First Nations scholar wins prestigious award

Dr Debbie Bargallie with AIATSIS Chairperson Jodie Sizer. Photo: AIATSIS

First Nations Griffith University researcher Dr Debbie Bargallie has been named the 2019 winner of the prestigious Stanner Award for her analysis of racism in the Australian Public Service (APS).

The Stanner Award is presented by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander Studies biennially for the best new manuscript written by an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander scholar.

Dr Bargallie, a proud descendent of the Kamilaroi and Wonnarua peoples, is a senior research fellow at the Griffith Institute of Educational Research and her research, titled Maintaining the racial contract: Everyday racism and the impact of racial microaggressions on “Indigenous employees” in the Australian Public Service, investigates the experiences of 21 Indigenous employees of the APS.

Dr Bargallie worked for the public service herself for 14 years before she took a redundancy when she was unable to relocate because her mother was in hospital following a stroke. This redundancy lit a fire in her belly.

“My decision to take a voluntary redundancy — what for any other person may have been a personal matter — became for me an act of political warfare,” Dr Bargallie said.

“I wondered how many other Indigenous employees this had happened to.”

Dr Debbie Bargallie. Photo: AIATSIS

Her thesis draws on yarning sessions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working for or had previously worked in the APS and found Indigenous employees were exposed to multiple experiences of covert and overt racisms that manifested through racial microaggressions.

“The research found that racism pervades the APS and that Indigenous employees feel their engagement, promotion and general workplace interests are affected by this,” she said.

“Racism is vehemently denied by those who claim to be committed to Indigenous employee career progression yet racial microaggression and everyday racism mark the daily experiences for Indigenous employees in the workplace.”

As the winner of the Stanner Award, she receives a glass sculpture, $5000 in prize money and the publication of her manuscript by Aboriginal Studies Press.

Dr Bargallie said she was proud of receiving the award and Griffith University Acting Dean (Academic) Professor Susan Forde echoed the sentiment.

“This award is a terrific outcome and a wonderful recognition of Dr Bargallie’s important work in critical race theory,” Professor Forde said.

“To have the Aboriginal Studies Press publishing Dr Bargallie’s manuscript as her first sole-authored book is a considerable milestone.”

Dr Bargallie’s postdoctoral research project at Griffith University is titled Breaking the Racial Silence: Fostering critical racial literacy in Australian universities for understanding race and racism.