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On-Country performance key to revitalising Aboriginal song


Professor Clint Bracknell

Associate Professor Clint Bracknell has been awarded an Australian Research Council grant for his research project Restoring on-Country performance: Noongar song, language and landscapes.

New research focusing on the power of Aboriginal on-Country performance aims to further revitalise Noongar language and song traditions in south-west WA.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) Associate Professor Clint Bracknell has been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant for his research project Restoring on-Country performance: Noongar song, language and landscapes.

Professor Bracknell said his research would significantly contribute to social cohesion and wellbeing in the Aboriginal and broader Australian community, while exploring concepts of interdependence between community and landscape (as Country).

“Aboriginal performance traditions are central to social cohesion, wellbeing and knowledge of Country and offer new ways for all Australians to understand and interact with our fragile yet dynamic environment.

“However, because Aboriginal performance traditions are primarily sung, it’s concerning that just 13 out of more than 200 Aboriginal languages have fluent speakers across all generations,” Professor Bracknell said.

Building on current research

In the south-west corner of WA, more than 30,000 people identify as Noongar, which constitutes one of the largest Aboriginal groups in Australia. But less than two per cent of Noongar people identify in Australian Census data as speaking their own language.

Professor Bracknell said the small number of contemporary speakers didn’t reflect the high importance of Noongar language to Noongar identity.

The ARC grant will build on Associate Professor Bracknell’s recent work with the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories group that developed innovative methods and resources to recirculate archival songs amongst the Noongar community in the south of Western Australia.

“As a direct result of this ongoing research project, a process has been developed to facilitate community singing of more than 10 culturally significant archival songs for the first time in decades.

“Now, through this new research grant, there is capacity to expand and improve on song recirculation, locating songs in Country and including dance and visual design,” Associate Professor Bracknell said.

Associate Professor Bracknell was awarded an ARC Discovery Indigenous 2020 grant for $896,370. This includes an ARC Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award.

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