The Storyteller Lady Who Fell Out of the Sky

Dr Gwenda Baker

Wednesday 6 May, 2-3pm

Elizabeth Burchill Room (E561)
Level 5, Menzies Building
20 Chancellors Walk
Clayton Campus

The Aboriginal people of North East Arnhem Land (Yolngu) are a most studied and written about people. Strangely, very little written research reportage is accessible to the people. The Yolngu have had long contact with outsiders, notably with the Macassans from the north at least 200 years before the arrival of white trepangers, cattlemen, missionaries and government officials. Missionaries began the process of translating and transcribing local languages. Soon came anthropologists and later the historians. Adult mission educated Yolngu now seek access to documents, articles and books written about them through their co-operation with researchers. This seminar is about a trip to Milingimbi and work at the nearby island of Galiwin’ku, both old mission sites. It tells the story of an historian recast as a storyteller returning documents and written accounts with a research methodology based on reciprocal storytelling. Taking back stories reconnects them to their geographical and human source, linking narratives to particular people, genealogical lines, clans, geographical locations and associations with spirit worlds. The returned material is in turn discussed with children and grandchildren. In this way the new stories become part of a wider knowledge base.

Dr. Gwenda Baker is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Monash Indigenous Centre. She is an historian with long contact with the people on Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island, and has carried out research with Yolngu researchers, publishing on gender relations, gender and religion, families and value systems, missionary contact, cross-cultural intersections, and leadership and governance. Dr Baker received a Northern Territory History Award in 2005, and an Australian Religious History Fellowship from the State Library of New South Wales in 2013. Her present project, based on the research from this fellowship, a biography of Rev. Harold Shepherdson and his wife Ella, who went to Milingimbi in 1928, established a mission on Elcho Island in 1942, and lived in Arnhem Land for 50 years.

Download the flyer for this seminar… (PDF)

For further information, please contact Beverly Thomson:



A Pictorial Overview of Jawoyn Rock Art

Robert ‘ben’ Gunn

Wednesday 25th March, 2015

seminar-ben-gunn-featureIn 2005 the Jawoyn Association, Katherine, instigated a project to record the rock art sites within the Jawoyn Lands of western Arnhem Land. The Jawoyn Rock Art Project (2005-2012) began with the recording and assessment of rock art sites that were threatened by tourist development within Nitmiluk National Park. This was followed by an initial assessment of the number, range and quality of the rock art from a sample 38 sites at eight widely separated site complexes within the Jawoyn Lands. The art was found to be some of the most spectacular rock art in Australia. The range of artwork also suggested that Jawoyn rock art had ongoing associations both with the Kakadu art to the north and with the Wardaman art to the west, while also developing a number of its own regional styles.

Robert ‘ben’ Gunn has worked for over 35 years as a consultant archaeologist, specialising in the recording and management of Australian Aboriginal rock art.

Download the flyer to read more about this seminar (PDF)


Language Preservation and 3D Animations: Monash Country Lines Archive

A/Prof John Bradley, Mr Brent McKee and Dr Shannon Faulkhead

Wednesday 18th March 2015

seminar-countrylines-featureThe Monash Country Lines Archive (MCLA) is working with 3D animation as a method for intergenerationalknowledge sharing, keeping language alive, and to reconnect language and its people. Through the development of partnerships with Indigenous communities across Australia, MCLA  is using cutting edge 3D animation technologies to assist in the preservation of their knowledge and language. These animations provide material for Elders and younger generations to share knowledge. The affective responses to seeing technology re-represent back to them stories that have deep cultural resonances, has resulted in growing interest worldwide.

Download the flyer to read more about this seminar (PDF)


Aboriginal Activism and the Aborigines Advancement League

Professor Richard Broome

Wednesday 11th March, 2015

seminar-broome-featureRichard Broome was born and educated in Sydney, where he graduated with first class honours from UNSW and a PhD from the University of Sydney. He tutored at the University of Sydney and Melbourne University and lectured at La Trobe University for thirty years, interrupted only by a six year career as a public historian.

