Australian Aboriginal Cultures

A16444 Tapping stick from Elcho Island

A decorated time-beating stick from Elcho Island, Northern Territory. A16444, South Australian Museum.

Research Overview

Current research within Australian Aboriginal Cultures includes the Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded Red Ochre project following the historical use of, and trade in, red ochre. This work includes a research sub-project involving an investigation of ethno-historical and chemical evidence for the Aboriginal use of red sealing wax as an ochre surrogate during the colonial period. Research also continues on the ARC-funded Reconstructing the Spencer and Gillen Collection project, with colleagues in Melbourne and Canberra. This project has involved documentation of collections in the Manchester Museum, the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

The Muslim Cameleers project continues, adding content and design elements for the Muslim Cameleers website, funded by a grant from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The cameleers’ project has taken a new turn with the recent award of an ARC Linkage grant in 2013 to investigate the traces of the cameleers’ built heritage within Australia.

Research is also underway on Ursula McConnel (1888–1957). During field expeditions in the Cape York Peninsula between 1927 and 1934, she lived among Aboriginal people, staying often for long periods in their bush home countries away from missions and cattle stations. This work will lead to a biography of Australia’s first professionally trained female anthropologist.