Australian Indigenous Studies
What will I study?
Your course structure
The Bachelor of Arts requires the successful completion of 24 subjects (300-points), including at least one major. Most students study eight subjects each year (usually four subjects in each semester) for three years full-time, or the part-time equivalent.
Most Arts majors require 100 points of study (usually eight subjects) for attainment. This means out of your 300-point program, you have the opportunity to achieve two majors in your course.
Completing your major
If you are taking Australian Indigenous Studies as a major, you must complete:
- Any level 1 Arts elective subject (usually at first year)
- One Arts Foundation subject
- 37.5 points (usually three subjects) of level 2 elective subjects (recommended or optional subjects usually at second year)
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of Level 3 elective subjects (recommended or optional subjects usually at third year)
- One level 3 capstone subject (usually at third year)
If you are taking Australian Indigenous Studies as a minor, you must complete:
- Any level 1 Arts elective subject (usually at first year)
- One Arts Foundation subject
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 2 elective subjects (usually at second year)
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of Level 3 elective subjects (usually at third year)
Breadth is a unique feature of the Melbourne Model. It gives you the chance to explore subjects outside of arts, developing new perspectives and learning to collaborate with others who have different strengths and interests — just as you will in your future career.
Some of our students use breadth to explore creative interests or topics they have always been curious about. Others used breadth to improve their career prospects by complementing their major with a language, communication skills or business expertise.
Olivia Bentley is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Australian Indigenous Studies.
I’m a proud Wiradjuri woman with Irish and Scottish settler heritage. I was born and raised on Birpai Country – Port Macquarie. I was particularly drawn to make the move and come to the University of Melbourne because of its model, its breadth of subjects and its Indigenous support.
As an Aboriginal student I already possessed an understanding about my community, our history and the issues we face. However, I had not previously engaged in learning about Aboriginal Australia from the Western teaching perspective. Australian Indigenous Studies has afforded me an understanding of what non-Indigenous people know and don’t know about our community.
One subject I have particularly enjoyed is Racial Literacy: Indigeneity and Whiteness. It unpacks the history, representation and role of race in nation building. The subject challenges students to reflect on their own position and be critical about the construction, deployment and normalisation of race rhetoric.
I have also enjoyed Contemporary Aboriginal Art. Art plays an important role in our community and culture and I was eager to learn more about the nuances and practice of Aboriginal art. Contemporary Aboriginal Art has equipped me with the specific knowledge to identify the art practices, techniques and styles of different Aboriginal artists and communities whilst also providing a greater insight in to the complexities of contemporary Aboriginal art practice such as copyright, appropriation, curating policy and identity politics in the art market.
I’m particularly looking forward to the summer intensive subject On Country Learning: Indigenous Studies. A field-based subject, On Country Learning is taught by Aboriginal people on Yorta Yorta Country.
I currently work at Murrup Barak - Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development - here at the University of Melbourne, as a mentor to new Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander students.
Explore this major
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this major.
This subject will provide students with an introduction to the complexity, challenges and richness of Australian Indigenous life and cultures. Drawing on a wide range of diverse and dynamic guest lecturers, this subject gives students an opportunity to encounter Australian Indigenous knowledges, histories and experiences through interdisciplinary perspectives. Across three thematic blocks - Indigenous Knowledges, Social and Political Contexts and Representation/Self-Representation - this subject engages contemporary cultural and intellectual debate. Social and political contexts will be considered through engagement with specific issues and a focus on Indigenous cultural forms, which may include literature, music, fine arts, museum exhibitions and performance, will allow students to consider self-representation as a means by which to disrupt and expand perceptions of Aboriginality.
- Key Thinkers and Concepts12.5
Key Thinkers and Concepts
This subject will introduce students to key thinkers and concepts in Aboriginal governance, community and cultural activism, Aboriginal advancement, self-determination and social justice. Key Thinkers and Concepts will allow students who have completed the first year MULT10001 Aboriginalities subject, to form a deeper and more profound understanding of the field of contemporary Australian Indigenous Studies. Intellectuals whose ideas may be studied include anthropologists WEH Stanner, Eric Michaels, Cultural Studies theorist Steven Muecke, Cultural Nationalists, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Kevin Gilbert and Mudrooroo, Reconciliation and Social Justice thinkers Patrick and Mick Dodson, conservative thinkers Warren Mundine and Noel Pearson, and novelist and legal theorist Larissa Behrendt.
- Aboriginal Land, Law and Philosophy12.5
Aboriginal Land, Law and Philosophy
Aboriginal Land, Law and Philosophy will provide students who have completed the first year introductory MULT10001 Aboriginalities subject with a more detailed and complex understanding of some of the key themes in this study area. It will utilise the physical, symbolic and metaphysical role of land and country in Australian Indigenous society as a starting point for the consideration of critical issues in Indigenous and Settler relations in contemporary Australia. Aboriginal Land, Law and Philosophy will enable the development of a deep and nuanced engagement with a selection of major issues. These may include land tenure, crime and punishment, political representation, social policy, cultural production, governance and economics. Using land and country as a base, these issues will be explored from Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives and from the interdsciplinary perspective of Literary Studies, Philosophy and Law. The interdisciplinary fusion of Literary Studies with Philosophy and Law will create a divergent interrogation of how land, possession and dispossession has influenced materially, legally and theoretically the experience of Indigenous Australians.
