Listening to the Ancestors

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This session will explore how Indigenous traditions of song and dance can inform our responses to current ecological challenges.

This panel comprises four papers, each of which looks at how the ancient traditions of Australian Indigenous wisdom and knowledge embedded in ceremonial song and dance might inform our response to ‘the connected crises of climate change and biodiversity decline’ and the ‘multitude of threats to humanity’ that they pose.  Are we able to value and protect these song and dance traditions? Are we capable of the deep listening required to engage with the knowledge and wisdom that they contain?  Can we grasp and apply what they have to offer us in the midst of the present environmental crisis?

Event details

When: 11.00am-12.30pm (AEDT), Thursday 18th November 2021
Where: Zoom Webinar



Emeritus Professor Allan Marett

Emeritus Professor Allan Marett’s main fields of research include: Australian Aboriginal song, in particular, the wangga of NW Australia; and Sino-Japanese music, including Japanese court music (gagaku) and Japanese Noh drama.  His book Songs, Dreamings and Ghosts: The Wangga of North Australia won the 2006 Stanner Award, and in 2017, a seven-CD set of wangga songs, co-authored with Linda Barwick, won the National Indigenous Music Award for Best Traditional Release. Prior to his retirement in 2007, Allan was Professor of Musicology at the University of Sydney and before that, Professor of Music at the University of Hong Kong.

Pictured left: Associate Professor Trevor Ryan pictured right: Associate Professor Clint Bracknell

Associate Professor Clint Bracknell

Clint Bracknell is a musician and researcher from the south coast Noongar region of Western Australia and Associate Professor at WAAPA and Kurongkurl Katitjin, Edith Cowan University where he leads an ARC funded program of research focusing on the connections between Noongar performance, language, Country and digital technologies. He recently worked on Hecate, the first Shakespearian theatre work to be presented in an Australian language, and Fist of Fury Noongar Daa, the first feature film to be dubbed in one. Clint received the 2020 Barrett Award for Australian Studies and serves as an elected AIATSIS Council member.

Associate Professor Trevor Ryan

Trevor Ryan Noongar/Yamitji stage and screen performer and drama teacher with a strong interest in language and cultures. His recent career highlights include performing as King Duncan in the Noongar Macbeth, Hecate (2020) and as Yoshida in the Noongar-dubbed version of the classic Bruce Lee film, Fist of Fury Noongar Daa (2021). As a constant member of the Wadumbah Aboriginal Dance Group, Trevor performed for the Queen on her arrival to Perth and at the opening of CHOGM 2011. Trevor is currently completing a Masters of Performing Arts researching the links between Noongar performance and Country.


Emeritus Professor Linda Barwick

Linda Barwick is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney’s Sydney Conservatorium of Music. A musicologist, she specialises in the study of Australian First Nations musics, community and immigrant musics, and has also worked on cultural traditions of the Philippines and Italy. Linda has published extensively in ethnomusicology, digital humanities and archiving, and has collaborated with many other researchers and communities in winning funding to support research on sustaining and developing performance traditions. She is co-founder of the digital archive PARADISEC, the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures. Her edited volume (co-edited with Jennifer Green and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel) Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond (Sydney and Honolulu: Sydney University Press and University of Hawai’I Press, 2020) was recently awarded the Australian Society of Archivists 2020 Mander Jones Award for “publication making the greatest contribution to the archives profession in Australia”. In 2019 she was a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the SOAS University of London. Linda is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.


Associate Professor Linda Payi Ford

Associate Professor Linda Payi Ford is a Senior Research Fellow at the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University in the College of Indigenous Futures, Education and Arts located in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. She underpins her theoretical approach to her projects with her Mirrwana and Wurrkama (2005) methodology to her Indigenous research practice and theory across multiple disciplinary fields. Payi is a Rak Mak Mak Marranunggu Traditional Aboriginal Owner from Kurrindju. Ford’s Country is Kurrindju in the Finniss River and Reynold River regions southwest of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Ford balances her academic research career, teaching, and learning in higher education, family and caring for Country, threatened Aboriginal languages and culture.


Sally Treloyn

Sally Treloyn is an applied ethnomusicologist with a primary area specialism in Indigenous song-dance practices and historical collections relating to the Kimberley region of northwest Australia. Treloyn has published widely on the compositional practices and processes of Indigenous song, and over the last decade on issues of archives and access, repatriation, sustainability, and revitalisation, in collaboration with Indigenous scholars and knowledge holders. Treloyn is Associate Professor in Ethnomusicology and Intercultural Research, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and Co-Director of the Research Unit for Indigenous Arts and Cultures, in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at The University of Melbourne.


Matthew Dembalali Martin

Matthew Dembalali Martin is a Ngarinyin and Wunambal (First Nations, Kimberley region) senior lawman and singer. Martin holds and shares dance, song, and associated knowledges, for Junba and Wolungarri, continuing the legacy of his father, master composer Mr S. Martin. He is a central consultant on issues of Law, language, and culture, for Waniina-Wunggurr peoples, and champions the teaching of dance-song practice to children and young people. 

Rona Goonginda Charles

Rona Googninda Charles is a Ngarinyin and Nyikina (First Nations, Kimberley region) singer, dancer, multi-disciplinary artist, and cultural teacher. Charles is a leader of the Junba Project, a community-based, research-born, initiative to sustain intergenerational transmission of practices and knowledges of the dance-song genre known as Junba. Charles serves the Law, language, and culture, interests of Waniina-Wunggurr peoples, and has co-authored several papers that address music sustainability and research collaboration. 

About the Symposium

The connected crises of climate change and biodiversity decline pose a multitude of threats to humanity. With the scale of the challenge demanding both the attention and collaborative endeavour of experts across the research sector, our 52nd Annual Symposium will examine the insights and solutions the humanities and arts can bring to these critical issues.

The Symposium will showcase ideas from established and emerging scholars from many disciplines – not only from the field of environmental humanities but also researchers with expertise in ethics, justice, emotions, ethical technology, art and design, cross-cultural analysis and linguistics whose work offers a new lens on the social and cultural dimensions of the climate crisis. Speakers will also consider how the humanities disciplines might need to adapt to be more effective in a volatile world where the category ‘human’ is being re-examined in the context of the Anthropocene and the ‘more-than-human’.

>> Explore the full 52nd Annual Academy Symposium program

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.