated, one that I think is far more manageable and now sees me researching the life of Vincent Branson’s great grand father, Barney Warrior (Waria) who had worked with some of Adelaide’s ethnographic elite such as Tindale, Mountford and Berndt during the late 1930s.
I wont go in-depth about this new project at the moment but I think that the experience I had organising my first directed study demonstrates that a good project is not one that just sounds exciting and interesting but one that is manageable and achievable within the time given and it was better that I recognised this when I did rather than trying to achieve what was most likely not possible and realising this at the 11th hour and failing completely.
Good luck everyone.
Oh, and big thanks to Vincent Branson and Dr Amy Roberts for their contributions to this blogpost, and Wayne for the use of his computer.