CQUni alumnus and staffer Sherie pursues environmental passions as a First Nations woman

11 August 2021

As a First Nations woman' CQUniversity alumnus and lecturer Sherie Bruce is certain she followed her passion for environmental science because of her deep connection to the land.

Sherie is an Arrernte woman with a deep cultural connection to the Yolgnu people – a connection she fosters in her role as Course Coordinator and Lecturer of First Nations and Community Engagement and Student Adviser at CQUni.

"I started my Higher Education journey completing a Certificate III in Horticulture – Landscape Design at the Rockhampton TAFE many years ago. Completing that certificate led me to Environmental Science'" she said.

"I graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science in 2019 and am currently completing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Environmental Biotechnology).

"I found the delivery of wide-ranging subjects and the ability to mix and match them to your interests or career path very valuable.

"Australia's First Nation People are deeply interconnected with the environment' so it was natural to choose those degrees. I hoped these degrees would assist me in my journey to ensure First Nations voices are included in the conservation sector in Queensland.

Along with developing real-world solutions to the ever-growing pollution problem."

During her studies Sherie received the 2020 Errol and Berenice Payne 50th Anniversary Scholarship.

"It was essential for my research' as you have to self-fund your honours research. It was fantastic to meet Emeritus Professor Errol Payne and Mrs Berenice Payne and show them through the laboratory and my research'" she said.

"There are outstanding Physical and Social Science Academics at CQUni who have kept me on track and provided fantastic support. I am also grateful to Dr Crystal Cooper at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) for providing scanning electron microscopy imaging of my fungal samples.

"I have to give the biggest thanks to my Honour's supervisor' Dr Sandrine Makiela' who patiently listened to my obsessed fungi chat and kept me on the path to my goal of a PhD. Without her' I would be out of control in the laboratory' growing fungi everywhere."

As a recipient of the CQUni New Colombo Plan Scholarship' Sherie travelled to Ahmedabad' India' with other Environmental and Education students and staff during her Environmental Science studies.

Outside of her CQUniversity studies and employment' Sherie pursues her passion for permaculture.

"I enjoy practising Permaculture' which has drawn heavily on First Nations culture. Permaculture is a toolbox of agriculture' water harvesting' energy' forestry' waste management' animal systems' aquaculture' appropriate technology' economics and community development'" she said.

"The combination of people' environment and resources' through mutually beneficial connections imitating no waste' closed-loop systems seen in so many natural systems with the ability to integrate into any rural and urban contexts at any scale' Permaculture is impressive.

"Another passion is decolonising the conservation sector. The environment is not separate from people; Australia's First Nations people always have and always will be intrinsic to the Australian environment. It is essential for environmental protection that colonised conservation practices are dissolved."

As Course Coordinator and Lecturer of First Nations and Community Engagement' Sherie said she is thrilled to be sharing her knowledge to support students so they can be confident in understanding and working with Australia's First Peoples.

This is echoed in her role as Casual Learning Advisor with CQUni's Indigenous Student Engagement team. The team provides support to current and future First Nation students via a range of programs including STEPS enabling programs' tutoring and student advice.

"So many inspiring CQUni staff have helped me on my university journey' and I am proud to continue sharing that support'" she said.
As for the future' Sherie said she has further research projects on the horizon.

"There will definitely be more study. A PhD is next' and I already have several other research projects underway' including more fungi fun and cross-cultural competency in the environment and conservation sectors'" she said.

"CQUni is one of the very few dual-sector universities. As a student' you can transition smoothly from a Certificate to a PhD. For us remote and rural mob' CQUni is world-class in delivering online education. I started my first degree on campus and then moved to Blackwater QLD and easily changed to online learning."