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2023 Stanner Award winner announced

Dr Janine Gertz has been announced as the winner of the prestigious 2023 Stanner Award, AIATSIS’s biennial award for Australia’s best academic writing by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander author. Dr Gertz is a Gugu Badhun/Ngadjon-ji academic and her winning entry was her PhD thesis ‘Gugu Badhun Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Nationhood’.  

Mr Leonard Hill, interim CEO of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), announced Dr Gertz as the winner and congratulated her on being selected from a record number of entries.

“Dr Gertz’s thesis was selected by the judges from a record 21 entries. The judges described her thesis as ‘exciting’, ‘beautifully written’, and they said that it ‘imagines otherwise,’” Mr Hill said.

Dr Gertz said of her win: “To be picked amongst that field is a complete honour, shock and surprise but, also, I’m proud because I put a lot of work into my thesis … my cultural identity is in that thesis.” 

2023 Stanner Award winner - Dr Janine Gertz

“The project came to me because I really could see that Gugu Badhun and our way of being and our Gugu Badhun culture, political identity, is under threat … and it made me start thinking what we can do. This study is more about what Gugu Badhun could be, rather than what it was, or what it is currently … so we can move towards a way of living that is about thriving,” Dr Gertz said of her thesis.  

Mr Hill added: “The quality and number of entries to the 2023 Stanner Award demonstrates the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academic writing.”

The biennial Stanner Award is open to Australian Indigenous academic writers. The winner receives $5,000, editorial support leading to publication by AIATSIS’s publishing arm Aboriginal Studies Press, and an inscribed glass eel trap sculpture by Jenni Kemarre Martiniello. 

The long running award acknowledges the significant contribution of the late Emeritus Professor WEH (Bill) Stanner to the establishment and development of AIATSIS.

Watch the winner announcement by AIATSIS interim CEO Leonard Hill below, along with a discussion between Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson and Dr Janine Gertz.

AIATSIS interim CEO Leonard Hill announces the winner of the 2023 Stanner Award, followed by a discussion between Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson and Dr Janine Gertz.

  • Transcript

    Leonard Hill
    Yuma! My name is Leonard Hill. I am the acting CEO of AIATSIS and a proud Ngemba man from the North West NSW region. Today I am honoured to announce the winner of the AIATSIS Stanner Award for 2023.

    But first, I want to start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land from where I am speaking from today, the Ngunnawal people and recognise any other people or families with a connection to the lands of the ACT and region.
    I pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present, and extend our gratitude for their ongoing custodianship of this sacred place.

    The prestigious AIATSIS Stanner Award, recognises, supports, and promotes the exceptional scholarly contributions of Indigenous academic writers and I am proud to share the brilliance and dedication of these individuals with you. 

    At the heart of our Institute's mission lies the commitment to facilitate and publish exceptional research within Australian Indigenous studies. Our panel of esteemed judges meticulously evaluated a record 21 submissions, which I will now acknowledge. 

    Associate Professor, Annette Gainsford - Embedding Indigenous Knowledges in the Design of the Higher Education Curriculum: An International Study in Law Education

    Dr Ash Francisco - From Protection to Welfare: orchestrated disadvantage in New South Wales 1937–1943. 

    Dr Ben Wilson - Stories for Country: Developing a Place-Based Pedagogy Based on Indigenous Ways of Knowing.

    Professor Brenda Croft - Kurrwa to Kartak: Hand-Made/Held-Ground. 

    Dr Brett Biles - ‘Strong Men’: Aboriginal community development of a cardiovascular exercise and health education program.

    Dr Eddie Cubillo - Defending the Defenceless: Indigenous Self-Determination and Legal Services in Australia.

    Dr Fiona Wirrer-George - The Call of Lineage: A Living Epistemology.

    Ms Glenda Kickett - Benanginy Dangalang, Picking Everlastings: A Story to Listen and Learn.

    Dr Jacynta Krakouer - Journeys of connecting: Understanding cultural connection for First Nations children and young people in out-of-home care.

    Dr Jo-Anne Edwards - Weaving the past into the future: the continuity of Aboriginal cultural practices in the Dharawal and Yuin nations.

    Dr Kirsten Thorpe - Unclasping the White Hand: Reclaiming and Refiguring the Archives to Support Indigenous Wellbeing.