- Australian Environmental Philosophy12.5
Australian Environmental Philosophy
This subject considers progressive developments that are being generated through Indigenous and non-Indigenous dialogue and intersections in the context of Australian environmental thought. Students will critique and reconsider aspects of dominant Western ways of knowing and understanding, particularly deep-rooted assumptions surrounding the 'nonhuman'. Students will gain awareness of how these assumptions shape our lives and relationships with the world, and will examine connections between epistemology, life practices and environmental ethics. Through a study of Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmental thinkers, and drawing from Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships with the land, students will think about ethical, social and political issues in relation to the ecology.
- Language in Aboriginal Australia12.5
Language in Aboriginal Australia
This subject develops an appreciation of the role of language in Aboriginal Australia, traditionally and today. On completion of the subject, students should have a general knowledge of the linguistic features which characterise Australian Aboriginal languages, including characteristics of grammar and pronunciation, and understand the ways in which social factors affect language structure and use in Aboriginal Australia.
- Aboriginal Women and Coloniality12.5
Aboriginal Women and Coloniality
Aboriginal Women and Coloniality is a multidisciplinary subject looking at the various roles Aboriginal women have played in Aboriginal and Settler society. It examines stereotypical representations of Aboriginal women in colonial art and culture, the depiction of Aboriginal women in literature, cinema and fine arts, the role Aboriginal women have played in the economy as workers, as well as their roles as nurturers and carers, activists and community leaders. Theories and approaches from gender and post-colonial studies and new historicism will be utilised to provide the intellectual framework for this subject. The subject will conclude with consideration of the critique that female Aboriginal artists and writers have made of these representations, and the forms of self-representation produced in their work.
- Racial Literacy: Indigeneity & Whiteness12.5
Racial Literacy: Indigeneity & Whiteness
This subject aims to enhance student's racial literacy with a focus on representations of Indigeneity and whiteness in Australia. The term, "racial literacy", devised to describe anti-racist practices, entails students becoming literate in critically reading and understanding multiple modes of race representation. The inter-disciplinary approach enables students to analyse the relationships among texts, images, language and social practices, drawing on Australian literature, media, film and the visual arts. In this way, the subject equips students to become multi-literate in critiquing race constructions of identity formation and nation building through the creative and communicative arts. The subject introduces students to critical theoretical frameworks incorporating postcolonial, race and whiteness studies. It will engage with questions of voice, position, power, agency, capital and social justice issues to explore how representations of Indigeneity and whiteness operate with regard to the intersections of race, gender and class relations in an Australian context (with links and comparisons also made to examples of race representation in a global context).
- Australian Indigenous Politics12.5
Australian Indigenous Politics
The subject studies Australian indigenous politics in the comparative context of settler societies. First, it explores their historical dispossession and exclusion that left Indigenous people as citizens without rights, and economically and socially marginalized in their own country. Second, it evaluates the ongoing processes of recognition and inclusion, including anti-discrimination measures, land rights, state and federal policy measures, social policy and Indigenous initiatives that have marked the uneven path to reconciliation and recognition of the full rights and entitlements of Indigenous people, including special group rights and compensation.
- Critical Debates in Indigenous Studies12.5
Critical Debates in Indigenous Studies
The capstone subject will allow students to draw together the knowledge and learning experiences they have had in the Australian Indigenous Studies Major. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on the deeper implications of this knowledge and apply multidisciplinary research perspectives to a project of their own choosing. Many lectures will be delivered by eminent Aboriginal and Settler practitioners in such fields as education, the public sector, health, law, the media, arts and culture. Students will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with these practitioners and demonstrate an informed awareness of relevant policy developments in these areas and knowledge of cultural sensitivities. This subject is the practical fruition of the interdisciplinary perspectives that make up the Australian Indigenous Studies major and connects those perspectives to the social world. Students will have the opportunity to explore the intersection between those disciplinary perspectives and cognate ideas in various fields of practice. Students will also have the chance to experience the spectrum of vocational possibilities in Australian Indigenous affairs, and finally, to develop and communicate a mature and broad intellectual perspective on Australian Indigenous affairs.
- Aboriginal Cultural Studies12.5
Aboriginal Cultural Studies
This subject studies Aboriginal dance, theatre and popular music, cultural and sporting festivals; governmental arts funding agencies; and Aboriginal arts organisations. It focuses on theoretical and political issues which arise from Aboriginal culture being both a commodity and a vehicle of Indigenous identity and resistance. It uncovers the diverse and transitional nature of contemporary Aboriginal cultural production and the social and political contexts which frame the creation and use of contemporary Aboriginal cultural production. Students undertaking this subject should develop an understanding of the politics of consumption and appreciation of Aboriginal cultural productions as well as the politics of content.
