Content warning:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that
Dhoombak Goobgoowana contains images and names of people who have died. Readers are also advised that they may be disturbed by the content of this book, which includes distressing images and descriptions, and derogatory terms for Indigenous people used in their historical context.
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Dhoombak Goobgoowana can be translated as ‘truth telling’ in the Woi Wurrung language of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people on whose unceded lands several University of Melbourne campuses are located.

This book, the first of two volumes, is an attempt to acknowledge and publicly address the long, complex and troubled relationship between the Indigenous people of what we now call the continent of Australia and the University of Melbourne.

It is a book about race and how it has been constructed by academics in the University. It is also about power and how academics have wielded it and justified its use against Indigenous populations, and about knowledge, especially the Indigenous knowledge that silently contributed to many early research projects and collection endeavours.

Although many things have changed, the stain of the past remains. But the University no longer wishes to look away.

Editors: Dr Ross L Jones, Dr James Waghorne and Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AO.

About the editors
Cover image of the Dhoombak Goobgoowana

Learn more about Dhoombak Goobgoowana with this series of short videos featuring the book's editors.

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The establishment of the University of Melbourne was a foundational settler-colonial act designed to secure the place of the invaders and displace the Traditional Owners in several ways: physically, materially and, as will be explained, intellectually and epistemically. Ross L Jones, James Waghorne and Marcia Langton, ‘Introduction’ (p. xiv)

The book’s introduction outlines the largely untold history of the University of Melbourne and its engagement with Indigenous Australia. It describes the origins and development of the University’s truth-telling project, including the pivotal role played by Gunditjmara Elder Jim Berg in focusing the University’s attention on its colonial past.

  • Introductory chapters
    • Foreword by Duncan Maskell
    • Introduction by Ross L Jones, James Waghorne and Marcia Langton
    • A Memoir by Jim Berg, Gunditjmara Elder

Section I | Place

The fortunes of the early University of Melbourne, like those of many of Victoria's most venerable institutions, were propelled by generous benefactors … But, as the University starts to look beyond the generosity of these benefactors to the sources of their wealth, we require a history of the Traditional Owners of the lands they took, without payment and in the knowledge of the violence and injustice of those seizures. Zoë Laidlaw, ‘Settler-Colonial Philanthropy and Indigenous Dispossession’ (pp. 22–42)

‘Place’ discusses the University’s connection with stolen land, the Indigenous landscape on which the University has been constructed, and attempts to reconnect with the past to shape the future identity of the University’s campuses.

  • Section I chapters
    • Place by Ross L Jones
    • Flora and Failure by Simon Farley
    • Settler-Colonial Philanthropy and Indigenous Dispossession by Zoë Laidlaw
    • Stolen Stones and Bare-Faced Brick by Philip Goad
    • A Computer Server and Indigenous Reconciliation by Richard Gillespie
    • Billibellary’s Walk by Shawana Andrews
    • The Water Story by Jefa Greenaway

Section II | Human Remains

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, hundreds of human skulls were collected, measured and tabulated at the University … Melbourne’s Anatomy Department possessed one of the largest collections of Indigenous skeletal material ever assembled, but it never led to the University becoming a major force within anthropological thought … there were few direct positive medical outcomes for the people being studied, nor was there ever any real intent to pursue such avenues. Rohan Long, ‘A Precious Stone to Him That Hath It’ (p. 163)

‘Human Remains’ traces the University’s historical collection of the human remains of Indigenous people, and the long and ongoing road to acknowledgement and repatriation of these Indigenous ancestral remains to communities.

  • Section II chapters
    • Human Remains by Ross L Jones
    • Unlikely Encounters by Jim Bowler
    • The Murray Black Collection of Aboriginal Ancestral Remains by Marcia Langton, Louise Murray and Antony Sinni
    • ‘A Precious Stone to Him That Hath It’ by Rohan Long
    • Wurati and Trukanini by Judith Ryan

Section III | Settler-Colonial Knowledge

The membership of the Eugenics Society of Victoria reads like a who’s who of the academic, judicial, scientific and educational elite of Melbourne society, the majority of whom had close ties with the University … However, right up until the last decade or so of the twentieth century, material relating to the involvement of such public supporters of the eugenic movement was forgotten or ignored in biographical publications or entries. Ross L Jones, ‘Eugenics, 1853–1945’ (pp. 193–4)

‘Settler-Colonial Knowledge’ explores the University’s role as a centre for eugenics and the permutation of racism through various academic fields, including the propagation of histories that justified and glorified colonialisation.

  • Section III chapters
    • Eugenics, 1853–1945 by Ross L Jones
    • Professor Ewart and ‘Mr Murnane’ by Kate Auty
    • The Lost Languages of White Settler Civilisation by Warwick Anderson
    • The History Discipline and Aboriginal Dispossession by David Goodman
    • Frederic Wood Jones and the Contradictions of a Race Scientist by Lisa O’Sullivan
    • Defence Science, Expertise and Scientific Colonialism by James Waghorne
    • Eugenics, the 1950s and Beyond by Ross L Jones

Section IV | Indigenous Knowledge

All across this continent—from lush rainforests to bleak deserts, from the steamy savannahs of the Top End to the sub-polar southern shores of Tasmania—Indigenous peoples have devised ways to live and thrive … Since the invasion, settler scientists have selectively drawn on this expertise. In this way, Indigenous knowledge was appropriated by settlers, but settlers rarely showed any appreciation of the worldviews or systems of thought that underpinned this knowledge. Ross L Jones and Simon Farley, ‘Indigenous Knowledge’ (p. 312)

‘Indigenous Knowledge’ explores settler arrogance in the face of Indigenous knowledge, and the growing understanding and appreciation of Indigenous knowledge, its significance and contribution to the University and beyond.

  • Section IV chapters
    • Indigenous Knowledge by Ross L Jones and Simon Farley
    • The Invisible Collectors by Rohan Long and Ross L Jones
    • Venom as a Vector of Indigenous Knowledge at Melbourne by Ken Winkel and Natasha Fijn
    • From Collection to Engagement by Rachel Nordlinger and Nicholas Thieberger
    • Gifts and Legacies by Marcia Langton and Louise Murray
    • The Indigenous Knowledge Institute by Aaron Corn
    • Lighting the Fire, Fanning the Flame by Tiriki Onus and Sally Treloyn
    • Indigenous Astronomy at the University of Melbourne by Duane Hamacher, Amanda Goldfarb, Bridget Kelly and Emma Barnett
    • Transforming an Engineering Worldview of the Indigenous ‘Other’ by Juliana Kaya Prpic
    • The West Arnhem Land Dog Health Program by Elizabeth Tudor and Cameron Raw
    • The Art of Healing by Jacqueline Healy

Section V | Conclusion

What image, what history, what legacy should the University of Melbourne present to the world? All of the chapters raise the urgency of continually delving into the records and informing the narrative of the University’s past. We must not stop at acknowledging failures and triumphs but address injustices and violations with corrective actions that engage our community. Conclusion, Marcia Langton (pp. 488–9)

Dr James Waghorne and Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton conclude the volume with a focus on the contested issue of naming and with calls for ongoing and permanent truth-telling initiatives at the University of Melbourne to redress the wrongs inflicted on Indigenous peoples.

  • Section V chapters
    • Naming and Renaming by James Waghorne
    • Conclusion by Marcia Langton

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