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Making a Difference: Fifty Years of Indigenous Programs at Monash University, 1964–2014


Historians love footnotes; I love them as much as anyone, yet this book has none. Why? There is a perception that the average interested reader is put off by footnotes, finding them either a distraction or a sign that the work is ‘too academic’. I don’t know whether this is true, but I am inclined to think that in a work of this nature, which seeks to reach as wide an audience as possible, their value is limited. Footnotes provide proof of the evidentiary basis of stories and information, protect writers of true stories from accusations of fabrication, and give future researchers a place to start; but, unless you are familiar with their form, they can be daunting and difficult to read.

This book is based on solid archival research. All the information is traceable back to a document in the archives, a government report, a newspaper article, an interview, or a secondary source. Rather than use conventional footnotes or endnotes, I have chosen to describe, in accessible prose, the main sources I used to write each chapter.

All the archival material comes from the Monash University Archives. The main source for the introduction, chapters 1, 2 and 3 was MON 1 Administrative Correspondence Files (CF/166/0 Parts 1–4). Comprising four densely packed folios, this series contains communication with the University’s senior management about the CRAA from before it was established until 1985, copies of letters to and from government, copies of annual reports and minutes of Board meetings. Most of the documents relate to the Centre’s early years, the quantity of correspondence and other material gradually petering out as staff and administrative practices changed in later decades. Supplementary archival material for chapter 3 came from MON 974 (File 88/0564), being material relating to the administration and operation of the Aboriginal Research Centre from 1987–1997, and MON 37, being minutes of the Board of the Koori Research Centre from 1970–1993. The letter that eluded me for six months was in MON 1073 Koori Research Centre Subject Files (file 2002/06/8 MOSA correspondence). Further archival material came from staff files, newspaper articles (Trove), and government reports (Parliament of Australia).

Chapter 4 draws on an incredibly rich set of records relating to the establishment and operation of the Monash Orientation Scheme for Aborigines preserved for posterity by Professor Merle Ricklefs. Aware of the significance of his undertaking, Ricklefs documented everything, keeping files on all members of MOSA’s staff, correspondence relating to MOSA’s inception, dealings with government, negotiations with corporate sponsors, press reports, minutes of staff meetings, Committee minutes, annual reports and so on. Ricklefs’ highly ordered files (MON 546/561 MOSA Committee) – more than 60 of them – end with his departure from Monash in 1993. Insight into MOSA’s final years comes from MON 1072: MOSA Committee: Agenda and Minutes, 1994–1998, a much less comprehensive, though still informative, collection.

The closer I came to the present, the thinner the archival files became. Chapter 5 draws on very few archival sources. The Bourke Report and responses came from RMO1998/1506 and RMO1997/0406, and documents relating to the reorganisation of Monash’s Indigenous programs were in RMO1998/1507. Apart from these, I relied on records still in the custody of the Directors of the Monash Indigenous Centre and Yulendj Indigenous Engagement Unit (strategic plans, self-reviews, and other material relating to the current operation of these units), public documents, such as Monash’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2013–14, and interviews.

I was privileged to have long conversations with numerous people involved in Monash’s Indigenous programs: former Directors and Board members, MOSA teachers and students. Their reflections and recollections are interspersed throughout the book, providing colour and life. Associate Professor Louis Waller alerted me his obituary of Elizabeth Eggleston, and a second obituary by Charles Rowley, both published in the Monash University Law Review (Vol.3 1976), which provided much needed insight into Eggleston’s personality and life. Colin Tatz’s seminar, delivered on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the CRAA, was recorded by Yulendj is available online: A typescript copy of Tatz’s memoir, ‘The Lion’s Feathers: how I think I’ve lived’, written mainly for his family and including more detail about his early life than the published version, was also used. Readers can also consult Tatz’s published memoir, Human Rights and Human Wrongs: A Life Confronting Racism (Monash University Publishing, 2015).

Important social, cultural and political context, as well as historical interpretation and argument comes from the following works: Bain Attwood and Andrew Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History (Allen & Unwin, 1999); Bain Attwood, Rights for Aborigines (Allen & Unwin, 2003); Jeremy Beckett, ‘Aboriginality, Citizenship and Nation State’, Social Analysis 24 (1988): 3–18; Richard Broome, Fighting Hard: The Victorian Aborigines Advancement League (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2015); Graeme Davison and Kate Murphy, University Unlimited: The Monash Story (Allen & Unwin, 2012); Coral Dow and John Gardiner-Garden, ‘Overview of Indigenous Affairs: Part 1, 1901–1991’, Parliament of Australia, accessed 12 June 2015: parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/pubs/bn/1011/ indigenousaffairs1; Lorna Lippmann, Generations of Resistance: The Aboriginal Struggle for Justice (Longman Cheshire, 1981); and Merridy Malin and Deborah Maidment, ‘Education, Indigenous Survival and Well-Being: Emerging Ideas and Programs’, Australian Journal of Indigenous Education 32 (2003): 85–99.

Making a Difference: Fifty Years of Indigenous Programs at Monash University, 1964–2014

   by Rani Kerin