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Going back to school for cross-platform skills Fri, 26 May 2017 04:02:50 +0000
Seven years into an established career as a radio journalist for SBS, Peggy Giakoumelos went back to school with Monash.]]>

Journalism alum Alysia Thomas-Sam now Chief-of-Staff at Nine News Fri, 26 May 2017 03:55:58 +0000
Assistant Chief of Staff at Nine News, Alysia Thomas-Sam has valuable advice to offer people starting out in their journalism careers: don’t be scared to make mistakes, and be yourself. ]]>

Top media editors explain why journalism is important Fri, 26 May 2017 00:26:46 +0000
Earlier this year I filmed a number of interviews with senior media editors and I asked them what they believed was the point of journalism today. Are journalists still the watchdogs of society? And if so, how should they engage better with their audiences in order to improve the tasks of investigation, interpretation and dissemination?]]>

“Legacies of resistance we need to act upon”: PhD candidate Matteo Dutto Tue, 23 May 2017 16:20:02 +0000
Sometimes dubbed the ‘black Ned Kelly’, Jandamarra of the Bunuba nation is an iconic figure in the history of Australian … Continue reading “Legacies of resistance we need to act upon”: PhD candidate Matteo Dutto ]]>

PhD candidate Matteo Dutto
PhD candidate Matteo Dutto

Sometimes dubbed the ‘black Ned Kelly’, Jandamarra of the Bunuba nation is an iconic figure in the history of Australian Indigenous armed resistance to colonial invasion, and while Indigenous Australians have always shared stories of both Jandamarra’s resistance and of other key Indigenous people, such as Yagan of the Whadjuk Noongar and Pemulwuy of the Bidjigal people, the wider Australian public remains largely unaware of this history and these stories.

Monash PhD candidate, Matteo Dutto, is currently researching the retellings of these stories, which take on various forms including oral accounts, theatre, film and children’s books. His research encourages greater responsibility and recognition for the diverse ways to think about the legacies of these stories, and about the connections between past and present acts of resistance.

Why did you choose to look, in particular, at these three figures?

There are so many stories of armed resistance, and even though there’s much work about these leading figures, they are not really part of Australia’s national history. I chose these three historical leaders because there is a corpus of stories produced by Indigenous cultural producers about them.

The idea was not to look at them only through a historical perspective, but also through an Indigenous approach, so doing that meant engaging with Indigenous retellings of these stories and the way in which they exist across a wide variety of media. There is of course the oral tradition but perhaps most interestingly for us and Indigenous people, is that there is quite a lot of work being done by Indigenous filmmakers, playwrights and writers to retell these stories to the wider public from their own perspectives. These include documentary films, historical novels, and theatre plays.

So for Pemulwuy we have oral stories, documentaries, theatre plays and the same goes for Jandamarra and Yagan. They are each quite different in terms of stories. They show different facets of resistance, different ways resistance was performed in Australia, the different approaches to retelling the stories because, of course, the Bidjigal, Bunuba and Whadjuk Noongar people and cultures are each so different.

That’s the main area of the thesis and the objective was to develop a decolonising framework for us, as non-Indigenous people, to properly acknowledge and understand what an Indigenous perspective on history is and the dynamic interrelationship between these stories of resistance and reclamations of sovereignty in the present. I did this by weaving methods of textual and historical analysis with original interviews with Indigenous cultural producers to analyse a wide range of retellings of the lives and legacies of Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan from the past forty years.

Is this why you use the word “legacies” as an ongoing concept rather than “stories” which infer something past?

Yes, these are stories that speak not just to the past, they speak to the present and they speak to the future, most importantly. These stories are in the present, for things like negotiation of treaties, land rights, and the reclamation of sovereignty against the ongoing colonisation in Australia.

