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First Languages of the Monash University Collection

Since 2016, MUMA has commissioned writing to interpret and enhance understandings of works of art held in the Monash University Collection in the first and/or ancestral languages of represented artists, working with invited curators.

‘First Languages of the Monash University Collection’ writings are commissioned texts by First Nations and non-English-language background writers and translators to contextualise works held in the collections of Monash University and the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre. Texts are presented in the first and/or ancestral languages of the artists and writers, as well as in English. The program recognises that Indigenous languages play a profound role in understanding and transmitting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, law, art, philosophy, astronomy, biology, food, spirituality, history and much more.

For its pilot year, 2016–17, Dr Léuli Eshrāghi—a Sāmoan artist, curator and researcher who holds a PhD in Curatorial Practice (2019) from Monash University—commissioned texts in English about artworks by Tiriki Onus, Alick Tipoti, Lydia Balbal, Kitty Kantilla, Juan Davila, Judy Watson, and Yikartu Petersen. These texts were authored by Kimberley Moulton, Tahjee Moar, Cara Kirkwood, Clothilde Bullen, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Camila Marambio and Freja Carmichael, with translations into Tiwi by Pedro Wonaeamirri, Martu by Desmond Mitchell Taylor, Chilean Spanish by Camila Marambio and Kala Lagaw Ya by Alick Tipoti.

In 2017–18, Yorta Yorta and Wamba Wamba woman Belinda Briggs, currently Community Engagement Officer – Indigenous with the Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) and active member of the Yorta Yorta language revival project, commissioned texts on works in the collection in palawa kani, Yorta Yorta, Yolŋu Matha and English by First Nations writers and linguists: Kerrie Clarke (Gunai and Monero), Shonae Hobson (Kaantju), Ebony Joachim (Yorta Yorta), Ngarra Murray (Yorta Yorta and Wamba Wamba), Zoe Rimmer (Pakana) and Theresa Sainty (Pakana). The texts responded to works by Daniel Boyd, Maree Clarke, Vicki West and Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda.

In 2018–19, Pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) community member, basket weaver, and beginner shell stringer Zoe Rimmer—also Senior Curator of Indigenous Cultures at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery—commissioned new writing by Pakana author Nathan Maynard, Gamilaroi curator Paris Norton and Wiradjuri archival activist and museum educator, Nathan ‘Mudyi’ Sentance. The texts responded to works by First Nations artists Ricky Maynard (Pakana), James Tylor (Kaurna) and Brook Andrew. Translations into palawa kani by Theresa Sainty and Wiradjuri by Yaaran (Aaron) Ellis accompany the works by Maynard and Andrew, and an Acknowledgement of Country offered in language by Kaurna Warra Karrpanthi resonates with Tylor’s work. In this iteration, texts by Zoe, Nathan Maynard and Nathan Sentance were audio recorded in language by Theresa Sainty and Yaaran (Aaron) Ellis.

In parallel with these commissions, MUMA invited Pitjantjatjara artist Teresa Baker to write on her work Minyma malilunya, 2015, in language, along with Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, who has worked in collaboration with Sandra Delaney on a Jandai text to accompany her new site-specific installation Weelam Ngalut (Our Place), 2019.

The texts produced as part of this program are available to all students, staff and visitors to Monash University as text panels accompanying the respective artworks displayed across all five Australian campuses—particularly in the Menzies Building and Science precinct on the Clayton campus, and in the main libraries of the Caulfield and Clayton campuses.

A text paying respect to the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation, translated into Woiwurrung by Mandy Nicholson and into Boon Wurrung by the Boon Wurrung Foundation, now features permanently at the entrance to MUMA:

Boon Wurrung

Womin djeka Wueundjeri-al ba Boon Wurrung-al Guleeny-u Monash University biik -dhan.

Marram-nganjin womin djeka ngapa ba gugungdjaleek-bulok nugel-dhan yalinguth ba yalingbu, ba yirramboi.

Monash University-dui 2500 bruckuck-bulok Australi-al bruckuck-u.

Ngi-a-gat bruckuck-bulok 1960’s-dui ba gama Monash University, gurrowa Australia ba nganga-mungan-ngat-dhan.

