• Class Number 6557
  • Term Code 3370
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 to 12 units
  • Topic Desert Knowledges: Mparntwe field school (12 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Mary Spiers Williams
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 01/10/2023
  • Class End Date 31/12/2023
  • Census Date 20/10/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 20/10/2023
SELT Survey Results

Each special topic is a unique course in Australian Indigenous Studies (AuIS) or in one of the other fields in which Indigenous Studies has been developed around the planet. Each topic varies, reflecting the interests, authority and expertise of those teaching the course. The mode of delivery and location of this courses varies. Some topics are taught intensively, others are taught seminar-long, on campus, or online. Some topics are taught in-place and off-campus. All are taught on-Country. All courses centre the knowledge, perspectives and ways of knowing of Indigenous peoples' scholarship.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. synthesise First Nations and other Indigenous people's knowledge or knowledges taught in this course;
  2. demonstrate insight into First Nations and other Indigenous people's perspectives taught in the course; and
  3. demonstrate insight into theoretical perspectives, methodologies from the discipline of Indigenous Studies that arise in this course, including those relating to standpoint.

Field Trips

This is a field trip based in Mparntwe (Alice Springs, Northern Territory).

Additional Course Costs

Students are required to pay for travel costs to Alice Springs, accomodation (shared accomodation has been organised), and a contribution to ground costs. Students are encouraged to apply for travel grants or other financial support. Students have opportunities to join numerous extra-curricular events that are on this week - including events that are part of Desert Mob (Opening night event is Thursday 7th September 2023) and the Desert Song Festival (8th to 18th September 2023).

Whether you are on campus or studying online, there are a variety of online platforms you will use to participate in your study program. These could include videos for lectures and other instruction, two-way video conferencing for interactive learning, email and other messaging tools for communication, interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities, print and/or photo/scan for handwritten work and drawings, and home-based assessment.

ANU outlines recommended student system requirements to ensure you are able to participate fully in your learning. Other information is also available about the various Learning Platforms you may use.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Other Information

About this special topic

Mparntwe is an extraordinary place. It is a place where Country cannot be ignored. The range which dominates Mparntwe (known now as the MacDonnell Ranges) is an ancient, eroded mountain range. Stunningly beautiful, the rocks still surge with beings continuously making and remaking this place.

Mparntwe has been a significant meeting place for millennia and the intersection of powerful tjurkurrpa. Alice Springs remains a site of convergence of desert peoples. As Mparntwe was transformed into a frontier outpost and supply centre, this place's people were rendered fringe dwellers by coloniser settlers. For over a hundred and fifty years, it has been subjected to relentless, incremental colonialism by settler Australia. Desert peoples have tenaciously pushed back: they transformed those impoverished fringe camps into a housing cooperative of town camps. Some now live in homelands nearby. Others have become part of the middle class. Home of the Arrernte, the forced removals of desert peoples from their homelands to make way for cattle and mining, these diasporas have been forced to live on other's Country. Alice Springs is one of the few places in Australia where settlers are forced to confront their colonisation of this continent: desert peoples are visible and occupy this space. Desert peoples inhabit and thrive, resist the adversities of colonialism, and struggle. It is a site of intersection of good will and idealism, craven opportunism and greed, simple existence and distressing disruption. It is a complicated and compelling place.

This course explores the initiatives, agency and tenacity of first peoples in central Australia. It contextualises their lives and insists on keeping within the frame of consideration the complex forces at play in their lives - the scrutiny to which they are often subjected, the intervention into and constraints on their lives, our shared histories that weighs haunts us. This awareness can engender new insights into their achievements - some of which have been staggering in their international impact. It can help to make sense of the extreme and distressing challenges with which this community grapples.

This is the first time that we have taught a field school in Indigenous Studies in Mparntwe. Students will have an opportunity to learn from the diverse peoples that live in and around Mparntwe while developing critical skills developed in Critical Indigenous Studies. This field school offers a unique opportunity to develop insights into the perspectives and experiences of the desert peoples in a way that text based class room learning cannot.

This course is being run in Mparntwe at the same time as two major events are taking place: Desert Mob (in its 31st year) and the tenth Desert Song Festival.