He has been a passionate teacher not only of university students but has lectured for forty years to secondary school history students and written two texts for VCE students. He has won university, industry and national awards for his teaching which has always attempted to place students at the centre of learning and to engage them in the excitement of making historical knowledge. He has been passionate too about postgraduate education serving in leadership roles at Department, Faculty and University level and supervising numerous students.

Download the flyer to read more about this seminar (PDF)


2014 Future Justice Prize awarded to John Bradley

john-bradley-prizeAssociate Professor John Bradley of the Monash Indigenous Centre has won the 2014 Future Justice Prize, awarded to Australian individuals or organisations for leadership and initiative in the advancement of future justice, which is concerned with what those living today leave behind for future generations.

This award recognises the excellent work John has done in retrieving and preserving Indigenous language and culture, especially through his innovative animations: Monash Country Lines Archives

Showcasing current research and Interdisciplinary potential


mic-seminars-logoProf Lynette Russell
Prof Ian McNiven
Assoc Prof John Bradley
Assoc Prof Maryrose Casey
Dr Bruno David
Dr Liam Brady
Dr Jeremy Ash
Dr Rachel Standfield.

To mark Monash Indigenous Centre moving into the Menzies building and in celebration of the Faculty without Borders, the academic staff of MIC will showcase their current research projects highlighting the opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary work, including postgraduate supervision.

MIC staff have excellent research reputations and grant experience. We hope that this entrée will give other researchers across the Arts Faculty and wider, a taste for what we do, what we might do in the future and how we might work across our various disciplines and subject areas. Each speaker will discuss a sample of their research projects.

RSVP to Beverly Thomson


The Paleo Diet: the struggle for food security between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians

paleo-dietWednesday 3rd September 2014 , 2pm to 3pm

Monash Indigenous Centre Library
Building 55 level 2. Clayton Campus

The Paleo Diet is the new best thing to hit the market for food conscious first worlders. This paper will use the Paleo Diet as the critical lens for an examination of the food history of Australia over the last 230 years as it speaks to Indigenous-settler relations. Three foods, kangaroo, fish, and corn, are used as lenses by which to theorise these relations. Analysis suggests that there are three distinct periods: food scarcity and contestation, food security through adaptation and absorption, and re-emergence of a postcolonial concept of food sovereignty alongside the competing interests of highly urbanized first world seeking out the same food resources once again.

The period of food scarcity and contestation about food between Indigenous people and newcomers occurred for about 50-70 years after fist contact, explorations, settlement, and the loss of Indigenous food sovereignty was marked by the consumption of many foods now considered acceptably ‘Paleo’. The second period, between the 1840s and 1960s depending on the frontier expansion is a period identified as one of adaptation and absorption, with settlers achieving food security through the industrialization of food production methods while Aboriginal people were absorbed into the emerging cash economy, being restricted in access to their traditional estates, and their subsistence way of life. The third, the period of re-emergence, heralds the Aboriginal claim to the right to food sovereignty because of the changed relationship between the state and Indigenous peoples of Australia with the recognition of the pre-existing, and unextinguished, ‘native title’ rights, enabling the re-emergence of traditional food cultivation methods and practices on some estates within the capitalist economy. For settlers and more recent immigrants, growing niche marketability of the Paleo Diet as clean food raises the spectre of the recurrence of ‘romantic savagery’ as a maladaptive strategy in the ongoing struggle for food security between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Dr Zane Ma Rhea is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education.

For enquiries, contact Beverly Thomson


Indigenous Australian astronomy – Dr Duane W. Hamacher

duane-hamacherWednesday 27th August 2014, 2pm to 3pm

Monash Indigenous Centre Library
Building 55 level 2. Clayton Campus

Abstract: Indigenous Australians developed rich astronomical knowledge systems that utilise the sun, moon, and stars for navigation, time-keeping, seasonal calendars, food economics, social structure, law, ceremony, and totemic systems. These knowledge systems are weaved into complex traditions that have been handed to successive generations for thousands of years and remain an important element of identity and spirituality to Indigenous people to this day. This talk will explore some of these traditions and will discuss the latest research being conducted in Indigenous astronomy, including a major project underway in the Torres Strait. The talk will also discuss ways in which this knowledge is being shared with the public, students, and teachers under the guidance of Indigenous communities.