These are not just stories of resistance, these are acts of resistance in the present – by retelling a story of resistance you are enacting resistance in the present. And of course you can do that in a variety of ways so the idea of having more stories was also to reflect how you can resist colonisation and aim towards decolonisation in different ways. There are works that try and pursue a more reconciliatory approach and build towards reconciliation and constitutional recognition, and other works that emerge from a different political background and focus instead on reclamations of sovereignty and on the demand for treaties. They share many of the same aims but they enact resistance in different ways.

This is why I, in the end, propose to think about these three stories [about Yagan, Jandamarra and Pemulwuy] not just as stories of resistance but as legacies of resistance.

Engaging with them through the works of Indigenous cultural producers and cultural activists allows us to understand how Indigenous historical knowledges operate across different media and epistemologies, embodying radical alterities through their presentation of the relations between past and present, between myth and history and between Indigenous countries and the settler colonial state. These are not just stories we need to learn about, but legacies we need to act upon.

Where did this idea come from?

You could say the main starting point was something that Tony Birch, an Indigenous academic and writer, wrote during the early 2000s during the ‘history wars’ when the very notion of Indigenous history and the legitimacy of Indigenous historiographies was being called into question by the Howard government. Reflecting on this political discussion, Tony Birch pointed at the fact that what was missing were Indigenous voices and perspectives because what he saw were non-Indigenous revisionist historians against non-Indigenous conservative historians. The idea was, let’s start from what Birch said, and what can we, non-Indigenous people learn, not from ‘official histories’ but from Indigenous histories?

I always thought it was interesting that there’s many ways of doing history but there is still a resistance, particularly in Australia, to histories that are done through other mediums and are not considered by many as ‘proper’ forms of history. I think there is still a reluctance even within western historiography to accept that these other forms, for example documentary, can do history just as well as historians can, so that history is not just confined to the university but done through many other disciplines. That’s why I incorporate a transdisciplinary approach.

I think what’s also striking is that there is still a linear modernist view of history that has framed Indigenous people as confined to a distant past – depicting Indigenous cultures as not contemporary. This approach was pivotal during the early years of colonisation and still being used today by the settler colonial state, to deny we live in the same day and age and that there can be different ways of being modern and being contemporary.

When we think of how history can be done across media, we think of transmedia, cross-media, convergence, but for many Indigenous cultures across Australia, knowledge was always transmitted across media: song, storytelling, performance. It was always told across media so it doesn’t have to be conceptualised as ‘traditional’ or ‘contemporary’ – they work together. How we perceive and conceptualise history can trick us into thinking in certain paradigms.

These works I’m looking at break away from these paradigms and force us to consider different ways of doing history, and to understand these stories of resistance we need to change the way we think about history itself. It’s not just about knowing, but learning from these stories and reflecting on how and why they were told and at what time.

As someone from Italy, I’m curious, what stirred you to learn about these legacies in Australia?

I first came to Australia in 2009 when I was doing a Master of Comparative Literature and Post-Colonial Studies at the University of Bologna focusing on Australian literature, and that’s when I came across the Ned Kelly stories. I’d always been interested in resistance stories so I thought that would be an interesting topic and I managed to get a scholarship from the University of Bologna to spend three months here doing research, and so of course I came to Melbourne. At the time, I was focusing on the literary reincarnations of Ned Kelly and how his legend was built through various media, starting from the very first songs that were being written and sang while he was alive, up until books like The True History of the Kelly Gang [by Peter Carey] and a number of films.

Whilst doing that, I got in touch with Professor Adam Shoemaker, a key Australian scholar of post-colonial and Indigenous literature who was working at Monash University at the time, and then I got to know Mary Rose Casey, a performance scholar still here in the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre. That was around the time I came across the Jandamarra story.

I didn’t have much time to explore that in my master’s thesis but I conducted some research and wrote a bit about Jandamarra. I then ended up working in Italy for another four years before I decided to continue this research and applied for a scholarship from Monash to do this PhD.

You could say that I targeted Monash as I’d been here before and had a good experience, even though it was just for a couple of weeks. I knew how good a university it was and thought I could do more here so it was my first and only application for a scholarship.

