Monash awarded over $1m for research in Australian history and culture

Research projects into alcohol consumption during COVID-19, understanding Australian slang, Indigenous knowledge of trees and diversity in the jazz community have received funding by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan today announced funding for the Special Research Initiative for Australian Society, History and Culture, with over $1 million awarded to Monash researchers across the Faculties of Arts, Monash Art Design and Architecture, as well as Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

The ARC Special Research Initiative is designed to support excellent research into Australian society, history and culture; and build Australian research capacity in this area by supporting researchers of the highest international standing. The Monash research projects are:

Alcohol consumption during COVID-19

Dr Michael Savic from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, will lead a team including Associate Professor Steven Roberts, Dr Karla Elliott and Dr Brady Robards from the Faculty of Arts and Dr Robyn Dwyer from La Trobe University, to investigate how alcohol consumption in Australia is impacted by the global novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.The project expects to generate new knowledge in the area of the sociology of alcohol consumption, gender and social media.

“We are aiming to better understand how the meanings and practices of alcohol consumption in Australia are impacted by the COVID-19pandemic. We will also generate practical recommendations for responding to alcohol consumption in and beyond future crises,” said Dr Savic.

Investigating the uniqueness of Australian slang

Professor Kate Burridge from the Faculty of Arts leads a team including Keith Allan, Howie Manns and Simon Musgrave, investigating the uniqueness of Australian vernacular English from the late 1800s until today. This is an area of vocabulary which most people find fascinating, and yet its formal study has been largely ignored. The project expects to develop a new understanding of Australia’s novel, often entertaining, use of words.

“Australians have always regarded their colloquial language as an important indicator of their Australianness, but many also worry that Australian slang is under threat. This project seeks to understand its nature, how it has changed over time, the metaphors underlying Australian English expressions and what this language tells us about Australian culture and its embedded values. By distinguishing Australian colloquial English from other varieties, such as British and American English, the project seeks to uncover whether Australians really do live up to their popular image of having an unusually rich and creative slang — and if and how this language reflects Australian culture and identity,” said Professor Burridge.

More than a guulany (tree): Aboriginal knowledge systems 

Dr Brian Martin, Associate Dean Indigenous and Associate Professor Brook Andrew from the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture will lead a project aiming to produce an Indigenous-led study of the significance of trees in southeast Australian Aboriginal cultures. The project expects to identify new evidence of this significance and generate new methods in art-making and exhibition development to improve the awareness and understanding of Indigenous cultural heritage.

“The research will focus on understanding the traditional practices of carving and scarring trees, as well as contemporary celebrations of living trees in southeast Australian Aboriginal Cultures. We hope this will create better recognition of the complexities of southeast Australian Aboriginal cultures, improved access for Aboriginal communities to cultural materials in institutional collections and new insights and resources for arts, heritage and museum professionals to engage appropriately with Indigenous cultural heritage. The funding also supports an Indigenous PhD candidate to build their research capacity, practice and career,” said Dr Martin.

Diversifying music in Australia: gender equity in jazz and improvisation 

Emerging research demonstrates that the Australian jazz and improvisation cultural sector is not gender-inclusive and poses career development challenges for diverse communities.

Associate Professor Robert Burke from the Faculty of Arts will lead a team including Professor Margaret Barrett, Professor Cat Hope, Dr Clare Hall (Faculty of Education), Dr Louise Devenish and Dr Nicole Canham who aim to develop new knowledge in historical and contemporary practices of inclusion, exclusion and participation in order to identify the individual, collective and institutional facilitators and constraints on gendered participation.

The project’s significance lies not only in its contributions to the sector’s policy and practice, but also its mentoring of an emerging generation of researchers.

“We hope to challenge the measures taken to date that address persistent barriers to equality in jazz that have been inadequate. Through research and intervention, we aim to re-shape the way we perform, teach and compose music. Furthermore,  we intend to inform and guide the music industry in creating a new norm in gender equity in jazz and the music sector,” said Associate Professor Burke.