Bio: Dr. Duane W. Hamacher is a Lecturer and ARC Research Fellow in the Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. His teaching and research focuses on Indigenous astronomical knowledge. His current ARC project explores cultural astronomy in the Torres Strait. He earned degrees in astrophysics and Indigenous studies and works as an astronomy educator at Sydney Observatory.

For enquiries, contact Beverly Thomson


‘Factotum and Friend’: Two Central Australian case studies in ethnographic encounter and exchange

Jim Kite (seated, right) and a young Warumungu boy (on ground) in the camp of the Spencer and Gillen anthropological expedition at Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, August 1901 (photographer: Baldwin Spencer. Museum Victoria, item XP15087)
Jim Kite (seated, right) and a young Warumungu boy (on ground) in the camp of the Spencer and Gillen anthropological expedition at Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, August 1901 (photographer: Baldwin Spencer.
Museum Victoria, item XP15087)

Wednesday 20th August, 2pm to 3pm

Monash Indigenous Centre Library
Building 55 level 2. Clayton Campus

Mickey Akwerre Pengarte Dow Dow was a Northern Arrernte man born at Harry Creek, Central Australia around 1856. Dow Dow had been present when Spencer and Gillen documented Arrernte ceremonies at Alice Springs in the summer of 1896. In the 1930s he produced detailed illustrations in order to explain complex Arrernte beliefs to another budding anthropologist, Olive Muriel Pink. Dow Dow’s career as an ‘informant’ continued when he met the young linguist and ethnographer T.G.H. Strehlow in 1932 and went on to share details of the mythologies and ritual of his traditional lands.

Jim Alyelkelhayeka Penangke Kite was a Lower Southern Arrernte man born near the Charlotte Waters Telegraph Station, on the southern edge of the Simpson Desert, around 1865. Kite grew up and worked at the Telegraph all of his life and in 1901 accompanied Walter Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen on their anthropological expedition across the continent to the Gulf of Carpentaria. On his return from the expedition, Jim began to produce curios from wood and clay with intricate carvings representing the various mammals, insects and reptiles. He also incised a boomerang with a rare scene of first contact between Arrernte people and the explorer John McDouall Stuart.

Seen through the lens of these little-known illustrations and carvings created by two Arrernte artists, this presentation will explore intercultural relationships that have shaped ethnographic research in Central Australia. These novel images will be discussed within the intercultural context of their production on the frontier where ethnographers and equally inquisitive Aboriginal men worked together during a time of social and cultural exchange.

Jason Gibson is the Curator for Repatriation Research at Museum Victoria and a consultant anthropologist. Having spent fourteen years working in Central Australia on a range on community cultural heritage and research projects he is now working on his PhD thesis at MIC on the Anmatyerr material collected by T.G.H. Strehlow.

For enquiries, contact Beverly Thomson

Download the flyer for the ‘Factotum and Friend’ seminar (PDF)


Fear and Assuagement: representations and engagement of First Peoples in national museum spaces.

Dr Sandy O’Sullivan


Wednesday 16th April, 2pm to 3pm
Monash Indigenous Centre Library
Building 55 level 2. Clayton Campus

Imagine you’re doing a multi-year Australian Research Council-funded project on the representation of First Peoples in national museum spaces, and you’ve already visited 150 (of the eventual 425) museums over three countries and suddenly you find your work grinding to a halt because of a major sticking point for your participants. In this presentation, I’ll be revealing some of the moments that led to this and the solutions that finally restarted the conversations and the research.

The project, now nearing completion, began as a way to identify effective representations and engagements of Indigenous communities and peoples in the leading museum spaces of their own countries. The project asked a single question of the visited museums: what works? This presentation will focus on some of the stories and ideas that have emerged from this question, and will highlight the difficulties that some museums had in dealing with their own reductive ideas around identity. The dissemination of the research is in the standard form of a book and a range of journal articles, but the presentation will also show and talk through the challenges and value of using a more unconventional research output.