How fortuitous to meet Mary Rose Casey. How then did you find your supervisors?

When I first applied for the scholarship I knew Professor Shoemaker wasn’t working at Monash anymore, so I didn’t have any contacts at the university. I just sent a blind application to see if anyone was interested and soon after I received an email back from Associate Professor Therese Davis saying that she loved the project and that she’d be happy to be my supervisor.

After that I met with her and Associate Professor Belinda Smail at the Monash Prato Centre, as they were organising a small conference there. It was great, we spent a couple of days together so I got a chance to meet my supervisors before I came to Australia. It took a couple of extra months for the scholarship to be approved, then that was it.

And now you’ve submitted your thesis. Can you share a bit about what you’ve found?

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories among the three is the story of Jandamarra. These stories were either actively erased after the death of these freedom fighters, or assimilated into the colonial narrative to maintain the myth of terra nullius, and the myth that Indigenous people did not resist or fight back. You either had to erase these characters by not speaking about them even though they are in the archives, or you turn them into outlaws and bandits.

Jandamarra became a bandit in a book written about him by Ion Idriess in the 1950s, ‘Outlaws of the Leopolds’, where he made Jandamarra the villain who kills settlers with the settlers and police force as the heroes of the narrative. The Bunuba people, the keepers of his story, for years tried to repair this history and retell it through Bunuba stories and voices. In 1984 they created a cultural enterprise, Bunuba Cultural Enterprises, with the objective to tell the story to the wider public. The original idea was to turn it into a feature film, then it became a play through a collaboration with Steve Hawke, a non-Indigenous playwright who spent about 25 years of his life in Fitzroy Crossing. A most interesting aspect is that the play is performed in four languages [English, Bunuba, Kriol and Pidgin]. It then also became an opera that was performed in Sydney three years ago. 

‘Jandamarra: Sing for the Country’ made its world premiere with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, 2014.

So what we can learn from this approach is that it was driven from the community and can be cross-cultural, and take different forms. You also get an idea of how important language is to convey certain aspects of history. The most important point is that it comes from the community and the ownership of the story remains with the community even when the story is opened up to a much wider audience, as when Indigenous director Mitch Torres retold it in her 2011 documentary Jandamarra’s War.

How did this compare to the other legacies?

Well, on the other end you’ve got Pemulwuy, whose story was first brought to a wider public by Indigenous academic Eric Willmott in 1987 when he was working for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). His approach was very much engaging with the historical archive and looking for what was missing in the official accounts rather than with the keepers of the story. These stories may have been erased from official histories, but if you look at the diaries of settlers and journals of the governors, there are mentions of these figures because they were, at the end of the day, fighting a war. So his approach was looking at the “white” archive and filling in the gaps, whereas with Jandamarra, as it was still alive as an oral history, things were driven by the Bunuba people then research from elsewhere was considered.

Willmott’s research into Pemulwuy was actually first aired as a documentary in 1985, as a teaser to his book while he was still completing the novel. The advantage of considering these different retellings as a corpus is that it allows us to reflect on how they move across time and across media. They might emerge at different times, but they are inextricably connected to each other and this also changes the way in which we often think about history as a single narrative. Pemulwuy emerged to a wider audience in the late 1980s and there’s a reason for that. His story was recovered right before the celebration of the bicentenary because it was being used by Indigenous activists to protest against the omission of Indigenous perspectives from the ‘celebrations’.

The Pemulwuy story is still maintained by the Eora nation or Darug people in Sydney. They were involved in Rachel Perkins’ 2008 documentary series First Australians by having Darug elders retell the story on their own terms, and the same was done in 2010 by Indigenous filmmaker Grant Lee Saunders. Looking at these different works one can see how Pemulwuy is portrayed in different ways by each cultural producer, with changes that reflect the way in which Indigenous activism and politics have changed over the past 30 years.

What about for the retelling of Yagan?

