Engaging with Aboriginal history: Learning from museum collections, art and teaching on country

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At a time of important conversations in Australia about recognition, respect and reform, this forum discussion will explore approaches to engaging with Aboriginal history through art, museum collections, and teaching and learning on country. The panel discussion represents a valuable opportunity to learn about ways to engage with Aboriginal history through conversation with four of Australia’s leading indigenous academics and educators.


This event will take place at Deakin Downtown (727 Collins Street, Docklands) and via Zoom.


Professor Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews is descended from the Woiwurrung people of Melbourne and the Yorta Yorta tribe near the borders of Victoria and New South Wales along the Murray River. She is a member of the Dhulanyagan family clan of the Ulupna people. Julie has been teaching Aboriginal Studies for approximately 10 years and has extensive experience in policy and Indigenous higher education.

She teaches the first year Discovery subject HUS1ABS: Introduction to Aboriginal Australia. This subject is taught across all of La Trobe University campuses. It is a blended subject of online lectures and face to face workshops. The subject is basically a very broad introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. It is useful for those wanting to know more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or building upon what they may already know. It gives the student an opportunity to explore the many topics that are associated with Aboriginal Australia. Julie also teaches an On Country subject titled Encountering Aboriginal Victoria: Parallel Systems of Knowledge. This subject is taught at La Trobe University’s Shepparton campus and focuses on the history and contemporary Aboriginal community of the township of Shepparton and the Barmah region.

Dr Jason Gibson

Jason has worked extensively with Aboriginal custodians throughout Australia on history, museum, and heritage related projects and conducted detailed fieldwork in central Australia for the past 15 years. His award winning book is Ceremony Men: Making Ethnography and the Return of the Strehlow Collection (2020) examines the making of one of Australia’s most important anthropological collections and its relevance to Anmatyerr and Arrernte people.

Dr Vanessa Russ

Dr Vanessa Russ is Senior Lecturer in Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. Vanessa was the first Aboriginal director of the Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia. She undertook her PhD through UWA, studying Australian Aboriginal art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2014, Vanessa became one of just 13 Western Australians selected for a Churchill Fellowship, in which she investigated the affects of national identity in mainstream art museums on Indigenous populations, travelling across the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Growing up in the Kimberley, Vanessa’s first gallery experience were the rock art paintings of the Wandjina and memories of the old people crafting objects, singing and storytelling using drawings in the sand as inscriptions that have stayed with her throughout her life.

Professor Gaye Sculthorpe

Gaye Sculthorpe is Research Professor of Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies in the Alfred Deakin Institute and Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. A Palawa woman from Tasmania, Prof Sculthorpe is a descendant of the famous Aboriginal singer Fanny Smith. She has recently relocated to Melbourne after almost 10 years at the British Museum, where she was a curator and Head of Oceania in the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.

From 2000 until February 2013, Gaye was a member of the National Native Title Tribunal, and prior to that worked at Museums Victoria as Head of the Department of Indigenous Cultures. She has served on the board of Museums Victoria and the Executive Committee of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

Over the last 10 years, Gaye has worked with Australian and British colleagues to research and publish on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections in the UK and Ireland. Her most recent publication is Ancestors, artefacts, empire: Indigenous Australia in British and Irish Museums, published by British Museum Press in 2021.

Professor Greg Barton (moderator)

Prof Greg Barton is Research Professor at ADI.  Greg is a regular media commentator on matters of national security and international affairs.

ADI Policy Forums

The Alfred Deakin Institute Policy Forums aim to provide a high-profile platform for the Institute to bring together policy makers, researchers and community members for informed debate on important emerging policy issues. They foster informed debate, engage the public and provide research-led input to policy formation at national, State and regional levels.

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8 September 2022
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm AEST
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