- Historicising the Colonial Mythscape12.5
Historicising the Colonial Mythscape
This subject explores colonial ‘mythscapes’, the discursive realms in which myths of nation are forged, constantly negotiated and reconstructed. It applies new historicist approaches to selected key events in Aboriginal Australia’s colonial history. Students will be introduced to historical, archival and cultural materials, and will engage with multi-modal texts spanning art, film and literature, speaking to themes of national amnesia, memory and memorials. Key events will include: colonial narratives and Aboriginal and Settler contact/conflict, Ellen Draper’s Old Cobraboor and The Myall Creek Massacre of 1868, the Contested Grounds of history writing, Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and frontier stories; epic pastoral narratives, pioneer myths and the age of the cattle empires.
- Contemporary Aboriginal Art12.5
Contemporary Aboriginal Art
Starting with the acrylics of the Western Desert (Papunya) and ending with the most recent developments in new media, the field of contemporary Aboriginal art will be surveyed. Issues such as copyright and appropriation, the art market, women’s art practice, curating and collection policy are debated in this subject and key works in painting, sculpture, printmaking, and photography are studied and discussed. By the end of semester students should have a familiarity with the main issues concerning the interpretation of Aboriginal art in Australia and have a broad knowledge of the pictorial practices of prominent contemporary Aboriginal artists. Guest lectures by artists, academics and industry professionals, as well as visits to art galleries and museums, are a feature of this subject.
- Aboriginal Writing12.5
This subject studies Aboriginal fiction, poetry and drama, as well as life stories and criticism, focusing on questions of reading positions (particularly for non-Aboriginal students) and representation. It pays particular attention to the diversity of Aboriginal writing in terms of form, content, voice and place and examines the manner in which the reception of Aboriginal texts has been conditioned by political and economic factors. On completion of this subject students should understand the problematics of Aboriginal writing in the context of postcolonial Australia, and its relation to everyday life.
- Biogeography and Ecology of Fire12.5
Biogeography and Ecology of Fire
Fire is one of the most important controls over the distribution of vegetation on Earth. This subject examines the role of fire in natural systems, with a particular emphasis on the importance of fire in determining global vegetation patterns and dynamics over long periods of time. The aim is to understand how terrestrial systems have evolved to cope with and exploit fire, and to place the extreme flammability Australia's vegetation within a global context. The subject will examine concepts such as resilience, positive feedback loops, hysteresis and alternative stable states. The use of fire by humans to manipulate environments will be examined, with a particular emphasis on the variety of approaches employed by people across a diversity of environments over long periods of time, allowing an exploration of the social and cultural dynamics of fire and environmental management. A field excursion in Tasmania will visit a number of sites which will exemplify the subject themes. The practical exercises leading up to the field trip will focus on how to gather fire-related ecological data. The practical exercises following the field trip will be devoted to processing, analysing, interpreting and reporting on the field data. At the end of the subject, students will have gained an understanding of the way in which fire has shaped natural systems, as well as acquiring the skills necessary to formulate and test hypotheses.
More information about the subject and field trip can be seen at: http://michaelsresearch.wordpress.com/GEOG30025/
The estimated additional cost of the 7 day field trip to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, is in the vicinity of $750.
Note this subject may be taken as the Capstone subject in the Geography major of the BA and BSc. All students, whether they are capstone students or not, will be required to complete online introductory materials that are common across all field classes.
- Australian Indigenous Public Policy12.5
Australian Indigenous Public Policy
The subject examines the governance arrangements that have shaped the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since settlement. Prior to, at the time of, and since Federation, Indigenous Australians have been uniquely affected by a range of public policy settings, approaches and frameworks. Part One of the subject introduces students to foundational concepts in public policy making and then critically examines different ‘epochs’ in Australian Indigenous Public Policy: elimination, assimilation, self-determination and intervention. Part Two will explore various policies across these periods that have shaped Indigenous Australians’ experiences of land, family, health, education, employment and justice in different ways. Across both parts, students will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge about historical and contemporary political controversies, including: the Don Dale controversy, the refusal of The Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Closing the Gap framework and others. Students will be expected to use knowledge of particular cases to examine the social, political and institutional challenges that shape the landscape of contemporary Australian Indigenous Public Policy.
- Global Histories of Indigenous Activism12.5
Global Histories of Indigenous Activism
This subject examines the history of Indigenous peoples’ resistance to colonialism in Australia, the Pacific and the Americas. In addition to covering the key protests of the last one hundred years, we see activism as more than just a twentieth-century phenomenon and explore the diverse forms that it took across the last three centuries. What is activism? What is resistance? And how big or small do actions have to be to enter the historical record? From political protest to music, sport, art, environmental activism, imperial literacy, feminism, space, land, mobility, sovereignty, refusal and silence, this subject will broaden students’ understanding of the history of the many ways Indigenous peoples have negotiated with and shaped the ‘post’colonial world.