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Staff Profile

Dr Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes

Office of the Provost
Faculty of Humanities
Bentley Campus
+61 8 9266 7169

Brief Summary

I am a researcher, lecturer and writer. My research focuses on the critical study of development, education and law, and the importance of lived experience and epistemic diversity for decolonial and sustainable futures. Currently, I teach postgraduate courses face-to-face and online including via edX- the largest online course provider in the world. My teaching practice is informed by the importance of indigenous knowledges, diverse epistemologies, cultures and critical theories. I also research African experiences and Ethiopian traditions, and write creatively on belonging and diasporic lives.

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Memberships, Awards and Training

2017     Winner of 2017 Curtin University Humanities Research Award, Minor Creative Work of the Year

2016     Winner,  Ways  of  Being  Here  Competition,  Centre  for Stories. This award sought to discover and acknowledge local African Australian writers. Mentorship with a local writer and subsequent publication followed.

2014     Curtin University Faculty of Humanities Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award (Centre for Human Rights Education Team)

2010     APA Scholarship. I was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award for doctoral studies at Curtin University.

2006     Literary Awards.  I received many literary awards for winning poetry and essay writing contests in Ethiopia

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I coordinate and teach in the Master of Human Rights Education program at Curtin University. The units I teach include Human Rights and Development;  Human Rights History across Cultures and Religions; and, Human Rights Institutions and Instruments.


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Research Interests

Understanding Questions of Belonging and Difference among Africans in Perth (2017- ongoing)

An ORS Small Grants Program, Curtin University ($5981.00) funded project

The project seeks to understand how notions of belonging and difference are perceived and experienced among African communities in Perth and the ways in which belonging is constructed, dismissed, confirmed, denied or mystified through lived experience. It seeks to understand the experiences of both African migrants and Africans born in Australia to migrant families, looking at the different ways in which belonging is felt or constructed by the two groups. It also studies how racialised discourses and practices influence belonging and the ways in which such experiences lead to inequality of outcome and opportunity, constraints on choice and control, and human rights violations and other forms of injustices.The immediate outcome of this research is the publication of a journal article, community outreach and the development of useful research networks and skills. It is envisaged this is the first stage of a much larger project. 

Native Colonialism: Education and the economy of violence against traditions in Ethiopia (2015 - 2017).

This study is a rigorous and critical analysis of the significance and relevance of tradition and indigenous knowledges to modern education in Ethiopia. It challenges the view that considers non-western traditions as backward and antithetical to progress.

The study analyses textual and empirical sources to interpret the ideas and principles that enabled Ethiopians to maintain political and social cohesion, independence from European colonialism, and indigenous methods of knowledge production for several centuries.  It will show how consciousness of western political power developed among Ethiopian political leaders, who at the dawn of the 20th century introduced formal education by copying it from western sources in order to modernise the state. The imitation of western institutions and legal and educational systems with complete disregard to Ethiopian tradition gave rise to student radicalism and state violence  especially during the period  of the Derg. Taking the above analytical finding as a context, the study further analyses the effect of the current education system on the lives of current Ethiopian students. It shows how Ethiopian students experience a deep sense of alienation from tradition and from the modernist system in the country, which is elitdom. Alienation from tradition is experienced largely due to the development of Eurocentric worldview through education. Students develop a sense of detachment from their local communities based on the belief that their tradition was antithetical to modernisation. Alienation from elitdom is experienced as students are unable to realise the promises of education through the current education system. Low quality education, failure to join university or graduate from it, the use of foreign language as a medium of instruction and the difficulty of finding employment contribute to alienation from elitdom. The study argues that the two forms of alienation, presented in the study as centredlessness, represent the effect of the exclusion of tradition from education. This study will increase our understanding of how forces of globalisation cut through traditional and cultural spaces using the formal channels of the state, and what realities this process holds for people in places like Ethiopia.

The study employs critical ethnography as a methodology and used observation, interview and archival data analysis as principal research methods. It is based on research conducted during my PhD, alongside additional work.

