Dr Tamara Power, Faculty of Health, Dr Danièle Hromek, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Gabriel Clark, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, were recognised at the recent UTS Learning and Teaching Awards for facilitating institutional reflection on Aboriginal sovereignty with their project Back To Country.

We interviewed Gabriel Clark Lecturer School of Design, team member of Back to Country project.

Please tell us a little about what your award was given for

We were awarded a Teaching and Learning award for Integration of Indigenous Professional Capabilities into Curriculum with the creation of a teaching and learning resource that performs an Acknowledgement of Country in a meaningful and reflective way.

This was achieved by creating an audio resource that can be played by teaching and other staff in the class room or other events. The audio titled Back To Country was written by Wiradujri woman and Senior Lecturer Faulty of Health Dr Tamara Power with Budawang / Yuin woman Dr Daniele Hromek.

Back To Country combines mindfulness practices and evocative sound design to assist the listener to reflect on sovereignty and the land that they are on. 

You can listen to it here https://backto.country/

What’s the trickiest thing about developing a cross disciplinary teaching resource?

Unlocking the resources of the university in order to make a collaborative project. The university has world class resources that can be utilised to create professional outcomes, including the excellent recording studios in the Media Lab, and the immersive environment of the Data Arena. Add to that launching a project at the beginning of a global pandemic, which caused the data arena version of the project to be impossible to launch or make available to students and staff .

What was your favourite part of developing the project?

Working with Gadigal, Dharug, Gundungurra and Yuin Elder; renowned storyteller Uncle Greg Simms whose voice you can hear speaking language in the recording. We recorded Uncle Greg Welcoming Country in the Dharug language, the many takes and laughs that we had in the recording studio with Uncle Greg made it a lot of fun.

Another highlight was developing the final mix of the sound for the Data Arena. The sound design was created by award winning sound designer Martin Peralta who designed two versions of the audio one for headphones and the other for the 16 channel speaker array in the Data Arena. The stereo headphone version utilises binaural audio to create an immersive audio experience whilst the sound design for the data arena utilises custom software that allowed us to track the audio around the space so that people experiencing Back To Country in the Data Arena experience a sense of space and movement. 

What do you plan to explore in learning and teaching in 2021?

During NAIDOC week we plan to make the Data Arena version of Back to Country available to the public with daily screenings.

What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in universities today?

Juggling the demands of the classes with the needs for students in online learning contexts, especially hard for studio based subjects that are modelling design studio processes, which require hands on feedback and personal interactions.  

What’s been your most memorable learning and teaching moment – as a teacher, or as a student?

Having alumni return and communicate how the skills and tools delivered in curriculum are being used in their professional practice. There’s a mix of confidence and humble pride that what I’m teaching is being utilised daily in an individual’s professional practice.

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