An exploration of Aboriginal people's use of social media is one of 21 research projects to get the go-ahead at the University of Wollongong thanks to a funding boost of almost $7 million.
Research into geospatial technology, solar energy conversion and 3D smart materials and devices are among projects to be funded as part of the 2013 Australian Research Council (ARC) grants announced yesterday.
Faculty of Arts senior lecturer Dr Bronwyn Carlson received one of only 10 Discovery Indigenous Grants awarded nationally - and the first such grant awarded to the University of Wollongong.
She will receive $205,000 over three years for her project, Aboriginal Identity and Community Online.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use Facebook as a means of expressing who they are," Dr Carlson said.
"I wanted to explore whether what they do online is different to what they do offline, in terms of kinship relations, family and their sense of community and identity.
"I then want to look at whether we can use social media to help in suicide prevention, for health and education purposes and for information sharing among indigenous people."
Thanks to the funding, Dr Carlson will now start her research by travelling to 10 indigenous communities across Australia to gather information.
"I'll go to a cross-section of urban, rural and remote locations to see what the opportunities, and the limitations, are for social media for indigenous people," she said.
UOW will receive $6,913,427 in funding through the ARC grants. That includes seven Discovery Early Career Research Awards totalling $2.5 million and 12 Discovery Projects worth $4 million.
"These grants are awarded annually and it's been a good year for the University of Wollongong," UOW Research Services Office director Sharon Martin said.
"The indigenous grant was a first for the university so we were very pleased by that. Meanwhile the Early Career grants are very competitive and we ranked ninth nationally."