Curtin University



PhD Scholarship on Reconnecting to Rivers

Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University




We welcome expressions of interest in scholarships for Australian residents who are interested in pursuing a PhD on urban river landscapes. This PhD will be undertaken within an interdisciplinary team of researchers in a pilot project on approaches to historic river landscape planning – based on a holistic understanding of how these landscapes have been used, managed and valued over time by both Noongar and non-Indigenous communities. The core of the project is a collaborative mapping and monitoring process, mapping boodjar, run by and with Whadjuk Noongar leaders. These leaders and their families have long advocated for the socio-ecologies and important dreamings that sustain the Blackadder-Woodbridge catchment. 

Our pilot project, focused on Blackadder Creek in Midland and Swan View, will explore the critical link between an urban river landscape and the memory, life and health of a Perth community, documenting the value of waterways to wellbeing while providing the knowledge and tools to better protect these landscapes for future generations.

The scholarship(s) will provide an annual living allowance of approximately $28,092 per annum (2020 rate - indexed annually so will likely be slightly higher in 2021). All domestic students have their fees covered by the RTP, to a maximum of 4 years for PhD candidates. There may also be opportunities for additional income through tutoring and marking.

Areas of Inquiry:

1. Deep mapping of Blackadder Creek on the Swan Coastal Plain


This literary deep map will record and explore the narrative, historical and geographical dimensions of the Blackadder Creek Area (Eastern Swan River Region) over large periods of time, through the collection, recording and analysis of narrative, literary and folkloric texts.

Deep maps overlay representations of space with intellectual journeys and aesthetic engagements, including the traditional, mythic, literary, folkloric, historical, geographical, environmental and scientific. In this sense, stories of different cultures, times and world-views co-exist, but in separate, non-hierarchical relation. While deep maps “reference the tangible and material they include discursive and ideological dimensions […] topographical and relational, revealing ties that places have with others and revealing their embeddedness” (Bodenhammer, et al., 2015, p.4). The project seeks to arrange texts through geographical proximity and specificity, linking and comparing texts with different formal and poetic attributes and historical/cultural backgrounds, seeking productive and insightful relationships across boundaries of culture and time.

2. A geo-history of the relations between salt and fresh water in the catchment. 

Using concepts from environmental humanities, historical geography and political geography, this PhD project will use geological, interview, and archival data to interrogate the relationship and effects of salt water intrusion on the Blackadder landscape, and its implications for its human and non-human inhabitants.  Drawing on methods used in recent environmental histories of the Western Australian Wheatbelt (Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, 2017) and Mallee lands (Broome et al., 2019), this project will examine the socio-ecological shifts in Blackadder Creek through attention to the geopolitics of shifting regimes of flows due to seasonal and human interventions.

The PhD will be based in Faculty of Humanities and/or the Centre for Aboriginal Studies and supervised by members of the project team.

Project Team:

Associate Professor Tod Jones, a geographer who works in the areas of heritage, landscape planning, and Indigenous geographies.


Ms Vanessa Corunna, an Associate Lecturer in the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, a Noongar woman from Perth of the skin group Nagonuk with Ballardong and Palyku connections.


Dr Courtney Babb, planning researcher and coordinator of the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning.


Dr Jo Jones, a writer and researcher of literature whose research uses deep mapping to document and communicate river connection and heritage.


Dr Samantha Owen, a cultural and social historian and education researcher in the School of Education who works on community formation and belonging.


Dr Alan Hill, an anthropologist, wetlands and rivers ecologies and water sensitive design and water environmental planning expert.


Professor Anna Haebich, an historian recently shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for her book Dancing in the Shadows: Histories of Noongar Performance.


Dr Shaphan Cox, a human geographer in the School of Design and the Built Environment.


Dr Ranjan Sarukkalige, a senior lecturer in Civil Engineering in the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering.



If you would like to apply, please send any questions or an expression of interest, your academic transcript, and your CV to Tod Jones ( before 19 June 2020. Tod will provide you with referee report forms.

For more information:

Please contact A/Prof. Tod Jones ( with any questions you have.

On Reconnecting to Rivers:

On the RTP scholarship:






Make tomorrow better.


Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology
CRICOS Provider Code 00301J (WA), 02637B (NSW)