This article was adapted by Aaron Corn from a lecture presented by Joe Gumbula at the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney on 5 April 2007. The day before, Joe had been admitted to the degree of Doctor of Music honoris causa at the University, and had only recently started work at the Koori Centre on his first Australian Research Council (ARC) project as an ARC Indigenous Research Fellow. Called “Elder Assessments of Early Material Culture Collections from Arnhem Land and Contemporary Access Needs to them among their Source Communities” (DI0775822) and including Aaron Corn as a nominal Mentor, this was the first ARC project to be led by a Yolŋu Chief Investigator. It enabled Joe to undertake detailed research into the Yolŋu heritage collections held in the University of Sydney’s Archives and Macleay Museum. Eighteen members of Joe’s family from Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Galiwin’ku, who were visiting Sydney to attend his graduation ceremony, were present at this lecture. Joe’s assured and impassioned delivery on this occasion aptly demonstrates his exemplary knowledge of Yolŋu heritage, his mastery in applying Yolŋu law to its interpretation, and his ability to engage others in the process and significance of collections research. All University of Sydney materials that Joe presented in the lecture were later published in his 2011 book, Matjabala Mali’ Buku-ruŋanmaram: Images from Miliŋinbi (Milingimbi) and Surrounds, 1926–1948, and, in this article, are cross-referenced to this source, which remains available for purchase from Sydney University Press.
There are several people I need to thank around the University of Sydney. First of all, it would be impossible to do all this without the support of the Koori Centre. The Director, Dr Janet Mooney is here, so we’d like to thank you very much for everything the Koori Centre has done in helping get my fellowship get started and the tireless efforts of people to make sure that it all runs smoothly. We’ve never regretted bringing this grant here and I don’t think we’re likely to in the year or two ahead. Julia Mant is our Reference Archivist in the University of Sydney Archives who works with us on this project, and he’s also here. Again, all this would be completely impossible without the University of Sydney Archives being so open, flexible and understanding. To my family, again, thank you for being here with us and, to Pablo Heras and his wife Robyn, thank you for helping us look after the family while they’re in town. Louise Hamby from the Australian National University is also here with us today, who is still tying up the ends of her project with Museum Victoria on the Thomson Collection. We look forward to working very collaboratively with your and Lindy Allen from Museum Victoria in the years ahead.
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