Dr Sandy O’Sullivan is an Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) academic in the Research Division of Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. She is a current ARC Senior Indigenous Researcher, an enduring OLT Teaching Fellow, and holds a PhD in Fine Art and Performance. Her current international research study focuses on the representation and engagement of Indigenous peoples in major museum spaces. Sandy is the Indigenous representative for Interpretation Australia and is committed to supporting positive outcomes for both museums and other keeping places.

For enquiries, contact Beverly Thomson –

Download the flyer for this event (PDF)


Working in New Guinea – updates on Archaeology


Professor Glenn Summerhayes

Wednesday 9th April, 2pm to 3pm
Monash Indigenous Centre Library
Building 55 level 2. Clayton Campus

The seminar will present a personal overview of working in Papua New Guinea, through looking at the role of Government institutions to the critical nature of local community involvement and the importance of doing good and responsible archaeology. I will present updates on two projects. The first looks at the earliest occupation of New Guinea at 50,000 years ago and research in the Ivane Valley, while the second looks at new perspectives of Austronesian occupations at 3500-3000 years ago and research in both New Ireland and the north coast.

Professor Summerhayes is a prominent archaeologist working in Near Oceania. His research has made significant contributions in our understanding of this region’s past and has placed New Zealand at the forefront of archaeological research in Near Oceania. His major significant advances concerns first, the initial colonisation of New Guinea in which he extended occupation to 50-44,000 years ago (published in the journal Science), and secondly, the nature of the Lapita colonisation in Near Oceania beginning some 3,300 years ago, in which he demonstrated that these colonists were highly mobile and interactive peoples. His significant contribution to the archaeology of New Guinea was recognised by the Nation of PNG by awarding him the honour of Officer of the Order of Logohu (OL) in the 2014 New Years Honours list.

For enquiries, contact Beverly Thomson

Download the flyer for this event (PDF)


Reporting on the environment – science communication of complex issues



Reflections on a disputed past – Seminar

Elizabeth Eggleston Library, Building 55, Room 204 (level 2)

The next Seminar will be:



The social life of caves

The social life of caves: a new archaeological-geomorphological approach, with examples from France and Aboriginal Australia

12 MARCH 2014

Bruno David

bruno-david-seminar-03aAbstract: Caves and rockshelters are a key component of the archaeological record but are often regarded as natural places conveniently exploited by human communities. Archaeomorphological study shows however that they are not inert spaces but have frequently been modified by the actions of people, sometimes in ways that imply a strong symbolic significance. Bruno David will discuss how a team of researchers has developed an integrated archaeological and geomorphological approach that can reveal how the material fabric of caves and rock-shelters has been shaped, and re-shaped, through social engagement. He will explore the history of the material space, or of elements within it, at Chauvet Cave in France and Nawarla Gabarnmang rockshelter in Australia. Deep within Chauvet Cave, fallen blocks were moved into position to augment the natural structure known as The Cactus, while at Nawarla Gabarnmang, blocks were removed from the ceiling and supporting pillars removed and discarded down the talus slope. These are hence not ‘natural’ places, but modified and socially constructed, and highlight how even apparently materially set places have human histories that can be systematically investigated.

Dr Bruno David holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award.



MIC Postgrad Phil Adgemis awarded Minoru Hokari Scholarship for 2013

One of our post grads here in MIC Phil Adgemis has just been awarded this prestigious scholarship.

Phil also tutors in our first year unit: ATS1254Culture , Power and Difference

For Details See here:


Aboriginal Visual Histories


redirecting to:


History of the Monash Indigenous Centre

Monash University’s interest in Aboriginal issues began in its establishment years. The following is a brief summary of that history.

