Jason Gibson

Staff member

Jason has worked extensively with Aboriginal custodians throughout Australia on history, museum, and heritage related projects and conducted detailed fieldwork in central Australia for the past 15 years. His recent book is Ceremony Men: Making Ethnography and the Return of the Strehlow Collection (2020) examines the making of one of Australia’s most important anthropological collections and its relevance to Anmatyerr and Arrernte people.

Jason has worked as a consultant anthropologist to a number of government and non-government agencies, and also as a Repatriation Curator with the Melbourne Museum’s First Peoples Department and has taught Indigenous Studies at Monash University. His research explores cross-cultural approaches to custodianship, the history of anthropology, Indigenous cultural heritage management and Central Australian song and ceremonial traditions.

He is the Lead Chief Investigator of the Collecting at the Crossroads: Anthropology, Art and Cultural Change (1939-85) Australian Research Council Linkage Project. This project applies current scholarship on museum collecting practices, art and anthropology to produce a better understanding of one of Australia’s most significant, yet little known, collections of Aboriginal art and culture —the Berndt Museum collection.

When not working, Jason can be found river and sea kayaking, camping, and bush walking.

  • Research

    Jason worked as a research coordinator for the Spencer and Gillen Linkage Project (2010-2013) and developed an innovative digital reconstruction of the globally distributed collections of the Australian anthropologists Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen. He is a Chief Investigator on the Howitt and Fison’s Archive Linkage Project (2017-2020), along with A/Prof Helen Gardner, Dr Stephen Morey and A/Prof Rachel Hendery, and has developed a number of collaborative research projects with members of the GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation. The project has digitised and transcribed thousands of pages of handwritten documents created by A.W. Howitt and Lorimer Fison, two of the first anthropologists to systematically record details about the Aboriginal peoples of south-eastern Australia.

    Jason is presently developing a number of collaborative projects with the Berndt Museum of Anthropology, including a detailed study of a large collection of early drawings produced by Aboriginal stockmen from the Western Desert. The Birrundudu drawings bring 800 new images, from 30 years prior to the emergence of Aboriginal art at Papunya in 1971, into the frame of analysis; this collection offers an unparalleled opportunity to reconsider the cultural and aesthetic foundations of contemporary art and image making in the desert. Jason also continues to work with staff at the Strehlow Research Centre and is developing further research projects with them around leveraging the collection for cultural revival and education. Furthermore, Jason is contributing to a film project with members of the Yuin community of southern New South Wales (including the Gulaga Dancers) concerning early documentation of their ceremonial practices.

    Jason is working on a book about what happens after anthropological and heritage collections are repatriated to Aboriginal communities. As an ethnography the book details the various opportunities and challenges of ‘return’, offering vital lessons for museums, anthropologists, and Indigenous communities in post-settler colonies. He also is developing an intercultural history of Australian anthropology, highlighting the profound conversations and encounters between Indigenous cultural experts and probing ethnographers in the twentieth century.

  • Publications


    2020. Jason Gibson, Ceremony Men: Making Ethnography and the Return of the Strehlow Collection. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Book Chapters

    (in press), Jason Gibson, ‘Dealing in the Sacred: Working with Culturally Restricted Collections’, in Maria Nugent, Howard Morphy, and Robyn McKenzie (eds), Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value. London: Routledge.

    2020. Jason Gibson, ‘Returning Recordings of Songs That Persist: The Anmatyerr Traditions of Akiw and Anmanty’, in Linda Barwick, Jenny Green, and Petronell Vaarzon-Morel (eds), Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

    2020. Jason Gibson, Shaun Angeles, and Joel Liddle, ‘Deciphering Arrernte Archives: The Intermingling of Textual and Living Knowledge’, in Linda Barwick, Jenny Green, and Petronell Vaarzon-Morel (eds), Archival Returns: Central Australia and Beyond. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

    2017. Jason Gibson, ‘”Only the Best Is Good Enough for Eternity”: Revisiting the Ethnography of T.G.H. Strehlow’, in Anna Kenny and Nicolas Peterson (eds), The German Language Tradition of Ethnography in Australia, 243–71. Monographs in Anthropology. Canberra: ANU Press.