For Yagan, there was an oral history CD released just a few years ago as told by the Whadjuk Noongar people. Again a community-driven project, and it’s interesting how these stories are still being told and how crucial they are. We also have his story playing a pivotal role in Jack Davis’ 1972 play Kullark, in Sally Riley’s short film Confessions of a Headhunter and in a more recent documentary by Kelrick Martin called Yagan.

Through this story and his various retellings by Indigenous cultural producers we can also see how these stories of resistance continue to have an impact in the present. After Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan were killed, their heads were cut off and shipped to England to be exhibited in museums and that was a common practice that the British colonisers did across the world. The retelling of these stories is a way to advocate for the return of their remains, as well as for sovereignty and land rights. Having their remains returned to country is crucial in many ways for their spirit to be laid to rest and for their legacy to be taken up by a new generation.  Yagan’s head was recovered in 1997 and buried with a traditional Noongar ceremony in 2010, but for Pemulwuy and Jandamarra, there is still an ongoing campaign for the repatriation of their remains and these retellings play an active part in these fights.

This fight is still going on. These stories bring to light questions that need to be discussed with the communities: how do you commemorate these stories? Would Pemulwuy be happy to have a statue built of him by the state he fought against? How can we move forward?

So is this what your research ultimately hopes to achieve – a way to move forward?

The idea was to develop a decolonising framework that could account for the mobility, continuity and heterogeneity of Indigenous multimodal approaches to history-making. This was done not only with objective of facilitating the recognition of Indigenous cultural productions as valid forms of doing history, but to stress how learning from the lives of historical figures like Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan requires a non-Indigenous public to engage with their incarnations across different media and across different times to truly understand what their legacies entail in the present, and how they are shaped by Indigenous cultural activists. We don’t just need to sit down and listen; we need to sit down, listen and engage and act upon them. There is a need to move forward.

It’s something that could be taken up with many other stories too. It’d be interesting to see other people engaging with the stories of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, Musquito, Dundalli and Windradyne [(each from different Indigenous countries)], or the role of Indigenous women in the resistance for example. In the story of Jandamarra the role of Jandamarra’s mother and wife were crucial in the fight, so that’s another direction of research.

I think it has practical implications for policy as well, for example the way the curriculum is taught – how are these stories taught and for what purpose? Do you just use textbooks or do you use film and art? I think it’s crucial to recognise the importance of not just ‘teaching’ Indigenous histories, but of doing so using also Indigenous ways of doing it, involving communities, as well as cultural producers and cultural activists to stress how these stories are still alive.

I suppose this might also have an impact for the new migrants coming to Australia as in: how much, as migrants to this country, do we know about the many Indigenous sovereign nations? As much as we might be considered minority groups and different from ‘white Australia’, we are still part of a settler colonial state, we still benefit from the genocide that occurred, so we are very much part of the system. We have a responsibility to engage more with these stories, to know them and to learn from them.

It’s not good enough to say, ‘why didn’t anybody tell us?’ We should be actively looking for this information and these stories are out there so it’s a question of: why don’t we act upon them? Why aren’t we in a position to see how important they are?

Even for new migrants to engage more actively to learn about the place you live in, not just the white history of the place. And it’s so much more satisfying, I feel privileged to have lived in a place for four years where we have the longest continuing culture in the world. There is so much to be learnt from it, if we only engaged a bit more.

Broadcaster, Waleed Aly, receives PhD from Monash University,-waleed-aly,-receives-phd-from-monash-university2 Tue, 23 May 2017 05:22:39 +0000

Malthouse opportunities and new Australian musicals at Monash Fri, 19 May 2017 05:00:08 +0000
The Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance (CTP) has great opportunities for students to further … Continue reading Malthouse opportunities and new Australian musicals at Monash ]]>

Head of Theatre & Performance Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffiths
Head of Theatre & Performance Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffiths

The Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance (CTP) has great opportunities for students to further their professional practice, with both its ongoing Malthouse Theatre partnership (including internships, the commissioning of new works for student performance, and lively public lectures); and with a new major donation from Pratt Foundation to foster new Australian musical theatre.

