ICS Seminar Series - Kim Cunio, with Chris Sainsbury and Will Kepa

Decolonizing the ANU School of Music: An Indigenous led 'recovery'

Event Details:

Date and Time: Thursday, March 24, 11:30am - 1:00pm

Location: Building EZ, Conference Room 1, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

Chair: Professor Heather Horst

Presenter: Professor Kim Cunio (with short films by Associate Professor Chris Sainsbury and Will Kepa)

Discussant: Associate Professor Louise Crabtree-Hayes


This presentation asks, how might things change in the academy through the transferring of power to Indigenous people and diverse voices? We share our experiences at the Australian National University (ANU) School of Music. Music schools are bastions of privilege, steeped in western cannonic thought and artistic practice, and requiring years of expensive tuition. They can also facilitate shared practices with Indigenous people and diverse voices. In our music school there are initiatives that respond to gender discrimination and embrace multiculturalism, but we must first start and finish with First Nations business.

At the ANU School of Music we have introduced a process of change through three projects: Indigenous leadership (2018-current); Yil Lull, a free Indigenous recording studio (2021-current); and Ngarra- burria, a free Indigenous composers program (2017-current). We present on how these projects have been initiated, the scaffolding that supports them and their consequences for the school and the ANU. Throughout, we acknowledge how our positionality and its inherent potential for compassion can be a part of a quiet revolution within the academy.


Prof Kim Cunio, Head of the School of Music ANU, is interested in old and new musics and the role of music in making sense of our world. Kim is a Grammy Long listed composer, recipient of the ABC Golden Manuscript Award and has a regular segment on ABC Radio Canberra. Commissioning organisations include the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne International Arts Festival, and the Foundation for Universal Sacred Music (USA). Kim is working on a project setting the sounds of space with the British Antarctic Survey; a project on forced feticide in India; a music and health research hub at the ANU and a series of albums with the Gyuto Monks of Tibet.

A Prof Chris Sainsbury

Chris Sainsbury is an accomplished composer, a highly experienced music educator, and Associate Professor in Composition at the ANU. As an Indigenous person he maintains a commitment to lifting the profile of Indigenous Australian composers and is founder and artistic director of the Ngarra-burria First Peoples Composers program. In 2020 he won an Australian Classical/Jazz music award - the Inaugural APRA National Luminary Award, for the impact of Ngarra-burria on the music industry.

Will Kepa

Will Kepa is a Torres Strait Islander multi-instrumentalist, Audio Engineer, Music Producer and Film Composer from Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia. He has been professionally active in the music industry for over 18 years. Will runs Yil Lull studio, the ANU’s Indigenous recording studio. Over the years, Will has performed with the likes of Phil Emmanuel, Jan Preston, James Morrison, Christine Anu, Seaman Dan, Archie Roach, George Telek, David Bridie, Wilma Reading, David Hudson, Deline Briscoe and Busby Marou.

Chair: Heather Horst

Professor Heather A. Horst is the Director of the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. A sociocultural anthropologist by training, she researches material culture and the mediation of social relations through digital media and technology. Her books focused upon these themes include The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication (Horst and Miller, 2006); Hanging Around, Messing Around and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (Ito, et. Al 2010); Digital Anthropology (Horst and Miller, eds. 2012); Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practices (Pink, Horst, et. Al. 2015); The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography (Hjorth, Horst, Galloway and Bell, Eds. 2016); The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones: Pacific Island Perspectives (Foster and Horst, eds. 2018) and Location Technologies in International Context (Wilken, Goggin and Horst, eds. 2019). Her current research, part of an ARC Linkage Project led by Dr. Denis Crowdy with the Wontok Foundation and Further Arts Vanuatu, examines the circulation of music in Melanesia through mobile technologies. She is also developing new work examining the Fijian fashion system as well as Automated Decision Making.

Discussant: Louise Crabtree-Hayes

Louise is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Society and Culture. Her research focuses on the social, ecological and economic sustainability of community-driven housing developments in Australia; on the uptake of housing innovation in practice and policy; on complex adaptive systems theory in urban contexts; and, on the interfaces between sustainability, property rights, institutional design and democracy.

Her work is underpinning the emergence of forms of permanently affordable and community-led housing in Australia, such as housing cooperatives and community land trusts, on which she is Australia's leading expert.