Monash University’s recently opened William Cooper Institute is an important new centre for research and teaching in Indigenous Australian cultural studies, and it promises to make a significant contribution to a broad span of study areas including music. Launched in December and currently offering a range of undergrad and postgraduate courses and research opportunities, it says it “provides support services to Indigenous students and staff”, and to this end it functions as an advocacy platform for bringing about positive change for Indigenous individuals and communities.
William Cooper Institute functions in effect as a hub for number of individual study centres, one of which is Monash’s Indigenous Studies Centre. This offers units “that aim to encourage students to understand the past and contemporary experiences of Indigenous Australians” and undertakes research in Indigenous contemporary music along with a fleet of other culturally related areas such as Indigenous education, history, criminal justice, sport and racism, rock-art and film.
A number of current research areas are currently being pursued at the Centre. ‘Visualising Yanyuwa narratives’ focuses on Indigenous people in the south west Gulf of Carpentaria who share the Yanyuwa language – now only spoken by less than 10 individuals. the project aims to sustain the cultural knowledge of this community by means of “3D animation of stories combining poetry, songs and language.” Some of their animations can be viewed here.
The William Cooper Institute is named after Aboriginal leader and activist William Cooper (1860-1941) of the Yorta Yorta people in Victoria. A leading campaigner for Aboriginal rights, his legacy is seen as continuing to the present day on a range of Indigenous issues including land rights. In 2018, a musical celebrating his life was staged at Australian Catholic University. Called Night of Broken Glass, its music was composed by Melbourne born and London based composer Warren Wills.