ECDI Update: April 2022 activities

This is a monthly update about the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative (ECDI) activities and upcoming events.





Workshops & Conferences

A session at ESfO will be held in June 2022 on reconstructing depopulation in the Pacific:

The Oceanic Exchange: disease, depopulation and disruption in the post-contact Pacific

Christophe Sand,, Archaeologist for the New Caledonia Government, Research associate at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD-Noumea) – UMR SENS

Chris Ballard,, Australian National University

Abstract: Of all the transformations experienced by Pacific societies since the 16th Century, the most consequential was perhaps the encounter with successive movements into the region of new viruses and bacteria. An Oceanic Exchange, paralleling the better-known Columbian Exchange, saw the transfer of commodities, bodies and knowledge out of the region, and the introduction of new crops, technologies, languages and diseases in exchange. Measles, smallpox, influenza, dysentery and tuberculosis were just a few of the epidemic diseases which ravaged Pacific populations, particularly during the hundred years from the 1820s to the 1920s, but earlier in some areas and later in others. For some communities, population losses were in excess of 90% of the pre-contact population, and many have yet to recover to those earlier levels. Religious conversion, political destabilisation, formal colonisation and land grabbing were just some of the consequences facilitated by this collapse in population and ensuing social disruption. This panel will invite specialists from multiple disciplines – including anthropology, archaeology, history, geography and demography – to reflect on recent changes in thinking about the scale and impact of depopulation in the Pacific, including a critical review of earlier tendencies to downplay reports of population loss.

Expressions of interest: International Decade of Indigenous Languages Directions Group
Applications close 6 March 2022
The Office for the Arts is seeking expressions of interest from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become the members of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages Directions Group. The Group will guide the Australian Governments involvement in the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2023. This is a paid position and membership will be an initial period of 12 months. More information and details of how to apply can be found on the Arts website:


Job opportunities 

Two postdoc positions on child language acquisition, MPI Psycholinguistics
Applications close 29 April 2022

MPI Nijmegen is hiring two postdoc positions on child language acquisition (one on cross-linguistic/cultural) with a chance to propose and lead your own research project. Positions will be based in the Netherlands. More information here.

Senior Research Officer, CHL
Applications close: 1 May 2022
Seeking a Senior Research Officer to provide high-level technical and managerial support for, and research collaboration in the new ARC funded project ‘Body, Language and Socialisation across Cultures’. The project team includes ten researchers working in five very different field settings around the world: Ku Waru in Papua New Guinea Highlands, an Indigenous community in Northern Australia, another one in southern Mexico, and French and English speaking families in Paris and Los Angeles. More information here.

Expressions of interest:  Macquarie University: Three-year part-time postdoctoral position
We are looking for a Post-doctoral Research Associate (0.3 FTE) to work with us on the  ARC project “The building blocks of language: Words in Central Australian languages“.  The position would suit someone with 

  • Ph.D. in Linguistics or related area 
  • expertise, or ability to develop expertise in morphophonology and/or morphosyntax 
  • experience in quantitative analysis of linguistic data 

and preferably 

  • experience in design and analysis of experimental language materials 
  • familiarity with indigenous languages of Central Australia 
  • understanding of cultural issues related to indigenous language research 
  • project management experience 

Further information:  Michael Proctor,


Funding opportunities

Support offered for plant entries in Australian languages dictionaries 
Are you compiling a dictionary of an Australian language and need some support with plant/fungus entries? 
I’m a linguist currently working on a project at the Australian National Herbarium (National Collections and Maritime Infrastructure – NCMI) to make its collection more useful to Indigenous communities. One avenue of this is to link Indigenous plant names to vouched specimens in the herbarium.
Plant names do not have one-to-one correspondences across languages and scientific names are somewhat esoteric and are liable to change due to taxonomic reclassification. Likewise, what may be identified as a single species in the Western taxonomy may correspond to different plants in an Indigenous taxonomy.
For example, the Kunwok plant manbardbard refers to grevillea plants that grow in the lowlands, while mandjenkererr refer to grevillea plants in the highlands. Both terms refer to at least two species of grevillea in the Western taxonomy: Grevillea decurrens and G. Heliosperma
Linking a plant name to a physical specimen ensures that despite changes to Western scientific nomenclature or language shift in a community, we have vouched and corroborated connections between plant and knowledge systems. 
If you’re interested in using the National Herbarium or the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to support your dictionary work, please get in touch! Check out the Noongar Budjar plants and animals encyclopaedia for an example of an ALA/NCMI + language centre collaboration. 
This project is a CSIRO funded post-doc fellowship and will be running until Dec 2023. Email:

Honours project, Ablation study: What level of linguistic detail is needed for word-level modelling? (Australian National University)
As NLP (Natural language processing) tools are expanded to include new languages one of the big bottlenecks is labelled data availability. This issue is particularly acute for low-resource languages. So the question of annotation detail and quality is important. How much detail is needed for supervised learning? Is there a minimum number of labels to capture linguistic patterns? Find more information here

Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment 
Deadline: 30 April 2022 
The Hank Nelson Memorial Endowment was established by family and friends of the historian Hank Nelson to honour his memory and his commitment to Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Endowment now offers the third Hank Nelson Prize, of AUD$1000, for the best PhD thesis submitted by any student, internationally, on any aspect of PNG’s history or society. Find more information here and make a submission here.   




Barth, Danielle. 2022. An interlinearised ‘Family Problems Narrative Text’ from Matukar Panau. Asian and African Languages and Linguistics, 16:187-208. 

Evans, Nicholas and Pamkal, Manuel. 2022. How a Man Got off the Grog: A Dalabon ‘Family Problems’ Story, Asian and African Languages and Linguistics, 16:165-186. 

Shaw, Ben, et al. 2022. Frontier Lapita interaction with resident Papuan populations set the stage for initial peopling of the Pacific. Nature Ecology & Evolution

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