Professor Heidi Norman is a leading researcher in the field of Australian Aboriginal political history. Her research sits in the field of history and draws on the cognate disciplines anthropology, political-economy, cultural studies and political theory. She has made significant contributions to the understanding of Aboriginal social, cultural, economic and political history where she addresses questions of power in relation to Aboriginal citizens, the state and settler society and Aboriginal land justice.
Her research has included: a history of the NSW Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout; the social and economic impact of mining in relation to Gomeroi lands and people; study of economic change over time and relationship to Aboriginal lives in cities. In 2015 she published a political history of Aboriginal land rights in NSW titled 'What Do We Want? A Political History of Aboriginal Land Rights in NSW'. In this first-ever study of land rights in NSW, she documents the movement for land rights, how the laws changed relationships between Aboriginal people, the state and one another. From 2018 she has commenced a large ARC funded study of the social, economic and cultural benefits of Aboriginal land repossession in NSW.
Professor Norman is an award-winning researcher and teacher. She was awarded the UTS research excellence medal for collaboration (2015), National Teaching Excellence Award for her work in Indigenous studies (2016), awarded the inaugural Gough Whitlam Research Fellowship (2017–18) and in 2018 she was announced as a 'Top 5' ABC humanities researcher.
- She is from the Gomeroi nation in north-western NSW.
- Member of the NSW Aboriginal Affairs Research Advisory Board.
- Member of AIATSIS, Congress and convener of the 'Indigenous Land and Justice Research hub'.
Can supervise: YES
Professor Norman is currently working on three key research projects:
- A three-year study of the social, cultural and economic benefits of Aboriginal land repossession in NSW.
- Study of 50 years of news media coverage representation of Indigenous interest in Australian policy discourse.
- Aboriginal polities and recognition of political power.
The Indigenous Land & Justice Research Hub is a space for Indigenous researchers and allies. We aim to engage in scholarship that is driven by indigenous interests, collaborating with first nations communities in Australia and worldwide.
Treaty and agreement-making
Nation-building, sovereignty and self-determination
Land and/or water rights
Climate change and extractivism
Environment and heritage management
Policy, planning, development and sustainable resource management on Aboriginal land
Comparative indigenous history
Professor Norman contributes teaching to the Social and Political Sciences (SPS) major and elective subjects in the School of Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The Communication program elective subject 'Aboriginal Political History: ideas, action and agency' is offered in Autumn and Spring semester. The subject is supported by a student journal where the best student work is published each year. The journal encourages students to enagge with the scholarship of Aboriginal political history as serious public intellectuals. NEW: Emerging scholars in Australian Indigenous Studies, can be viewed online.
For too long Australia’s media has failed to communicate Aboriginal political aspirations. This unique study of key Aboriginal initiatives seeking self-determination and justice reveals a history of media procrastination and denial.
A team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers examine 45 years of media responses to these initiatives, from the 1972 Larrakia petition to the Queen seeking land rights and treaties, to the desire for recognition expressed in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. This analysis exposes how the media frames stories, develops discourses, and supports deeper historical narratives that corrode and undermine the intent and urgency of Aboriginal aspirations, through approaches ranging from sympathetic stalling to patronising parodies.
This book can be used by media professionals to improve their practices, by Aboriginal communities to test media truth-telling and by anyone seeking to understand how Aboriginal desires and hopes have been expressed, and represented, in recent Australian political history.
Norman, HR 2015, ‘What do we want?’: A political history of Aboriginal land rights in New South Wales., Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, ACT.