    Dr Kylie Close - The return activated sludge sidestream process and the role of Tetrasphaera, a fermenting polyphosphate accumulating organism.

    Dr Mitchell Rom - Navigating the Interface: A critical insight into some of the key challenges with working, learning and contemporary policy in Indigenous education at university through storied experiences.

    Dr Rose Barrowcliffe - Reading between the lines: Uncovering Butchulla history in the K’gari Research Archive.

    Dr Samantha Cooms - Decolonising Disability: Quandamooka Weaving.

    Dr Troy Meston - Coloniality, Education and Indigenous Nation Building.

    Dr Wendy Somerville - Koori Critical Storying Re-imagining to re-connect with memories, archives, and Country.

    From these entries the judges selected a shortlist of three:

    Dr Stanford Bartholomew whose thesis is: The relationship between local governments and Indigenous institutions: a comparative case study.

    Dr Janine Gertz whose thesis is: Gugu Badhun Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Nationhood


    Dr Wendy Hermeston whose thesis is: Safe, Protected … Connected? The Best Interests of Aboriginal Children and Permanency Planning in the NSW Care and Protection System.

    And now, it brings me great pleasure to announce that the winner of the 2023 Stanner Award is Dr. Janine Gertz, a woman of Gugu Badhun and Ngadjon-ji heritage hailing from the North Queensland region, for her thesis ‘Gugu Badhun Sovereignty, Self-Determination, and Nationhood’.

    On behalf of the AIATSIS Council and our entire staff, I extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Gertz for this remarkable achievement. The judges described her thesis as ‘exciting’, ‘beautifully written’, and said that it ‘imagines otherwise’.

    As the Stanner Award winner, we look forward to working with Dr Gertz through our publishing arm, Aboriginal Studies Press, to bring her thesis to publication. I’m also delighted to announce that because of their very high standard of writing and research, the judges have highly commended the two shortlisted theses by Dr Stanford Bartholomew and Dr Wendy Hermeston. Congratulations to them both.

    Thank you to the judges and to all the entrants of the 2023 Stanner Award. It is extremely gratifying to see a record number of entries for this year’s award. Your participation ensures the award’s continued success.

    AIATSIS and Aboriginal Studies Press is committed to supporting and publishing Indigenous-led research and academic writing. We look forward to continuing to support the Indigenous scholars in the coming years. Now, it is my pleasure to invite Dr. Janine Gertz to discuss her winning thesis.

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    How did you feel when you got that first phone call that said you're on the short list? 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Well, first of all, I was just really happy and overwhelmed with that. To be shortlisted is an honour in itself, and then to be told that I was the first prize winner, that was just completely overwhelming.

    I, of course, got emotional with that because I understand it was a very competitive field this time round. So, I think that that's testimony to the efforts of all of our Indigenous scholarly leadership in the higher education sector and the wave of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher degree by research students coming through this amazing field, people doing very interesting new and innovative projects.

    Just is exciting for me. So, to be picked first amongst that field is just a complete honour, shock and surprise. But also, you know, I'm, I'm proud because I, you know, put a lot of work into my thesis. A lot of me, a lot of my families put into that. So it's, and my cultural identity is in that thesis so I just like so proud and happy.

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson
    Well, absolutely. Congratulations. This year we had probably more entrants than years before, and this was the first time I had the privilege of being a judge. And I felt really excited about that as well, because being the 2013 winner and then publishing my book and then now being asked to come back and be a judge on this, it's such a privilege to read all those theses.

    So, there was three judges and so we were given a selection of each of the theses to read. And, you know, it's a, it's a huge task to read that and to really engage with the work. But wow, some absolute brilliant theses coming through and it gives me great hope for our future, seeing such great scholarship. And then we all put forward our preferred candidates and then from that we all read them and so we read each other's preferred candidates and then it slimmed right down to, you know, six, the top six, and then we all reread them again and thought about who would be in the top.

    And then we came together at AIATSIS which was lovely to be on AIATSIS building there on Ngunnawal Country to think about who would be the winner. And it gave me great joy to see your thesis come to the top of all of those because of the content. I feel like your thesis is really about the future, what the future could hold, and also about imagining a future that we can return to ourselves and be, you know, really strong in our thinking about our intellectual genealogy, that we come from.