Head of CTP, Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffith, explains that these initiatives are very much central to the CTP’s culture and vision, where the Centre sees itself as part of ‘an ecosystem of theatre’, with benefits for both students and the wider community alike.

What does the Monash-Malthouse partnership offer students and the public?

It’s a terrific partnership; it’s really very mutually beneficial. I particularly like it too that Malthouse is a very innovative theatre company, it’s young, it’s hungry and does exciting work and that’s how we see ourselves at CTP as well – so it’s a perfect engagement.

The Arts Faculty is the major sponsor of Malthouse Theatre each year, and in return our students receive an unrivalled level of internships. We have interns in marketing, PR, theatre administration, directing, lighting, sound design – pretty much every area. It’s an amazing experience for the students because, of course, they are sitting in the rehearsal room with some of the best practitioners in the country, watching these amazing works. In fact, I’ve just had a meeting with someone who’s in the middle of their internship and it’s really a life-changing experience.

Also, through the additional support of MAPA, every year for the past three years we commission playwrights to create a new play for our 3rd year students which is performed at The Malthouse. In our first year we had multi-award-winning playwrights Daniel Keene and Angus Cerini, with three young emerging playwrights. Last year we commissioned Patricia Cornelius and Susie Dee: Patricia is without doubt Australia’s most awarded theatre writer and the work she does is contentious, dangerous, political and exciting; and Susie Dee recently swept up the Green Room Awards this year for her direction. Again, an extraordinary experience for our students working with practitioners of that calibre.

This coming year we’ve commissioned an emerging playwright, Morgan Rose, who is really one of the best emerging playwrights in the country. And I think that’s important too, that we are helping people in their careers who are in the industry, and we’re also validating a form of theatre which isn’t that fashionable because new writing doesn’t get a voice very often. So it’s a way of giving back to the industry as well as engaging our students.

We also believe very strongly in public engagement so we have a series of free public talks called Monash Meets Malthouse where four times a year, to coincide with certain productions, we bring together a panel of Monash academics and people from the industry or broader community for open, fun and informative conversations about the work.

So, really making that link between the entertainment industry, the cultural arts and academic research – coming together and making our research accessible, so we can convey it in a really clear and non-intimidating way and make a stronger conversation.

What’s the next ‘Monash Meets Malthouse’ about?

The talk will explore when is it acceptable for actors and artists to criticise critics. It’ll coincide with the production Wild Bore that will feature Britain’s, America’s and Australia’s foremost queer cabaret artists and provocateurs coming together with a great deal of explicit nudity and scurrilousness, I’m sure. 

CTP received a significant donation from the Pratt Foundation last year – can you tell us what that will go towards?

Yes, it was completely out of the blue for us and an amazing opportunity. Jeanne Pratt donated one million dollars to Monash University to foster new Australian musical theatre. With this funding we’ve changed the model because the Pratt Foundation want to see new musical theatre in the new Alexander Theatre when the huge revitalisation is complete.

Their donation has allowed us to commission a new work. We’ve employed two artists-in-residence so far to write a new piece and they mentor the students. We’ve also doubled the amount of teaching so this year the students are not just learning about the history of musical theatre but writing their own. We’ve got Verity Hunt-Ballard who is probably Australia’s most awarded musical theatre star and she’s teaching them how to act in musicals right now. It is just amazing that someone of her calibre is coming in to teach.

There’s also a sense of excitement in the industry – there’s a lot of people in musical theatre who are now looking at us thinking, this is something very different, this is actually a chance for us to have a testing ground for our work and to be nurtured. The great thing about the artist-in-residency is that it gives people time. They’ve got a year to write their own work, a year where they’ve got their own office where they can be looked after, and then at the end of it their work goes into full production. It’s huge.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I think the biggest thing for any prospective students or parents out there to understand is how important this is as a discipline. It’s really easy for people to think that theatre and performance are ‘cappuccino degrees’.