Goodall, H, Norman, H & Russon, B 2019, '‘Around the Meeting Tree’: Methodological reflections on using digital tools for research into Indigenous adult education in the networking tranby project', Archives and Manuscripts, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 53-71.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2019 Heather Goodall, Heidi Norman and Belinda Russon. The authors reflect on the methodology of using digital tools to learn about the experiences of Indigenous people enrolled from 1980 to 2000 as adult students at Tranby, an Indigenous-controlled post-secondary college. This collaboration between Tranby and the University of Technology Sydney drew on debates in post-colonial studies, oral history and archival studies. The authors found that participants prioritised personal control in all social media communication and engaged most actively in person-to-person communication to take part in this research. Participants were eager to share memories of student experiences but they have preferred to contribute to online publications which focused on activities, rather than on individuals. To support participants’ desire for control over digital communication, the authors slowed the pace of online outcome development to allow flexible and ongoing consent arrangements along with non-custodial approaches to oral, archival, photographic and material collections.
Norman, H 2014, 'Mapping More Than Aboriginal Studies: Pedagogy, Professional Practice and Knowledge', The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, vol. 43, no. 01, pp. 42-51.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The New South Wales Annual Rugby League Knockout, run on the long weekend in October, is the largest gathering of Aboriginal people in Australia. This signi?cant event, now running for 40 years, is run for and by the Aboriginal community and is largely funded by private sponsorship and community support. For the most part this major sporting and cultural event goes unnoticed by the wider community, save for anxiety over possible violence and disorder. Through interviews and observation and participation, I set to document the origins of the Knockout; how it came about and why and how the event has changed over time. Second, I examine the Knockout as a social, cultural and political phenomenon internal to the Aboriginal domain continuous with past traditional cultural practices and historically produced.
Norman, HR 2012, 'Australian Indigenous Tertiary Studies: A Discussion with Professor David Boud on Experience-Based Learning and the Transformation of University Courses', Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 34-39.
This article critically examines the possibility of using Problem-Based Learning as an approach to teaching and learning and curriculum design in Indigenous studies. This approach emphasises the potential for ExperienceBased Learning or Problem-Based Learning as a model that frames the curriculum and pedagogical activities to encourage student engagement with key issues in ways they ?nd meaningful. It takes the form of an interview with Professor David Boud, a well-known scholar in this area
Norman, HR 2009, 'An unwanted Corroboree: the politics of the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout', Australian Aboriginal Studies, vol. 2009, no. 2, pp. 112-122.
The annual New South Wales Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout is so much more than a sporting event. Involving a high level of organisation, it is both a social and cultural coming together of diverse communities for a social and cultural experience considered 'bigger than Christmas'. As if the planning and logistics were not difficult enough, the rotating-venue Knockout has been beset, especially since the late 1980s and 1990s, by layers of opposition and open hostility based on 'race': from country town newspapers, local town and shire councils, local business houses and, inevitably, the local police. A few towns have welcomed the event, seeing economic advantage and community good will for all. Commonly, the Aboriginal 'influx' of visitors and players - people perceived as 'strangers', 'outsiders', 'non-taxpayers' - provoked public fear about crime waves, violence and physical safety, requiring heavy policing. Without exception, these racist expectations were shown to be totally unfounded.
In 1978 the Wran Government announced an Inquiry to investigate a range of issues including Aboriginal land rights recognition, the causes of Aboriginal social and economic disadvantage, heritage protection and commonwealth and state relations. The Select Committee, chaired by state member Maurie Keane, in its `First Report that focused on land rights, not only fundamentally changed the way Governments liaise and consult with Aboriginal people, the Committee unanimously endorsed far-reaching recommendations including the ability to recover land, compensation for cultural loss and three-tier community driven administrative structure. All of this was set in the context of Aboriginal rights to self-determination and fundamental attachment to land as a cultural relationship and historical reality. The movement for land rights was the culmination of many years of land justice activism, shifting policy at the Commonwealth level and wider international movements contesting colonial rule and racism. More specifically the land rights movement in NSW was galvanised in response to the previous Governments renewed efforts to assimilate Aboriginal people and revoke reserve lands and the limited land rights recognition made possible through the Aboriginal Lands Trust (herein `the Trust). This paper argues a more focused and pronounced campaign emerged in the mid 1970s whereby land rights `time had come as a result of Aboriginal political activism and the alliances formed with and among left social movements. This movement created the political climate for the Wran Governments announcement of the Select Committee Inquiry in 1978.