    So, thinking about the past, our elders and all the knowledge holders that have come before us. And I think that your work has really outlined that well. So, I think you are absolutely deserving of this fantastic achievement, and I really can't wait to see it out on the shelves as a book. How does it make you feel that you will be the author of a soul authored monograph very soon?

    Dr Janine Gertz

    That to me, if you asked ten-year-old Janine if that was ever possible, I wouldn't have thought so. So, you know, academia has come late in the piece to me, I'm a mature aged student. So, But I think that that absolutely I had to take that path because I don’t think I would have been able to write the kind of thesis that I did without the level of knowledge, the trust that I have with my community and my people in Gugu Badhun And, you know, having that maturity also to know and understand the knowledge that's been passed on through my ancestors and, you know, my grandparents, my uncles, my Aunties, and my, and my parents.

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    So, on that, tell us a little bit about your thesis. So, what's the title? What, will it be the same for the book? And tell us sort of the crux of the content. 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    I'm really not sure on the exact title for the book, but I don't think there's any reason to change it.
    But the PHD topic was Gugu Badhun Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Nationhood. This title came to me or the project came to me because I really could see that Gugu Badhun, in a way, being in a Gugu Badhun culture, our political identity is in threat, and the biggest threat to that is the Australian state and all of its operations. So, it made me start thinking about what we could do and you're right Bronwyn, this study is about more about what Gugu Badhun could be rather than what it was, or what it is currently.

    It's it is looking towards that future and a post-colonial future, I hope, in which we can escape this kind of mode of survival that we’re currently in and move towards a way of living that is about thriving. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson
    I could just...  it’s so joyous to actually read your work and think about it in terms of that Indigenous futurisms and what that might entail. And I really do think that it will inspire our next generation of scholars to think about how they can do work with their own communities in that context, if that's what they choose to do or how they can draw on that thinking and your work to to inform their own work for the future. I think that as a book, this is going to be such a valuable resource for our next generation of scholars.

    So, you know, just the biggest congratulations to you. I'm looking forward to seeing what the cover looks like. That's always really exciting part of the process. They will do some mock ups and send that to you and actually get to work with you to put together the book so you can hold it in your hand and know that this is a solid outcome that will change everything for you and your career. But it's also going to change and inspire the minds of the next generation. 

    Dr Janine Gertz
    Ah that prospect is really exciting Bronwyn, like and thank you so much for your kind words. I also feel the responsibility of that. You know, quite heavily. And I know that that's, you know, I didn't write this thesis for it to be on a shelf.

    I want it to be living, and out there and useful to not only my people but others if they find it useful and applicable to their situation. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    Oh, I think you've nailed that. I don't think there's any problem there. I think it's going to be very useful. I'm super excited and it might interest you to know that, you know, in the academy having a book that you sole author is considered a really, you know, impressive feat.

    And there are, you know, not dozens and dozens of Indigenous people in that space. So, the Stanner Award, one of the really wonderful things about this opportunity is that it produces like now real world scholarship, produces it in a book in quite a fast pace really. And then it's out there in the world and there aren't that actual many.

    So, we can, even Stanner Award winners over the years, There's not like collections and collections of these things. So, you actually are in a, a small group of people who have produced fabulous research that is really will change the landscape. I know quite a few Stanner Award winners and I know that winning the Stanner Award has changed their actual academic career, has progressed it, It has meant a lot to them. And even if you think about these other valued academies that we have, like the Australian Academy of the Humanities and all that, some of the criteria for those groups is to have a book. And so, you're amongst, you know, probably a small percentage of people who actually achieve that.

    And so, along with the award, you've achieved this fantastic academic success. I think everything will change for you. Definitely get that application in. 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    I'm so glad. I'm very aware of the prestige, you know, and the elevation that a Stanner Award can provide a scholar so, I'm very grateful and honoured for that. And I think you're right seeing the other trajectories of other Stanner Award winners and how that's changed their career pathway I think, yeah, no doubt I’m onto a pathway of bigger and huge things, so I just want to thank the judges and all the of those involved in reading all of the theses and, you know, choosing mine! 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    Well, like I said, it was an absolute honour to be able to read this thesis and to like, I fell into it like I did almost like a novel because it was like learning about all of your, like the past, the, the future aspirations of a particular community and also the way you've weaved in western thinking and methodological ideas in this, really, that's a really excellent feat. 