  • 1964 The Centre for Research into Aboriginal Affairs was established in the Department of Politics in the Faculty of Business and Politics by Dr Colin Tatz.
  • 1967 The Centre for Research into Aboriginal Affairs moved to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in the Faculty of Arts.
  • 1970 Dr Elizabeth Eggleston directed the work of the Centre on a half-time basis from the Faculty of Law. The Centre undertook research in law, health and race relations until her death in 1976.
  • 1977 Appointment of a full-time Indigenous Director, Professor Colin Bourke, and relocation to the Faculty of Education.
  • 1978 Accreditation of a new second year Aboriginal Studies unit in the Bachelor of Arts.
  • 1979 The teaching of a Master of Education unit in the Faculty of Education and name change to the Aboriginal Research Centre.
  • 1979 The Elizabeth Eggleston Memorial Aboriginal Resource Centre was opened.
  • 1981 The Aboriginal Research Centre Advisory Committee agreed to pursue the development of a bridging program for Aboriginal students who were not academically ready for university studies.
  • 1981 Dr Eve Fesl appointed Director of Aboriginal Research Centre.
  • 1984–92 The Monash Orientation Scheme for Aborigines (MOSA) commenced with Isaac Brown / Irruluma Guralwin Enumbura as full-time Director and an advisory committee creating two distinct Aboriginal program elements: MOSA and the Aboriginal Research Centre.
  • 1988 MOSA and the Aboriginal Research Centre move into dedicated space in the Gallery building.
  • 1989 In response to the Bicentenary, the research centre’s name was formally changed to the Koorie Research Centre (KRC).
  • 1991 Mr John Austin appointed Director of MOSA.
  • 1991 The merger with the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education brought a third Aboriginal element to Monash namely, the Gippsland Koorie Studies Centre (GKSC).
  • 1992 Helen Curzon-Siggers appointed Director of MOSA.
  • 1995 Sharon Firebrace appointed Director of Koorie Research Centre.
  • 1998 Council approved a chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at Monash University.
  • 1999 Professor Eleanor Bourke appointed Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies with dual responsibility as Director, Monash Aboriginal programs.
  • 2001 Professor Lynette Russell (BA hons La Trobe, PhD Melbourne) appointed Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies and Director, Monash Aboriginal programs.
  • 2011 CAIS becomes Monash Indigenous Centre (MIC)

Past directors

Centre for Research into Aboriginal Affairs/Aboriginal Research Centre

1964–1970 Dr Colin Tatz
1971–1976 Dr Elizabeth Eggleston
1976–1981 Prof. Colin Bourke, MBE

Koorie Research Centre

1981–1993 Dr Eve Fesl
1994–1995 Prof. Lachlan Chipman
1995–1996 Ms Sharon Firebrace
1997–1998 Ms Helen Curzon-Siggers


1984–1991 Assoc. Professor Isaac Brown,
1991–1992 Mr John Austin
1992 Dr Eve Fesl
1992–1998 Ms Helen Curzon-Siggers

Koorie Studies, Gippsland

1991–1999 Ms Marlene Drysdale

Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies

1999–2001 Professor Eleanor Bourke
2001-2011 Professor Lynette Russell

Monash Indigenous Centre

2011 – Professor Lynette Russell


Indigenous Studies: Code Of Conduct for students

At MIC we pride ourselves on providing a culturally and pedagogically safe place for students to learn. To ensure everyone gets the most out of our classes we have developed a code of conduct by which staff and students are expected to abide.

In classes all student’s opinions will be treated with respect, however racist or sexist remarks are unacceptable. We will not tolerate any type of bullying, aggression or demeaning of fellow classmates or staff, such cases will result in requests to leave the classroom.

MIC does not have prerequisite requirements for second and third year units, however if you intend doing honours you will need to ensure a major in Indigenous Cultures and Histories units. There is flexibility in the manner in which a major is structured so speak to the honours or undergraduate coordinator if you need more information. Entry into the honours programme is based on a distinction average, and first year subjects are counted in determining eligibility to do fourth year honours.

All Indigenous Cultures and Histories units have a minimum attendance requirement of 80% for tutorials. Students who have timetable clashes and therefore are relying upon recorded lectures and presentations and handouts must check with the course coordinator to see if this is feasible.