Norman, HR 2007, 'From Assimilation to Self-Determination: The Report of the Select Committee Upon Aborigines', Journal of Indigenous Policy, vol. 7, pp. 69-89.
1983 the NSW Government passed Ihe Aboriginal Lond Rights Act 1983 (ALRA). The ALRA established the three-tier community driven land council network, a fifteen year funding arrangement to support enterprises and sustain the network into the future and a mechanism for land recovery. The ALRA came after nearly 200 years of colonial land dealings. Therefore the recognition of Aboriginal land rights has to necessarily deal with this past activity. But there are other detailse nmeshedin the passing of the ALRA. This paper sets out to demonstrate the connections between land dealings, the economy and the administration of Aboriginal Affairs across the policy eras including 'protection', 'assimilation' and 'self-determination'.
Norman, HR 2006, 'A Modern Day Corroborree: Towards a history of the New South Wales Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout', Aboriginal History, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 169-186.
A brief history of the annual football competition involving teams from all over the state, which is little known Aboriginal event that is significant for far more than its purely sporting connotations, Annual New South Wales Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival, is presented. The different articulation of political activism, the importance of kinship and family relations, the organization, the cultural practice and historical association that interact in a dynamic process are analysed.
Norman, HR 2006, 'The Report of the Standing Committee on Social Issues: Inquiry into Issues Relating to Redfern and Waterloo', Journal of Indigenous Policy, vol. 7, pp. 3-10.
In February 2004 when a young Redfem Aboriginal man died, it was perceived by many to have been a result of over-policing and scrutiny by the police. More specifically it was widely understood amongst the Aboriginal community that the young man's death occurred while police were pursuing him. Following this death there was an uprising by Aboriginal people that came to be a confrontation between the police and about 100 Aboriginal people.
Norman, HR 2004, 'Exploring effective teaching strategies: simulation case studies and indigenous studies at the university level', Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, vol. 33, pp. 15-21.
This paper explores teaching strategies for communicating complex issues and ideas to a diverse group of students, with different educational and vocational interests, that encourage them to develop critical thinking, and explores pedagogies appropriate to the multidisciplinary field of Aboriginal studies. These issues will be investigated through discussion of a successful simulation case study, including the setting up, resourcing, conducting and debriefing. The simulated case study was an assessed component of the new elective subject, Reconciliation Studies,offered at the University of Technology Sydney. In 2003 students participated in a role-play based on events in relation to the development of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge.Students were assigned roles as stakeholders where they researched and then role-played, through their assigned characters, the multilayered and complex dimensions of this recent dispute. Students were required to reflect critically on the cultural, economic, legal and political issues that were pertinent to their stakeholder and explore the underlying racial, ethical and moral grounds for their particular standpoint. I argue that teaching strategies such as these can contribute to locating Indigenous Australian perspectives and experiences as critical within the professional profiles and practice skills of Australian university graduates.
Norman, HR & Buckley, B 2002, 'An examination of the limitations of reconciliation as a framework for Aboriginal social policy development', Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 10-17.
Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H 2019, 'Findings' in Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 232-241.
Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H 2019, 'Introduction' in Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 9-9.
Norman, H 2019, 'Approaches to teaching Aboriginal history and politics' in Clark, A, Allender, T & Parkes, R (eds), Historical Thinking for History Teachers A new approach to engaging students and developing historical consciousness, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, pp. 299-309.
Rich with insights into historical skills, historical concepts and critical thinking, as well as practical guidance on translating principles into engaging classroom approaches, this is an essential reference for both pre-service and in ...
Norman, H 2019, 'Assimilation, self-determination and normalisation: Aboriginal worlds, rugby league and the state' in The Difference Identity Makes, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 161-177.
