“The Faculty of Arts is grateful to the family of Donald Thomson, the Indigenous communities of Arnhem Land, Cape York and the Pintupi in the Western Desert and to Museums Victoria, who have assisted us in creating this display of significant objects from the Donald Thomson Collection. The Awaken exhibition, curated by Genevieve Grieves with Rosemary Wrench and Shonae Hobson, provides a unique opportunity for our staff and students to learn from, engage with, and undertake research on, this important selection of Indigenous materials and the communities from which they come. In doing so, we aim to deepen our shared understanding of Indigenous culture and history.”
Professor Russell Goulbourne
Dean, Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne
Individuals, families and communities from Indigenous Australia have contributed their support, knowledge and stories to the Awaken exhibition, for which the Faculty of Arts and the University of Melbourne are tremendously grateful. This collaboration marks the beginning of a continuing relationship, bringing greater opportunities for the University to work and collaborate with Indigenous people and communities.Aboriginal young people Jessie Bartlett, Ruby Kulla Kulla and Ishmael Marika have graciously given their stories, in the form of three films central to the exhibition, so that audiences can understand the deep and abiding connection between Indigenous peoples and cultural collections. We thank them and their families for participating in this project.
In Arnhem Land, we thank Yothu Yindi Foundation Board, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the North East Arnhem Land Dilak Authority, Babbarra Women’s Centre, Buku-Larrngay Mulka Centre, Bula’bula Arts Aboriginal Corporation and the Milingimbi community. We acknowledge the contributions, and the connection to the objects within this exhibition, of members of the Alawa, Anindilyakwa, Balmbi, Balamumu, Burarra, Cape Stewart, Dai’I, Datiwuy, Dhaḻwaḻu, Dhudi-Djapu, Djambarrpuyngu, Djapu, Djinang, Galpu, Ganalbingu, Gumatj, Gupapuyngu, Iwaidja, Liyagalawumirr, Liyagawumirr, Madarrpa, Maḻgalili, Marrakulu, Marra, Matakar, Mildjingi, Munyuku, Murrungun, Numburindi, Nunggubuju, ḻaymil, Rirratjiḻu, Walamangu, Wangurri, Warramiri, Wubulkarra, Wullaki and Yan’nhangu clans, particularly Dhundala Munuḻgurr and family, Roy Burnyila, Djambawa Marawili and family, Wukun Wanambi and family, Philip Gudthaykudthay, Banduk Marika and family, Mawalan 2 Marika and family and Phyllis Dungudja.
In Cape York, we thank the Djonggandji, Eba, Koko DaiYuri, Lama Lama, Latumngit, Kanntju, Kuuku Ya’u, Umpila and Wik Mungkan clans, and particularly Elaine Liddy, Keith Liddy, Vera Liddy, Patrick Spratt, Natasha Spratt, Raydale Spratt, Gavin Bassani, Jennifer Creek, Benjamin Giblet, Particia Clarmont, James Clarmont, Amos.Hobson, Naomi Hobson, Peter Ropeyarn, Lorraine Walker, Marilyne Kepple, Lance Kepple and Stan Monday for their knowledge and guidance. We also thank Shonae Hobson, Assistant Curator, for her work in engaging with these communities and families.In Central Australia, we thank the Pintupi and Warlpiri people, including Lyle and Teddy Gibson, Jessie Bartlett and her extended family.
Thanks are extended to Associate Provost and Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies, Professor Marcia Langton, and Dr Lyndon Ormond Parker, Chair of the University of Melbourne’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Cultural Heritage Oversight Committee, for leadership of the community engagement associated with this exhibition.
We acknowledge the many contributions of the Thomson family, particularly Mrs Dorita Thomson for her generous gift of the objects and artefacts. We extend our thanks to Donald Thomson’s daughters Louise Thomson-Officer and Elaine Thomson, who have loaned important artefacts from their personal collection for the exhibition, and for their unwavering dedication to the care and maintenance of the collection. We honour Professor Thomson’s last secretary, Miss Judith Wiseman who transcribed his fieldwork notes and archives. After Donald Thomson passed away in 1970, the Donald Thomson Collection was officially established under a tripartite agreement between his widow Mrs Dorita Thomson, the University of Melbourne and Museums Victoria. In 1973, the collection was transferred, on long-term loan from the University of Melbourne, to Museums Victoria. The literary estate, known as the Donald Thomson Ethnohistory Collection, was placed on the prestigious UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2008 thanks to the work of Rosemary Wrench.
Museums Victoria has assisted greatly in developing and supporting this exhibition. Museum staff have contributed their skills, expertise and knowledge on collections, community engagement, conservation and object installation. We are grateful for their support and assistance.We also acknowledge all the individuals, families and communities who first shared their cultural knowledge and stories with Donald Thomson when he was on their country; and we are indebted to their descendants who have enriched the collection through their knowledge, research and generosity.