Monash University Museum-al Bruckuck-u bullarto-wonthaggi-dhan n’y’alingo-bulok ngang-nganjin Monash-bulok-dui boorndup maniga.dhan, dambunamon mungan yulendj dambunamon dhumba-bulok.  MUMA bruckuck-bulok-dui Caulfield-al Museum-u dhumba-bulok ba marnang-bulok mungan.

MUMA nganga-dhan ba boorndup Guleeny galanida Australi-al mungan-u, ba dulap bagungga-dhan ba minduna bruckuck-al Gulinj-u.

Tilbruk-nganjin buladu womin djeka Guleeny ba ngagu English ngulu wumen mani yalingbuth, ber-kerk-al bruckuck-u ngulu ganbu ba bindjirru-dui.

Ber-kerk-al Guleeny-u dambunamon wa-nganjin ngagu yuwangu Guleeny ba Torres Strait Islander-al ngulu-bulok-u ngagu, yulendj dharranggalk, booboo narrkwarren, dhanga, murrup, ngol-bulok-dhan ba yuwangu-djak.


Ngoon godgin-nganjinu Wurundjeri-al   ba  Boon Wurrung-al  Gulinj-u Monash University biik -dhan.

Marram-nganjin ngoon godgin  lalal  ba gugung-bulok  nugel-dhan  yalinguth ba  yalingbu,  ba yirramboi.

Monash University-dui 2500 bruckuck-bulok Australi-al  bruckuck-u.

Ngi-a-gat bruckuck-bulok 1960’s-dui ba  gama Monash University,  gurrowa Australia  ba nganga-bruckuck-ngat-dhan.

Monash University Museum-al  Bruckuck-u  baggungga-dhan bruckuck-bulok  ngang-nganjin Monash-bulok-dui boorndup maniga-dhan, dambunamon   booeegigat  yurlendj dambunamon dhumba-bulok. MUMA  bruckuck-bulok-dui  Caulfield-al Museum-u,  dhumba-bulok ba   marnang-bulok  booeegigat. MUMA  nganga-dhan   ba boorndup  Gulinj  galanida   Australi-al bruckuck- u, ba   dulap bagungga-dhan ba   minduna bruckuck-al Gulinj-u.

Wunga-nganjin buladu ngoon godgin Gulinj  ba ngagu  English ngulu wumen  mani yalingbuth, ber-kerk-al  bruckuck-u ngulu ganbu ba bindjirru-dui. Ber-kerk-al Gulinj-u dambunamon  wa-nganjin ngagu yuwangu  Gulinj ba  Torres Strait Islander-al ngulu -bulok-u  ngagu, yurlendj, dharranggalk, booboop narrkwarren, dhanga, murrup, ngol-bulok-dhan ba yuwangu-djak.


We acknowledge the Boon Wurrung and Wurrundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation, on whose territories Monash University is located. We pay our respect to their Elders, past, present, and emerging.

The Monash University Collection includes 2500 artworks by Australia’s leading contemporary artists. The Collection was established in the early 1960s and its development parallels that of the University itself, reflecting changes in Australian society and the vision of our artists.

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) manages the Collection and coordinates its display across Monash campuses with the goal to provide inspiration to students and staff, to encourage creative thinking and promote cultural debate. MUMA also presents exhibitions in its Museum galleries on the Caulfield campus as well as regular lectures, talks and workshops.

MUMA recognises and values Indigenous Australians as the first artists of this country, and proudly exhibits artworks by First Nations artists. In respect of Indigenous cultures, and in acknowledgement of English as the language of colonisation in this country, we have initiated a program of writing about artworks in the Collection in the first and/or ancestral languages of artists. This writing program recognises that Indigenous languages play a profound role in understanding and transmitting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, law, art, philosophy, astronomy, biology, food, spirituality, history and much more.


Thanks to the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund for their generous support of the first three years of the program (2016–19).


Image: Vansittart Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania, 2005, gelatin silver print, Monash University Collection.

Explore the First Languages of the Monash University Collection Writing Project