Representing Australian Aboriginal Music and Dance 1930–1970

Shortlist year: 2021

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing

'Representing Australian Aboriginal Music and Dance 1930–1970' offers a rethinking of recent Australian music history. Amanda Harris presents accounts of Aboriginal music and dance by Aboriginal performers on public stages. Harris also historicises the practices of non-Indigenous art music composers evoking Aboriginal music in their works, placing this in the context of emerging cultural institutions and policy frameworks. Centralising auditory worlds and audio-visual evidence, Harris shows the direct relationship between the limits on Aboriginal people's mobility and non-Indigenous representations of Aboriginal culture.

This book listens to Aboriginal accounts of disruption and continuation of Aboriginal cultural practices and features contributions from Aboriginal scholars Shannon Foster, Tiriki Onus and Nardi Simpson as personal interpretations of their family and community histories. Contextualising recent music and dance practices in broader histories of policy, settler colonial structures, and post-colonising efforts, the book offers a new lens on the development of Australian musical cultures.

About the author

Amanda Harris

Amanda Harris

Amanda Harris is a research fellow at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Director of the Sydney Unit of digital archive PARADISEC. Her research focuses on gender, music, and cross-cultural Australian histories. She is editor of 'Circulating Cultures: Exchanges of Australian Indigenous Music, Dance and Media' (2014) and co-editor of 'Research, Records and Responsibility' (2015) and 'Expeditionary Anthropology' (2018).

Judges’ comments

Amanda Harris's 'Representing Australian Aboriginal Music and Dance 1930-1970' is an unusual book that manages to take what sounds like an academic exercise and weave it into a charming, thoughtful and utterly compelling narrative about mainstream Australia's slow 20th century awakening to Aboriginal culture. Harris, a research fellow at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, shows how Aboriginal music and dance developed to the point where both sit now at the centre of the nation's cultural agenda. With contributions from Aboriginal scholars Shannon Foster, Tiriki Onus and Nardi Simpson, the book tracks the development of government policies, the history of the struggle for Indigenous rights and the media and general public's increasing engagement with Aboriginal music and dance. The artists and performers come alive in its pages. From the hymns written by Shannon Foster's influential great grandfather Tom Foster to the velvet smooth singing of Jimmy Little this really is a fascinating read.