Research outcome:

  • Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, Native colonisation: Education and the economy of violence against tradition in Ethiopia. New Jersey: Africa World Press & Red Sea Press, 2017.

How to teach Human Rights from the perspective of diverse cultures and religions (2016 – 2017)

An Australian Research Theology Foundation Inc. funded project.

The third phase of the UN World Program for Human Rights Education (2015-2019) focuses on the teaching of cultural actors such as media professionals and journalists, and the strengthening of the outcomes of the previous two phases.

This project aims at contributing research-based knowledge to this cause, especially on the content and teaching of human rights from the perspective of those from diverse backgrounds.

The principal methodology is a participatory active research that engages students, religious scholars and researchers in an educational environment. Through my 'Human Rights History across Cultures and Religions' Unit, faith-based scholars deliver a series of lectures on human rights from their respective religious or cultural backgrounds. Each lecture is followed by evaluative seminars and intensive focus group discussions which focus upon human rights values across diverse faiths and cultures. One of the goals is the publication of a practical booklet to be be distributed to human rights educators, activists and media professionals.

Research outcome:

  • Woldeyes, Yirga Gelaw. Critical Appreciative Dialogue: Pedagogy for Critical Human Rights Education. Bentley: Centre for Human Rights Education, 2017

The pedagogies of Human Rights: Exploration, innovation and activation. Baden Offord, Caroline Fleay, Lisa K. Hartley and Yirga Woldeyes (2016 – 2017)

A Curtin University Faculty of Humanities funded project.
This project focuses on the development of new research that engages with, understands, investigates, activates, explores and showcases a range of diverse pedagogies of human rights relevant to the challenges of the 21st Century. It aims to deepen and broaden the theoretical, conceptual and practical understandings of how human rights are communicated, experienced, learned and taught in the 21st Century, in both informal and formal contexts, in traditional as well as in innovative ways. The project will identify and bring together a range of leading and innovative human rights scholars across Australia who share multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches to human rights on a suite of issues.

Critical Appreciative Dialogue and Human Rights (2016- ongoing)

The teaching of human rights emphasises the importance of dialogue as a means of co-creating inclusive and desired worlds among diverse identities, worldviews and practices. The main objective of this project is to sustain an ongoing dialogue on conceptual and methodological insights for the teaching of human rights from the perspective of diverse cultures and religions. In particular, this project seeks to develop Critical-Appreciative Dialogue as a possible teaching methodology that takes into account the challenges as well as the opportunities that are presented to us due to differences and diversities in religions and cultures.

Enabling asylum seeker scholarship through listening and lived experience: Baden Offord, Lisa Hartley, Caroline Fleay, Yirga Woldeyes and Elfie Shiosaki (2015–2016)

A Curtin University Faculty of Humanities $32,772.80 (2015–2016) funded project. The goal of this project is to develop new ways to engage with, understand, teach about and respond to the lived experience of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, specifically in Perth. A key aim of the project is to pilot an innovative methodology in asylum seeker scholarship through participatory action research in a university learning context.

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Featured Publications

Books (Research) - Other


Books (Research)

  • Woldeyes, Y. G. 2017. "Critical Appereciative Dialogue: Pedagogy for Critical Human Rights Education." Bentley: Centre for Human Rights Education.

Book Chapters (Research)


Creative Works


Journal Articles (Research)


Book Chapters (Research)

  • Woldeyes, Y. 2013. "Elitdom and the Discourse of Relevant Education in Africa." In Changing Facts, Changing Minds, Changing Worlds, 202-218 Australia: Black Swan Press.
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keyboard_arrow_downAdditional publication categories


Books (Research) - Other

  • Woldeyes, Y. G., R. Ismail, T. Jakwa, and Y. Alaak. 2017. "Ways of Being Here." North Bridge, Western Australia: Margaret River Press and Centre for Stories.
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Additional Information

Conferences and seminars

2016a African Human Rights Perspectives: Lessons for Australia.” International Australian Studies Association Reimagining Australia Conference. Perth, Australia. 7-9 December.

