Dr Georgia Curran’s project aims to support the maintenance of Warlpiri singing traditions

Dr Georgia Curran

Dr Georgia Curran is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow who has undertaken research with Warlpiri people in Yuendumu and other Central Australian communities, including collaborative research projects with Pintupi Anmatyerr Warlpiri Media.

Dr Curran’s research journey began in 2005 as a PhD student at The Australian National University (ANU) where she undertook research in the community of Yuendumu and wrote a thesis titled Contemporary Ritual Practice in an Aboriginal Settlement: The Warlpiri Kurdiji ceremony (2010).

“The guidance that I received during my research at ANU shaped my career today as otherwise, I would not have found my passion nor developed the deep relationships with Warlpiri people that are central to my area of research,” Georgia said.

Her research interests include Indigenous music and languages, performance ethnography and cultural continuity and change, and the revitalisation of endangered song traditions.

Dr Curran is currently working on her ARC DECRA research project ‘Rethinking the Dynamics of Place in Warlpiri Songs’ (2020-23) which supports the future survival of the ceremonial Warlpiri singing traditions which are increasingly at risk yet are vital for keeping Indigenous cultural knowledge active.

“The project is being undertaken in collaboration with Warlpiri people living across the Tanami desert region of Central Australia. The project aims to further understand the power of performance of ceremonial songs in operationalizing the social interconnections and associated links to places that are fundamental to Indigenous wellbeing,” Dr Curran said.

Dr Curran is the author of Sustaining Indigenous Songs: Contemporary Warlpiri ceremonial life in Central Australia (2020, Berghahn Books, with Foreword by Otto Jungarrayi Sims), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters.

She has collaborated with senior Warlpiri women to produce two song books, Jardiwanpa yawulyu (2014) and Yurntumu-wardingki-juju-ngaliya-kurlangu yawulyu: Warlpiri women’s songs from Yuendumu (2017), both published by Batchelor Press.

She will soon start working on new ARC Linkage project ‘Reconnecting Warlpiri Communities with Cultural Heritage Materials’ which aims to reconnect contemporary Warlpiri people with cultural materials documented that have been recorded in the past.

The project will also set up opportunities for young Warlpiri researchers to manage repatriation efforts and participate in activities centered on engagement with materials intrinsic to their cultural identity.

“Warlpiri culture has been the focus of significant ethnographic documentation efforts over the last century and large repositories of cultural materials are held worldwide in museums, archives, and other institutions,” Dr Curran said.

“Although these materials document highly valued aspects of Warlpiri peoples' cultural identities, including significant knowledge of connections to Dreaming places, family groups, and ceremonial links, the audio-visual recordings and photographs of Warlpiri ceremonies, songs, stories, and Country often lack appropriate organisation and information to facilitate return to Warlpiri communities.”

This project is designed around a partnership with Pintupi Anmatyerr Warlpiri (PAW), an on-Country media production facility and archive, alongside researchers at ANU, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia.

Since the start of 2023, Dr Curran is back on campus as a Lecturer in Anthropology teaching the ‘Indigenous Worlds: Challenges of Emergence, Recognition and Change’ course to students in the first Semester. In the next semester, she will be teaching the ‘Traditional Australian Indigenous Cultures, Societies, and Environment’ course.

“The students in my classes in first semester, including a number of First Nations Australian students, brought to the course such deep knowledge and experiences, contributing to rich class discussions on aspects of indigeneity and what it means in a global sense today,” she said.

Learn more about ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology here.