In The Difference Identity Makes, thirteen Indigenous and non-Indigenousacademics examine how this distinction structures the work ofcultural production and how Indigenous producers and their worksare recognised and valued.
Norman, H 2019, 'From recognition to reform: the Uluru Statement from the Heart' in Does the Media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 216-230.
Our final case study is the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart (hereafter the Uluru Statement). The Uluru Statement is an unprecedented moment in Australian political history. It is unprecedented because it represents a pan-Aboriginal policy position arrived at by consensus and with the claim to be an endorsed Aboriginal view. As will be explained, the discourse of recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty within the Uluru Statement successfully assuaged the idea of contesting settler colonial authority through careful use of a discourse of reform and accommodation within the settler colonial state. The setting allowed for Aboriginal people to exercise control over the media narrative and to ensure immersion of journalists in Aboriginal worlds, hopes, emotion and sentiment to carefully construct a narrative that links the present reform with the past and with Aboriginal agency. Finally, unlike all other events studied, the Uluru Statement was addressed to the people, rather than to or by a representative of the government or formal institutions of power.
Norman, H 2019, 'White possession and belonging: a treaty to secure Australians of European descent in an ancient land' in Does the Media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments,, Aboriginal Studies Press, pp. 55-73.
The ATC sought to engage non-Aboriginal support for a treaty that emphasised security of tenure and belonging in an ancient land, supported through a discourse of new, united nationalism. ATC members were well-connected and presented their case for a treaty to the public as one of advancing this new nationalism. In contrast, the parallel Aboriginal push for treaty (see Allam, this volume) attracted very different media discourses of the debate among Aboriginal intellectuals about the best ideas, strategies and tactics to advance Aboriginal interests. I argue that media reportage carefully follows the logics of the ATC’s discourses and thereby counters established narratives by contesting subordination of Aboriginal sovereignty and White mastery.
Norman, HR 2014, 'A modern day corroborree - the New South Wales Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival' in Hallinan, C & Judd, B (eds), Indigenous People, Race Relations and Australian Sport, Routledge, London, pp. 83-99.
Widin, J, Norman, HR, Ndaba, A & Yasukawa, K 2004, 'An indigenous community learning centre to promote a culture of learning', Bridging cultures: ALA National Conference 2004, Bridging cultures: ALA National Conference, Adult Learning Australia, Adelaide, Australia, pp. 1-10.
This paper describes a project which focuses on the development of a schooled culture of learning in an inner city Indigenous community. The project is a collaboration between an urban Indigenous community in Sydney, the school that serves children from this community, and academics in the local University. The collaboration aims to promote an intergenerational and community based approach to fostering a schooled culture of learning among the Indigenous members of the community. This paper reports on some of the research from the literature that will inform the way the project will be conducted and framed.
Norman, H 2018, 'Barangaroo the woman', Expert Historian.
VIDEO: The legacy of Barangaroo resonates in the local Aboriginal community today. This oral history of her contribution is told by influential contemporary Aboriginal women living and working in Sydney who are inspired and influenced by Barangaroo. The film was made by Lendlease, the developer of Barangaroo’s southern financial and retail precinct.
Norman, H 2018, 'Four Thousand Fish and Broken Glass connect Sydney’s Aboriginal past to its present', The Conversation, online.
Norman, H Aboriginal Affairs NSW, Department of Education Sydney: Australia 2017, Return of public lands to Aboriginal Control/Ownership, Transforming the Relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and the NSW Government, Aboriginal Affairs NSW research agenda 2018-2023., pp. 15-30, Sydney.
Norman, H 2017, 'Four Thousand Fish and Broken Glass connect Sydney’s Aboriginal past to its present'.
Norman, HR 2015, 'Colebee and Nurragingy's land grant', Dictionary of Sydney.
Norman, HR 2015, 'Parramatta and Black Town Native Institutions', Dictionary of Sydney.