2016b “Critical Appropriation in Educational Research in Africa”. The Creating Diverse and Inclusive Communities Conference, Queens College. New York, USA. 10-11 Nov 2016.

2016c “Native Colonialism: Education and the Economy of Violence against Traditions in Ethiopia.” Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute Seminar Series 5. Perth, Australia. 1 August.

2016d “The Creation of Native Colonialism.” Political Science and International Relations and the University of Western Australia Africa Research Cluster Seminar. Perth, Australia. 26 April.

2015a “Cross-Referencing Traditions for Active Human Rights Knowledge in Africa.” 5th IAFOR Asian Conference on Cultural Studies. Kobe, Japan. 1-4 June.

2015b  “Beyond Decoloniality: Towards the creative incorporation of diverse knowledge-traditions in Africa.” 38th Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific. Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. 28-30 October.

2014a  “Native Colonialization: Education and the Economy of Violence against Traditions in Ethiopia” 37th Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. 25-26 November.

2014b  “East African Perspectives for Paradigm Shift in the Indian Ocean Region.” Indian Ocean Futures Conference. Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute. Perth, Australia. 25-28 March.

2014c  “Seizing the potentials of culture through a critical-appreciative dialogue.” Indian Ocean Futures Conference. Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute. Perth, Australia. 25-28 March.

2014d  “Multicentrism: Unleashing the Potentials of Multiple Centers.” Poster Presentation at the Indian Ocean Futures Conference. Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute. Perth, Australia. 25-28 March.

2013   “Creative Incorporation: An indigenous method of interpreting knowledge” The 14th Humanities Graduate Research Conference. Curtin University. Perth, Australia. 14-15 November.

2011   “Broadening the Epistemic Horizon for African Voices to Emerge” The 12th Humanities Graduate Research Conference. Curtin University. Perth, Australia. 20-21 October.

2010   “Beyond Afro-Pessimism: Engaging Africa through a Cultural renaissance.” The 33rd Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific. Victoria University. Melbourne, Australia. 2-4 December.

2008  “Enhancing Citizens’ participation in the African Union” The Continental Conference on the African Union Summit. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 23 January.

Public Appearances and Outreach

2017 a   1 hour Interview on SBS Amharic regarding my book Native Colonialism. SBS is Australia’s multicultural and multilingual broadcaster.

2017b    1 Hour Interview, Ethiopian Broadcasting Service (EBS) program Reyot. This program was broadcasted twice and is widely watched in Ethiopia.

2017c     Invited Speaker/Writer, Way of Being Here at South Perth and Manning Libraries. 7 and 14 June.

2017d    Invited Speaker/Writer, Way of Being Here Panel at Sydney Writers Festival, Mandurah Satellite Panel. 26-28 May.

2017e    Invited Speaker, The Centre for Stories Africa Day Celebration. Northbridge, Australia. 25 May.

 2017f    Invited Speaker/Writer, Way of Being Here Panel at the Perth International Writers Festival, Perth Australia. 23-26 February.

2016a    Book Launch and Discussion, Native Colonialism. Sankofa Book Store, Washington DC and at the African Study Association Conference, Washington DC. December.

2016b    Invited Speaker, “The Moon above Our Heads: Stories of Courage” Centre for Stories International Human Rights Day Celebration. Northbridge, Australia. 10 December.

2016c    Invited Speaker, “How to Become a Great Public Speaker.” Council for Young Africans Living Abroad (CYALA), University of Western Australia. 29 September.

2016d   Invited Speaker, “The role of human rights for international peace.” International Peace Day, Curtin University. Perth, Australia. 21 September.

2016e   Invited Speaker, Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) Young Professionals Network Careers without Boarders Event on the topic “International Development and Human Rights: A Critical Analysis.” Perth, Australia. 15 September.


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