About 20 years ago I think someone here or in the UK was talking about scrapping these degrees, that they were for the ‘arty farty elite’. What a load of nonsense! The skills that you learn through this discipline, whether incisive critical analysis, or empathetic engagement, are extraordinary.

And one of the things I love about this year’s intake is that there’s a first year acting course elective open to anyone in the university, and we have really culturally diverse students – it’s wonderful, we even have one young man who teaches a warm up in Hindi. I love that.

We have students from other cultures who have joined simply to feel more comfortable in their own skin. And that’s what it does to you –

the understanding of the soul that happens in acting is, I think, one of the most important lessons you can have.

I think it’s important that parents never think that universities should be vocational because life is much more than a vocational degree. It’s about growing and learning first.

I would say about 25% of my acting intake are actually scientists or business students who might have wanted to take this course so they could do presentations better, but they found something very rich in it.

There needs to be bit more validation in what the arts can do for the community and that it’s not an exercise in elite promotion it’s actually something that is vital for human health, I think.



How does a play further human health and affect our communities? What is the potential of a contemporary Greek tragedy in theatre today? Listen to our interview with Assoc Prof Jane Montgomery-Griffiths on her research into ‘Wit’, the Pulitzer prize-winning play. Presented last year, her performance as the lead role of the brilliant professor dying of cancer in ‘Wit’ saw her win the 2017 Outstanding Performer Greenroom Award. Audiences’ reactions established the need to explore the phenomenon of the play’s effect and its potential for furthering our empathy and human health.


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Stephanie Brookes launches groundbreaking book Thu, 18 May 2017 05:32:50 +0000
Monash University journalism lecturer Dr Stephanie Brookes has published a groundbreaking book, Politics, Media and Campaign Language.]]>

PhD candidate Alison Stieven-Taylor invited to moderate debate in Sydney Fri, 12 May 2017 07:18:13 +0000
Sydney’s annual Head On Photo Festival invited Monash PhD candidate Alison Stieven-Taylor to moderate the key debate for this year’s festival on the question “Does photojournalism facilitate or counteract fake news?”]]>

Public lecture: Paul Strangio reflects on Federal Parliament’s Melbourne years Wed, 10 May 2017 00:29:43 +0000
Professor Paul Strangio from Monash University will present a free public lecture on the significance of the first Australian federal parliamentary sittings in Melbourne over a quarter of a century ago.]]>

Free Public Lecture: Something Borrowed: 1901 -1927, the Federal Years at Victoria’s Parliament House.

Friday May 19, 6pm, Queen’s Hall, Parliament House of Victoria.

Associate Professor Paul Strangio

In 1901 Australia’s newly formed Commonwealth Parliament started life not in the Canberra, which was yet to be built, but  in Melbourne, the nation’s first capital. Monash’s Professor Paul Strangio will present a free public lecture on the Federal Parliament’s Melbourne years (1901-1927). 

Professor Strangio will reflect on the significance of those parliamentary sittings in Melbourne over a quarter of a century ago, and how they impacted the shape of federal and state politics in that formative nation-building era.

Paul Strangio is an associate professor of politics in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, as well as an author and editor of many books on Australian and Victorian political history. His latest major project (with Paul ‘t Hart and James Walter) is a two-volume history of the Australian prime ministership: Settling the Office: The Australian Prime Ministership from Federation to Reconstruction (2016) and The Pivot of Power: Australian Prime Ministers and Political Leadership 1949-2016 (forthcoming in 2017).

Professor Strangio’s lecture is part of an exhibition ‘Something Borrowed’ which tells the story of those pioneering 26 years on Spring Street. On show from 15 to 19 May 2017 in Queen’s Hall at Parliament House, the ‘Something Borrowed’ exhibition will explore some of the forgotten and unknown stories of the Federal Parliament’s formative years. Download the exhibition brochure

Entry the Public Lecture is free, but spaces are limited. 
Visit to reserve your seat.

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