Who is nature? Indigenous Australian and Latin American dialogues with country

The question “Who is Nature?” implies the natural environment’s vital capacity for agency and interaction. Around the world this vision of nature is shared by First Nation communities who have developed sophisticated mechanisms of give-and-take with lakes, plants, landscapes, and other natural phenomena. Nature is not viewed as a resource to be owned or extracted but rather as a complex entity to respect and engage in dialogue.


Professor Adrian Hearn is an anthropologist who researches the cultural challenges and opportunities arising from international relations. His books include:

  • Diaspora and Trust: Cuba, Mexico, and the Rise of China (Duke University Press 2016, linked here)
  • The Changing Currents of Transpacific Integration (Lynne Rienner 2016, linked here)
  • China Engages Latin America (Lynne Rienner 2011, linked here)
  • Cuba: Religion, Social Capital, and Development (Duke University Press 2008, linked here)

Adrian's research is driven by questions about the interaction of global processes with local experiences.

What can Latin American, Australian, and Chinese cities teach each other about sustainable community food production and consumption? How can environmental education programs work more closely with First Nation communities? How can artistic collaborations illuminate cross-cultural knowledge to inform local development and foreign policies? How might China's Belt and Road Initiative better address social and ecological concerns in partner countries?

Adrian explores these questions with funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Open Society Foundations, the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the Council on Australia-Latin America Relations (COALAR), the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, AusAID, and others. Having lived in the United States for eleven years, Latin America for four years, and China for one year, he welcomes applications from national and international students seeking Masters or PhD supervision on these and related topics.

In addition to his academic work, Adrian leads a multicultural arts project called Suns of Mercury. The project's 360-degrees interactive film "Who Is Nature?" and 360 "Yoruba Heritage" virtual tour have featured in cultural festivals and classrooms in Australia, Latin America, and the United States.

Connect with Suns of Mercury on Facebook or in the below Links section to explore the "Who is Nature?" and "Yoruba Heritage" 360 projects.

Dr Steve Kelly is an Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Steve is a Nanda man and anthropologist whose research interests are: Aboriginal societies past and present, Aboriginal identity, kinship structures and Indigenous epistemologies.

Adrian Medina is a professional dancer and lecturer in performance arts and the president of the Cultural Association of Cuban Heritage and Roots in Australia. This is the first association of its kind in the country approved by both the Cuban and Australian government.


Professor Sarah Maddison is Professor of Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, and Director of the Australian Centre. She is particularly interested in work that helps reconceptualise political relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian settler state, including critical examinations of a range of relevant public policies. Her recent work has focused on the treaty process in Victoria, and she is currently working with the Australian Centre’s Deputy Director, Julia Hurst, exploring the role of truth-telling in treaty making. Sarah has also designed the Professional Certificate in Treaty, which includes the Preparing for Treaty series of Melbourne MicroCerts.

Sarah has published widely in international journals and is the author or editor of nine books including, most recently, The Colonial Fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve black problems (2019). Her other books in the field include The Limits of Settler Colonial Reconciliation (2016), Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (2015), Beyond White Guilt (2011), Unsettling the Settler State (2011), and Black Politics (2009). Sarah has led numerous research projects and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2011-14, undertaking a project that examined reconciliation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Guatemala. Her current ARC project is exploring intersections in Indigenous and settler governance regimes.

The presenters have granted permission for this recording to be used for personal viewing and educational purposes.