In class please observe the following:

  • Classes are for enrolled students only or with the permission of the course coordinator.
  • Turn off mobile phones.
  • Emails will be answered with 24 hours, provided these are sent between Monday and Friday. If you email on weekends do not expect a response before the following Monday. Similarly emailing in the evening does not mean you will receive an answer before the following day.
  • Staff may generously give you their mobile or personal phone numbers. Unless in case of emergency students must not ring out of hours, or on weekends. In most cases emailing the staff member will be sufficient as we will endeavor to respond to all emails promptly.

MIC‘s policy on assessment tasks, plagiarism and essay recycling

In addition to the information in:

the following information needs to be considered:

  • Assessed work must not include any plagiarised or recycled material from previous subjects.
  • All essays are to include an annotated bibliography, and be fully referenced.
  • Reasonable requests for extensions should be made in writing or via email. Do not merely ask you tutor/lecturer at the end of a class, put it in writing.
  • All students will have their work examined by at least two staff members and the results will be benchmarked against others from the same class.
  • Staff will liaise and consult with each other in cases of plagiarism and/or recycled essays. A school register has been established and in the case of either of these issues student’s names will be recorded.


Aurora Project

Aurora Native Title Internship Program

The Monash Indigenous Centre at the Clayton campus holds interviews twice yearly for intake into the Aurora Native Title Internship Program.

The program introduces students of anthropology and some social sciences (archaeology, cultural heritage, environmental management, history, human geography and sociology) to career opportunities in native title, policy, social justice and Indigenous affairs. The Aurora program aims to provide assistance to anthropology and research staff of under-resourced and over-worked native title representative bodies, native title service providers, and other organisations working in these areas including: Indigenous corporations, government bodies, community groups, not-for-profit organisations and policy organisations.

Students from universities in Melbourne, including Monash, submit applications for the internships and are interviewed by staff members at the Monash Indigenous Centre. Assoc.Prof. John Bradley who coordinates the program for Arts-based applicants says that the program has been very successful and, as a general rule, Monash students are very well prepared for undertaking the internships.

A number of Monash university graduates have found full time employment with various native title representative bodies around Australia, while for other students the internships confirm their desire to work with Indigenous affairs and policy or to continue postgraduate studies in the area. Successful students have been based with various Indigenous representative bodies in Melbourne, Brisbane, Torres Strait, Darwin, Perth, Kalgoorlie, Broome and Alice Springs.

Applying for the Internship Program

Any students who would like to consider making application for the Aurora Internships should view the required details on the Aurora Project site or can make an appointment to speak with Assoc.Prof. John Bradley at the Monash Indigenous Centre.


  • Aboriginal Visual Histories

    The Aboriginal Visual Histories: Photographing Indigenous Australians Project (AVH Project) is an Australian Research Council-funded Discovery Project. The AVH project commenced in 2008 with three primary objectives:

    review photographs of Aboriginal people in key collections around Australia and in Europe
    produce a systematic history of photographing Aboriginal people from the Australian inception of the medium in 1841 to the present day
    collaborate with descendants to incorporate Indigenous perspectives of photographs

  • Visualising Yanyuwa Narratives

    Making the oral visual: Visualising Yanyuwa narratives and the possibilities of cross generational transfer of … Continue reading Visualising Yanyuwa Narratives

  • Monash Country Lines Archive

    The Monash Country Lines Archive (MCLA) is a collaborative Monash University project between the Monash Indigenous Centre (MIC), Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Information Technology with a team of Monash researchers, digital animators and post-graduate students from the Monash Indigenous Centre, Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Information Technology.

  • Indigenous Human Rights and History Series

    This is a new series of refereed scholarly discussion papers published jointly by the Monash Indigenous … Continue reading Indigenous Human Rights and History Series

Useful websites for Australian Indigenous Studies

Monash sites

Making a difference to Indigenous communities

Any Monash student interested in working directly on projects in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities should contact the Voluntary Service to Indigenous Communities Foundation.

External sites

These websites contain information and resources relevant to Australian Indigenous Studies.