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Indigenous innovation wows international audience

indigenous innovator Bundaberg
Indigenous innovator: Bundaberg's Leslie Lowe has shared his experience of First Nations’ sustainability practices with a global audience as part of CQUniversity’s Festival of Change

Indigenous innovator and award-winning CQUniversity Bundaberg alumnus Leslie Yulang Lowe has shared his experience of First Nations’ sustainability practices with a global audience, as part of CQUniversity’s Festival of Change.

A proud Bundjalung man, Mr Lowe is the managing director and co-founder of TECKnology Indigenous Corporation (Traditional Ecological and Cultural Knowledge), an environmental and heritage conservation social enterprise.

He presented his personal insights and research to a packed online forum on Thursday, 29 July.

The Social Innovation Through an Indigenous Lens session attracted participants from around Australia, as well as India, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Mr Lowe presented a passionate perspective on Indigenous ways of knowing, being and learning.

“Often I hear people talk about our history as Indigenous culture, but it's really Indigenous civilisation – and it's an innovative civilisation, with innovative ways of learning,” he said.

“When I read a lot of academic papers, I’m so dismayed when it talks about the simple nomadic hunters of Australia – we were far from that.

“We had mass systems of agriculture, we had villages that housed thousands of people, it was a dynamic and robust community that withstood three ice ages, major inundation events.”

indigenous innovator Bundaberg
Bundaberg's indigenous innovator Leslie Lowe presenting in the iChange social innovation orientation program at CQUni.

Co-presented by CQUniversity Social Innovation Program Manager Ashley Clarke, the session included research, in consultation with CQUni’s Office of Indigenous Engagement, and Mr Lowe’s personal experience.

Mr Lowe is also working to share the Indigenous knowledge with the next generations, and described a recent student camp at Turraburra near Aramac, which is home to a 200m ‘story wall’ filled with tens of thousands of engravings, paintings and petroglyphs.

“We took the children through the Indigenous systems of learning, exploring constellations, navigation, plants and environment, how society and community grows,” he said.

“They were told the stories, they painted the stories, they sung and danced the stories.”

“I was mesmerised by the way that style of learning impacted on the students, and also the teachers – they wanted to know, how do we take this back to our mainstream learning systems?”

The indigenous innovator was CQUniversity’s Alumnus of the Year for Social Impact in 2020, recognising his work as a social entrepreneur, and also as a leader at CQUni, presenting the iChange social innovation orientation program.

In 2013, Mr Lowe received a CQUniversity Opal Award for his Gabai Native Bee Project, which uses Indigenous knowledge to develop sustainable bee hives.

The Social Innovation Through an Indigenous Lens session was developed thanks to a $US10,000 Working Across Differences Fund grant from global social change network Ashoka U, supported by US community-building initiative the Fetzer Institute.

CQUni was eligible as an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus – Australia’s only university recognised as a global leader in social innovation and changemaking by Ashoka U.

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