    I love the way you use Deleuze in this. I love the way you've used big thinkers and you've actually showed how relevant they are to Indigenous thought and thinking and how they can actually, you know, be really useful to us, but also for us to move beyond them and critique them, Right? So, you've done a brilliant job in that space.

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Thank you. Bronwyn, I really did identify with Deleuze and Gutiérrez work, because they discussed power and the way that states exert that power over minorities. And I felt that that was really useful in the way that they discuss how to break free. Right? Break through that. Not be in a constant struggle in a in a binary dance of opposition. So that spoke to me and I think that that's really where I would like to see our people move towards like we have to do things I feel inside and outside the system but we shouldn't just rely on the Australian state to remedy all of our issues.

    Well, particularly we, our cultural sovereignty should never, ever be a subject or a matter of the Australian state. But there is matters we need to, we can't ignore it, we can't ignore the existence of the Australian state. So I, I  hope that I’ve been able to lay down a pathway and strategy for working both inside and outside the system and in also working through mapping out jurisdiction, I think, a jurisdiction for each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nation and working a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations to be able to work out what is negotiable, what is and isn't the business of the Australian state, what but also not ignoring that this important work actually has to happen with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations the relationship needs to and the negotiation actually has to start there before we need to start thinking about, you know, working these things through with the, with the Australian state. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    Yeah, such important work in this time of discussions around treaty and what does sovereignty mean. But for me I guess the entire thesis and the excitement of it being a book is that it is really a product that shows hope, that shows that, you know, we can return to ourselves with an idea of what a future might look like in all this entanglement, you know?

    So, I think, yeah, hope is a really powerful motivator for our young people. And I think that that your book will give them that. 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Right, and we need to imagine what our future looks like for us to be able to put in place the strategies now to work towards it. That's really what I was hoping to outlay for us is that, you know, start imagining these things, prefigure what we need to do, start acting as if it is our future and put in place these things now.

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    Look, I think that's really important because I feel like young people in the world today feel a sense of hopelessness. And for our own people, it is a that's a much deeper feeling because of the colonial state. So, I think to have hope and to imagine something that's different, that's going to be so inspirational, I think. Great job.

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Thank you, And I think the other thing I wanted to just reassure the rest of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia that our culture has always been changing. There's a kind of thinking that it's been static over the millennia that we've been here but it has had to have changed for us to be able to survive.

    And so, I just see this new dilemma of being colonised as a new challenge that we need to address, you know, head on, not shy away from it and know that we, just our culture, will adapt and cultures will adapt to new political dilemmas that happen to us. But I but the important thing is us needing to be proactive, proactively charting out what could come for us and then having those structures in place, our political governance, our cultural governance, not that they’re different.

    I'm saying that they are one and the same, but having those things in place so that we can respond to things that that come our way. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    So, Janine, you mentioned that you work at the University of New South Wales and Nura Gili and that's fabulous. Where exactly did you study and do your PhD? 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Being a North Queenslander, I'm now in far north Queensland. So, it was a logical decision for me to be studying at James Cook University. I completed all of my studies at James Cook University, so I have to acknowledge the training and the support that I’ve received from the Indigenous Education and Research Centre and also the College of Art, Society and Education at James Cook University throughout my studies. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson

    So again, Janine, just congratulations. This is an amazing achievement. Your work is absolutely fantastic. Can't wait to see it as a book. Can't wait to hold it in my hand and I'll be coming over there to Nura Gili.

    As an alumni of the University of New South Wales, I'll be on campus to get my signed copy and feeling very proud to know you and meet you. And look, I think, you know, the Stanner Award can really make careers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    It's a fabulous process where your peers are the people who look at your work and think this is this is, you know, warranted. It is fabulous. It meets all of the requirements to be a scholarly output, like a monograph. All I can say is just it's well-deserved. Your work is brilliant and I'm looking forward to see what you produce next. 

    Dr Janine Gertz

    Thank you so much Bronwyn. Your words are overwhelming. Very kind, I'll accept them. As I will accept the award. 

    Distinguished Professor Bronwyn Carlson




Last updated: 13 November 2023