2018 Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture

Date: Thursday 8 November
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Armidale Bowling Club, Armidale NSW

Sovereign Language Repatriation:
Language Pedagogy through Song Composition

When you take something out of its natural environment to study, you take it out of context. It loses its relevance, its wholesome functionality and once something is out of context, it is out of relationship with the very world it belongs in.

Dr Bennett will give an overview of her work in language retrieval, regeneration and reclamation over the past 25 years as a practicing artist and academic. Dr Bennett’s project, Sovereign Language Repatriation (SLR) examines the importance of Indigenous research methods and practice-led research to the task of ‘repatriating’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. SLR involves collaborative processes of Indigenous song arrangement, composition and notation to develop and evaluate an Indigenous pedagogy for language retrieval that aligns with the diverse contemporary learning contexts and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, especially those who do not speak their languages fluently on a day to day basis. At present SLR goes beyond the classroom of four walls, placing individuals, family and community back ‘on country’ to sing and speak to country and each other.

It’s vital for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to understand the complexities and alienations of Euro-linguistic structures and systems. These systems were created for languages that sit ‘outside’ our way of being. It’s crucial for the survival, maintenance and authenticity of our languages that we can recognise this and use our own systems - language song creation on country is pivotal to this wellbeing.

Dr Lou Bennett

Dr Lou BennettDirector, Binung Boorigan Pty Ltd
McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Melbourne
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Language retrieval through the arts

Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung, Dr Lou Bennett is a former member of the internationally acclaimed trio Tiddas. Bennett is a consummate performer, playing audiences worldwide. Bennett is a prolific songwriter/composer and during her ten years with Tiddas (1990-2000) penned some of the group’s signature songs. Bennett’s work stretches over a vast area within the Arts industry throughout the past twenty-nine years including her various roles as Performer, Songwriter, Musical and Artistic Director, Composer, Actor, Soundscape and Music Designer and Educator.

In 2006 Bennett was one of the co-founders of the Black Arm Band and contributing to all productions by the company. Bennett (Artistic director/Co-CEO) was an instrumental force in the company’s transformative journey from being a one-off ‘special project’, becoming an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governed, not for profit major performing arts company. In Bennett’s time at the company (2006-2014) she was involved in the touring of five major productions both nationally and internationally. Bennett was a major contributor to the establishment  of the company’s Community Engagement Workshop Program.

Bennett completed her PhD by project at RMIT Melbourne in October 2015. Bennett’s dissertation discusses the importance and relevance of Aboriginal language retrieval, reclamation and regeneration through the medium of the Arts to community health and wellbeing and explores the importance of Indigenous epistemology, methodology and pedagogy in artistic and academic contexts.

Bennett uses her own languages of Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung, extending to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages that can be retrieved, reclaimed and regenerated through songs, stories and performances.

Bennett continues to research the obstacles and ethical issues related to retrieving and transmitting Aboriginal languages cross-culturally and  across  different generations as the McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Dr Bennett was inducted onto the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll for 2017.

Venue: The Armidale Bowling Club, Armidale

Frank Archibald Memorial Lecture Series