    2016. Myfany Turpin, Jennifer Green, and Jason Gibson ‘Mustering up a Melody: An Anmatyerr Cattle Truck Song’, in Peter Austin, Harold Koch, and Jane Simpson (eds), Language, Land and Story in Australia: Essays in Honour of Luise Hercus, 450–65. London: The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

    2014. Jason Gibson and Philip Batty, ‘Reconstructing the Spencer and Gillen Collection Online: Museums, Indigenous Perspectives and the Production of Cultural Knowledge in the Digital Age’, in Holger Meyer, Christoph Schmitt, Alf-Christian Shering, and Stephanie Janssen (eds), Corpora Ethnographica Online Strategien Der Digitalisierung Kultureller Archive Und Ihrer Präsentation Im Internet, 29–48. Munster: Waxman.

    Journal Articles

    2020. Jason Gibson and Russell Mullett, ‘The Last Jeraeil of Gippsland: Rediscovering an Aboriginal Ceremonial Site’, Ethnohistory 67, no. 4. https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-8579216. 

    2020. Jason Gibson, ‘Cultivating the “Proletarian Outlook”: Towards a History of the Left in Central Australia, 1920–75’, Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History, no. 118, 55–81.

    2019. Jason Gibson, ‘”You’re My Kwertengerl”: Transforming Models of Care for Central Australian Aboriginal Museum Collections’, Museum Management and Curatorship 34, no. 3, 240–56.

    2019. Jason Matthew Gibson, ‘”Factotum and Friend”: Anthropologists, Informants and Ethnographic Exchange in Central Australia’, History and Anthropology, 1–29.

    2019. Jason M. Gibson, ‘Ethnographic Sound Collections and Australian Aboriginal Heritage: Kaytetye Song Traditions Remembered’, International Journal of Heritage Studies 25, no. 6, 537–52.

    2018. Jason Gibson and Luise Hercus, ‘Capturing Histories at Thantyi-Wanparda: Comparing Early and Late Twentieth Century Ethnographies in Arabana Territory’, Journal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia, Special Edition Culture Contact in Indigenous Australia, 42, 175–210.

    2018. Jason Gibson, ‘Listening to the Anmatyerr Song Recordings of T.G.H. Strehlow’, The Artefact 41, 3–15.

    2015. Jason Gibson, ‘Central Australian Songs: A History and Reinterpretation of Their Distribution through the Earliest Recordings’, Oceania 85, no. 2, 165–82.

    2013. Jason Gibson and Alison Petch, ‘”The Ablest Australian Anthropologists”:  Two Early Anthropologists and Oxford’, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford 5, no. 1, 60–85.

    2013. Jason Gibson, ‘Addressing the Arrernte: FJ Gillen’s 1896 Engwura Speech’, Australian Aboriginal Studies 1, 57–72.

  • Teaching

    Jason has been a unit coordinator for a number of subjects in Indigenous Studies, and continues to deliver guest lectures at the Monash University Indigenous Studies Centre.

  • Supervision

    Jason is interested in supervising research pertaining to:

    • the history of anthropology
    • museum collections
    • Indigenous knowledge
    • intercultural history
    • settler-colonial interactions

    Jason is currently on the supervision panels for:

    Ms Beatrice Harris, How Can Museums Ethically Navigate Emotion in Representations Of ‘Difficult’ History?, Ms Anne Faithful, ‘Hair from Aboriginal people in museums’.

    And is an advisory panel member for for Mr Joel Liddle, ‘New Thinking About Old Ways: A Cultural Curriculum Intervention for Improved Mental Health of Young Central Australian Aboriginal Men’  (UOM).

  • Awards, fellowships, and honours

    • Monash University ‘Historical Studies PhD Thesis Prize’ of 2017.
    • Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria’s ‘Thesis Presentation Alpha Prize’ of 2017.
    • Honorary Associate, First Peoples Department, Melbourne Museum (2009-present)
    • Honorary Research Fellow, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia (2018-present)
    • Admitted membership of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (2017-present)
  • Media and public events

Australian Policy
 and History

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