Journal article

Maree's Backyard: Intercultural Collaborations for Indigenous Sovereignty in Melbourne

Sabra Thorner, Fran Edmonds, Maree Clarke, Paola Balla

OCEANIA | WILEY | Published : 2018


In this article, four women engage, talk, and write about Indigenous sovereignty in Australia's southeast—the region of Australia most devastated by colonial incursion and the site of vibrant cultural activism in the present day. We are two non-Indigenous academics (Sabra Thorner and Fran Edmonds) working together with two Indigenous artist-curators (Maree Clarke and Paola Balla) in a process of collaborative, intercultural culture-making. We mobilise two ethnographic examples—Maree Clarke's backyard and the 2016–2017 Sovereignty exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art—to assert that decolonising is an ongoing process which requires that non-Indigenous peoples acknowledge th..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Funding Acknowledgements

I acknowledge the Ancestors, Elders, lands, and waters of the Kulin Nation, on whose unceded territory I have lived and worked and learned much. I thank my co-authors, Maree Clarke and Paola Balla, for their generosity of spirit and storytelling. Fran Edmonds is a great friend and a constant inspiration in thinking and writing collaboratively. I gratefully acknowledge the financial and infrastructural support of a Research Fellowship at the Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University, in 2016-2017, when the initial ideas for this article were nourished, and especially thank Melinda Hinkson for guidance and support. Kristin Dowell has become an invaluable mentor, especially on the topic of global and cosmopolitan expressions of Indigenous sovereignty, and thanks to her, Florida State University was a rewarding place to write. Finally, I deeply appreciate my new academic home, Mount Holyoke College, who generously granted me a leave in (northern hemisphere) autumn 2018, during which time we completed the final revisions on this piece.I acknowledge the traditional peoples (past and present) of the land of the Kulin nations on which we work, as well as many other members of Aboriginal communities in Victoria and elsewhere with whom I have had the opportunity to learn, including the two co-authors of this article, Maree Clarke and Paola Balla. The collegiality, patience, and commitment of the lead author (Sabra Thorner) is also greatly appreciated and ensured that this paper came to fruition. The outline for the discussion on Maree Clarke's backyard arose as a conference paper I gave at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting, December 2017. I was supported to attend that conference via University of Melbourne, Faculty of Arts (FIGS) funding 2017. The direct quotes from Paola Balla and Max Delany were collected as data for the ARC LP 130100733 Aboriginal young people in Victoria and Digital Storytelling project (2014-2017), supported by the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne, where I was located as the project's Research Fellow.I acknowledge Ancestors, Elders, and Country of the Kulin Nations, particularly the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Peoples, where I live, work, and make art. I give my gratitude to Arweet Carolyn Briggs as Senior Traditional Owner of the lands ACCA stands on, the Yalukit Willam Place of the Boon Wurrung Peoples. This is where I curated Sovereignty with ACCA Artistic Director & CEO, Max Delany. We were advised by Arweet, and early conversations with broadcaster Daniel Browning, curator Kimberley Moulton, and artist Steaphan Paton, who along with all exhibiting artists and community members made Sovereignty the community experience and success that it was. I thank Max, Linda Mickleborough, and all ACCA staff for their generosity, learning, and collaborations. I thank our coauthors, Maree Clarke for being a constant inspiration and Fran Edmonds and Sabra Thorner for their listening, acknowledgement of our work, and collaborations. I am thankful to have collaborated with Luke Murray and the team at Korin Gamadji Institute, together with Fran, in bringing the digital stories of the young filmmakers at Korin Gamadji REAL Program to Sovereignty. I acknowledge Tony Birch and Kimberley Moulton for their early support of it and their essays in the exhibition catalogue and thank Karen Jackson, Director at Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Centre, for her ongoing support and mentoring during its year-long development and delivery, and to my PhD supervisors, Dr Chris Sonn, Dr Tracey Bunda, & Dr Sue Dodd, for their support. Sovereignty was supported by Creative Victoria, The Koorie Heritage Trust, City of Melbourne's Art & Heritage Collection, the National Film & Sound Archives, and private lenders and galleries. I thank my family for their understanding and support. Most of all, I thank my community, of Koories and First Nations Peoples of Victoria, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mobs, who shined brilliantly, truthfully, and beautifully in Sovereignty, December 2016-March 2017, ACCA.