This 12 unit topic shares all teaching events with a 6 unit topic: Special Toipics in Australian Indigenous Studies, 'Desert Knowledges: Mparntwe field school' (6 UNIT).

Note: The topics are indicative only. The content and structure of this course are likely to change and at short notice. This is because of the unusual pressures and obligations on our guest lecturers in our course.

Key dates

Information session (online): Monday 7 August 2023 5pm - for details and meeting link contact Auis.courseconveners.cass@anu.edu.au

Introductory lecture (online): Tuesday 22 August 2023 4pm to 6pm - compulsory.

Preparation meeting (online): Tuesday 5 September 2023 4pm to 6pm

Latest day to arrive in Alice Springs: Saturday 8 September 2023

Field school in Alice Springs: Sunday 10th September 2023 8am - Friday 15th September 2023 noon

Research planning class (online): Tuesday 3 October 2023 4pm to 6pm

This course is delivered in partnership with Charles Darwin University, Desert Knowledges Australia and Tangentyere Council.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Cultural safety, respectful engagement
  1. Field school preparation Literature review. 2. Daily reflection; field school engagement.
2 Being on Country, being welcomed to Country Daily reflection; field school engagement.
3 The desert as home Daily reflection; field school engagement.
4 Botanicals and bush foods Daily reflection; field school engagement.
5 Language and transmission of knowledge and philosophy Daily reflection; field school engagement.
6 Entrepreneurship Daily reflection; field school engagement.
7 The central desert art movement Daily reflection; field school engagement.
8 Governance and housing Daily reflection; field school engagement.
9 Health & Wellbeing Daily reflection; field school engagement.
10 Law and justice Daily reflection; field school engagement.

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Field school preparation literature review 10 % 08/09/2023 1,2
Portfolio of daily reflections 10 % * 2
Research proposal 10 % 02/10/2023 1,2,3
Literature review 10 % 16/10/2023 1
Research journal 10 % 19/11/2023 3
Final research report 50 % 18/11/2023 1,2,3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines , which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Integrity Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Skills website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 08/09/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Field school preparation literature review

Criteria include: demonstrate understanding key literature relevant to field school activities. Task released after the introductory lecture.


Literature review = 8/09

Assessment Task 2

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 2

Portfolio of daily reflections

The portfolio of daily reflections is based on engagement in daily field school activities. Criteria includes demonstrating development of skills in self-reflexivity as researcher and in engaging in field school activities. 

More details are available on Wattle. Task commences after the field school preparation literature review is due and cannot be commenced unless that task has been completed and submitted.


Assessment Task 3

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 02/10/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Research proposal


Identify research aims and goals and concordance with community priorities; demonstrate understanding of methodology and methods appropriate to research

Details of task available on wattle site.

Task released at the conclusion of the intensive teaching period.

Due: 2nd October 2023

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 16/10/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1

Literature review


Criteria include: demonstrate insight into theoretical perspectives and methodologies from the discipline of Indigenous Studies that arise in this course.

Task released at the conclusion of the intensive teaching period.

Due 16th October

Assessment Task 5

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 19/11/2023
Learning Outcomes: 3

Research journal


Criteria includes demonstrated skills in self-reflexivity with regard to the research for the final research report and organisational skills to track progress of research.

Journal entry is due Bi-weekly.

Task opens at the conclusion of the intensive teaching period and ends the day after the submission of the final task.

Assessment Task 6

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 18/11/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Final research report

Word limit: 8000 words.


Task criteria includes. Analyse and synthesise First Nations and other Indigenous Peoples' knowledge or knowledges taught in this course. Details of the task are released on the wattle site after the intensive teaching period.

Due 18th November 2023

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Mary Spiers Williams

Research Interests

Mary Spiers Williams researches the impacts of state law and legal systems on Indigenous Peoples and coloniser settlers and First Laws of Aboriginal peoples. She applies theories and methodologies of Critical Indigenous Studies to her research, and ring those perspectives and practices to her teaching and course design. Mary convenes the Australian Indigenous Studies major.

Mary Spiers Williams

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions