Cooking the kangaroo: Conversations on Indigenous song, spirituality, and connection

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The recording of Cooking the kangaroo: Conversations on Indigenous song, spirituality, and connection can now be watched online.

Drawing together leading performers and thinkers, this symposium will explore ways Indigenous Australian song and narrative shape relationships, nurture wisdom, and inspire creativity.

All times are in AEDT. Find out what time that is for you here.


11.00       Start

11.15       Cooking the kangaroo: wisdom and connection: For Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick, ‘Knowledge is like a track – you have to follow it and find where it is going. You have to find the food and feed on that.’ Across Indigenous Australia, ceremonial narratives feed people with wisdom and generate connections between groups. Tracking different cooking practices related to the kangaroo, this conversation between ceremonial leaders from Arnhem Land, the Tanami Desert and NSW, seeks the nourishment of wisdom which comes through difference and responsibility. ‘These things are normal when it comes to cooking, but they are more than that. There is a mystery we don’t know until we start listening to Country, until you listen to the songlines. Why do you cook the kangaroo this way? Let’s see what we can discover about this mystery.’

Participants: Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick

11.30      Raki (string): The character of collaboration: For the past ten years, collaborations between Wägilak ceremonial leaders and musicians from the Australian Art Orchestra have been guided by the narrative of raki (string). Raki is about connections through the generations that are constituted through song, as well as the ways different voices and traditions weave together in performance. This panel will explore this and similar narratives within a recent recording by the AAO, Hand to Earth (2021). We will consider how the characteristic of attentiveness shapes creativity and the ways the AAO has become entwined with Yolŋu ways of knowing, through shared performance.

Participants: Daniel Wilfred, David Wilfred, Dr Sam Curkpatrick, Dr Peter Knight, Aviva Endean, Sunny Kim

12.30      Luŋgutja: Songs of Yolŋu trade with foreigners: In this panel, Yolŋu elder Brian Djangirrawuy Garawirrtja will explain how public songs and ceremonies from his ancestral homeland, Luŋgutja, in northeast Arnhem Land, recount long pre-colonial histories of trade and cultural exchange with seafaring foreigners from beyond Australia’s northern coastline. We will contextualise this largely unknown history and discuss how it provides Yolŋu people with ancestral antecedents for contemporary engagements across cultures. The panel will discuss how Yolŋu ceremonial knowledge of their shared past with foreigners from abroad enables all kinds of intercultural engagements today, while simultaneously asserting Yolŋu sovereignty and autonomy from foreign influences.

Participants: Brian Garawirrtja, Renelle Gondarra, Professor Aaron Corn, Professor Marcia Langton, Dr Anthea Skinner

A partnership between the University of Divinity and the Indigenous Knowledge Institute, University of Melbourne. We also recognise the valuable support of Nungalinya College.

This webinar is being held within the 20th Symposium on Indigenous Music and Dance, in association with the Musicological Society of Australia’s 44th National Conference.


Wanta Jampijinpa Patrick is a Warlpiri elder and director of the Milpirri Festival, Lajamanu. He has led and collaborated on research projects through the Australian Research Council, which give focus to Warlpiri song, epistemology, education, the repatriation of archival records and youth engagement. He has provided policy advice on Indigenous law, education and youth matters to multiple government and industry bodies, including the Australian Government’s Indigenous Voice National Co-design Group, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and the Northern Territory Department of Education.

Brian Djangirrawuy Garawirrtja is a Yolŋu ceremonial leader of the Birrkili Gupapuyŋu clan. He is a musician in the early Arnhem Land popular band, Soft Sands, and his visual art is displayed in the Australian National Maritime Museum. He has long been engaged in culture, language and heritage research and holds a Master of Indigenous Knowledges from Charles Darwin University. His recent publications include writings on the long history of Yolŋu engagements with Asian seafarers.

Jesse Hodgetts is a Wangaaypuwan Ngiyampaa and Wiradjuri man and was born and raised on Darkinyung country. Jesse is a singer and teacher at the Wollotuka Institute of the University of Newcastle, teaching and researching First Nations education, language, and song. Jesse is currently exploring historic Ngiyampaa and Wiradjuri songs and how they can inform Aboriginal song, language, and cultural revitalisation in NSW today.

Renelle Gandjitjiwuy Gondarra is a senior Yolŋu leader of the Golumala clan. She holds a Master of Indigenous Knowledges from Charles Darwin University and is currently a Health Worker at Miwatj Health in Yirrkala.

Dr Anthea Skinner has a PhD in musicology and is a registered archivist. She has recently been awarded a 2022 McKenzie Fellowship at the University of Melbourne where she will be developing adaptive music technologies and pedagogies for students with disability. As well as studying disability music culture and technology, Anthea also researches military music and heritage archiving, specialising in musics of Australia and the Malay world (Nusantara). Anthea currently works at the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Knowledge Institute and the Creative Arts and Music Therapies Research Unit.

Professor Marcia Langton AO is Associate Provost, Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor and Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. An Aboriginal woman of Iman descent, she is an anthropologist and geographer with a research focus on Aboriginal alcohol use and harms, family violence, land tenure, management of environments and native title, and aspects of Aboriginal culture, art and performance.

Professor Aaron Corn is Inaugural Director of the Indigenous Knowledge Institute at the University of Melbourne and serves as a Director of the National Recording Project for Indigenous Performance in Australia. Aaron's research investigates new strategies for strengthening human cultural diversity in the digital age, with emphasis on the durability of Indigenous knowledge across generations and cultures.

Daniel Wilfred is a Yolŋu ceremonial leader of the Wägilak clan and artist with the Australian Art Orchestra. He has performed at major international festivals, including the London Jazz Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival, and conducted workshops at Cambridge University and the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. In 2019, he was recipient of the Northern Territory Government Arts Fellowship.

David Wilfred is a Yolŋu ceremonial leader of the Ritharrŋu clan and artist with the Australian Art Orchestra. He has performed at major international festivals, including the London Jazz Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival, and conducted workshops at Cambridge University and the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. He teaches at the Ngukurr Language Centre and Ngukurr Community Education Centre.

Dr Samuel Curkpatrick is a Researcher at the University of Divinity. His research spans issues of music, culture and theology, with specific focus given to Indigenous Australian song and philosophical issues of language and epistemology. He has worked collaboratively with the Australian Art Orchestra, on projects with Wägilak singers, Paul Grabowsky and Peter Knight, and teaches at the AAO's annual Creative Music Intensive. He was a co-founding fellow of the Commonwealth Intercultural Arts Network at Cambridge University.

Dr Peter Knight is a composer, trumpeter and sound artist, and the Artistic Director of one of Australia’s leading contemporary music ensembles, the Australian Art Orchestra. His practice exists in the spaces between categories, genres cultures. He has recently performed his works JazzFest Berlin, London Jazz Festival, MONA FOMA (Tasmania), Jazztopad (Poland), Barunga Festival (NT), and Melbourne Festival.

Aviva Endean is an artist dedicated to fostering a deep engagement with (and care for) sound and music, with the hope that attentive listening can connect people with each other and their environment. She is active as a clarinetist, composer, improviser, curator, sound artist, performance-maker and collaborator.

Sunny Kim is a Korean-born vocalist, improviser, composer and educator based in Australia. Her practice seeks to find meaningful connections to people, culture and place through a dedication to self-discovery, deep listening and collaboration. She is a two-time winner of Jazz People Magazine's Reader's Poll Award in the Best Vocalist category and lectures at the University of Melbourne.