Rachel Cunneen

Senior Lecturer, University of Canberra - Canberra, Australia
Canberra, Australia

I am a parent, teacher, academic, and writer living in Australia’s capital city: Canberra. A few years, ago, just before the pandemic really began, Canberra was encircled by the most destructive bushfires ever recorded on this continent. As our city is in a valley, we breathed in thick, choking, cancer-causing smoke for several months, with all roads blocked to our escape. A billion animals died.

After the fires, I wrote a personal essay about my difficulty reconciling the academic perception of travel being noble and necessary, with my knowledge that hopping on a Boeing 747 and travelling to the other side of the world negated any other actions I might take to reduce my carbon emissions. I wrote: “I see such a denial, and a huge, unspoken tension, at the heart of all of this seemingly justified travel. So much of first world travel says to everyone else on the planet that the education, development, enlightenment and health of a privileged individual overrides the well-being of the place they are visiting and the well-being of the global environment. The cultural enrichment of the wealthy is directly damaging the lives of the powerless. Perhaps it always has.”

I’m a senior lecturer in teacher education at the University of Canberra. I teach literacy, language, and literature to preservice primary and secondary teachers. I’ve previously completed research about successful tertiary pathways for students from a refugee background. I’m currently involved in an Affiliated Schools project investigating media literacy training for primary students. My passion is exploring intersections between literacy and social justice.