- Making Connections in Folklore -


Australian Folklore Network


May 2011


Published for the AFN by the Australian Folklore Research Unit

Curtin University of Technology

ISSN 1833-6930


This and previous editions also available online at

Folklore Australia


From the Convenor
National Australian Folklore Conference 2011
Red Rooster Press Folklore Publications
Centre for English Traditional Heritage

This edition of Transmissions reports on the recent folklore conference and carries other items of interest. Please send in any contributions for future editions to
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Graham Seal

This year’s AFN conference – the seventh – was again well attended and another informative and enjoyable prelude to the national Folk Festival. The conference featured presentations from Australian and international speakers, a growing trend, including speakers from the ‘Laments Colloquium’ of the International Council for Traditional Music, conveniently running at the same period at the Australian National University. For those who were unable to attend the conference, below is the program and abstracts of the presentations. The usual call for papers for the 2012 event will go out later this year but if there are any early expressions of interest at this point, please email to as we would like to finalise next year’s program a little earlier than was possible this year.

Gwenda Beed Davey
Was Lord of the Flies wrong?  Cooperation, competition and aggression among  unsupervised children

William Golding's classic novel 'Lord of the Flies' graphically portrayed the bestial behaviour possible among unsupervised children, who were, in the novel, marooned on a deserted island during wartime.  The issues of competition versus cooperation in children's traditional play have been widely discussed by folklorists such as Iona and Peter Opie (1969), Mary and Herbert Knapp (1976) and June Factor (1988).  More recent research from the Childhood, Tradition and Change project (2006-2010) adds further evidence for this ongoing debate from its detailed observations of children's play in schoolyards in all Australian States and Territories.  This paper will argue against the 'Lord of the Flies' scenario, and pose another look at possibilities for child-child interaction, particularly in their traditional folkloric play.

Dr Gwenda Beed Davey
is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific at Deakin University, Melbourne. During March and April 2011 she has a research fellowship at the National Film and Sound Archive (Scholars and Artists in Residence), researching representations of childhood in the NFSA collections.

June Factor
Reflections on more than a century of collecting children’s folklore in Australian suburbs.
Until the 1950s, the history of collecting the folklore of Australian children – the games, rhymes, riddles, jokes, insults, secret languages, etc –was the work of dedicated individuals, urban and rural, for whom it was a minor but fascinating cultural byway. The arrival of an experienced ethnographer from the US in the mid-1950s not only greatly enlarged the corpus of collected material, but also shifted playlore into the scholarly realm of historical context, analysis, international comparison and the like. From this time, scholars have played an increasingly important role in the study of Australian children’s folklore, and in the advocacy of its significance to the understanding of human development and the growth of cultural forms, as well as its clear-eyed reflection on Australian history. The recently completed national research project, Childhood, Tradition and Change, builds on all the earlier work undertaken by individuals inside and outside academia.
Dr June Factor
June Factor is a writer, historian and folklorist. For a number of years she was Senior Lecturer in English at the Institute of Early Childhood Development in Melbourne. She joined the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne in 1989, where she is now an Honorary Senior Research Fellow.

Danny Spooner
Hamish Henderson
An orphan by eight; supported by the Duke of Athol through school; became and intelligence officer with the 51st Highland Regiment and fought at Alamein with the Australian 9th Division. Fought with the resistance in Italy and took the surrender there at the end of the Italian campaign. While in the army wrote the ‘The Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily’. He returned to Scotland and became a researcher with the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He was the first to record Jeanie Robertson, Jimmy MacBeath, Davie Stewart, Willie Scott and others and was a friend of John Manifold. These were just some of the achievements of the Scottish Collector, poet, singer and songwriter Hamish Henderson, a driving force behind the Scottish Folk Revival.
Danny Spooner is a highly-regarded traditional singer based in regional Victoria. An English-born Australian, he presents songs of work and life from both cultures.

Graham MacDonald
The Matilda Discography
 ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is Australia's national song (as distinct from its national anthem). The story, in four short verses, is on an itinerant rural worker who steals a sheep and drowns himself rather than be taken in by the police. Written in 1895, the song struck an immediate chord with the Australian public, and since its first recording in 1926, has been recorded over 600 times. Through over 80 years of recordings the history of the Australian recording industry, both stylistically and technically, can be traced through this one song. This then is the story of creating an annotated single song discography, the challenges of designing a database to list the recordings and how sound archivists might benefit from such work.

Graham McDonald is a Recorded Sound archivist at the National Film and Sound Archive. He has 35 years’ background in folk music variously as a performer, recording engineer and producer, broadcaster, journalist and critic. He has also served as Artistic Director of the National Folk Festival.

Jennifer Gall and Morgyn Phillips
Chasing shadows slipping in a magic lantern slide’: re-Visioning the significance of the national Film and Sound Archive collection of illustrated song slides.
What role did song slides play in the transmission and adaptation of American and British popular music throughout Australia in the early decades of the twentieth century? How did songs featured in magic-lantern slide-shows feed into the folk-music tradition? Using examples from the National Film and Sound archive collection of glass song slides, this paper will demonstrate how Australian entertainers and entrepreneurs drew on the latest British and American trends to create a local interpretation of an international phenomenon.
Jennifer Gall is a musician, writer and manager of the Scholars and Artists in Residence program at the National Film and Sound Archive. She was educated at the University of New England and graduated with a doctorate in music from the ANU School of Music in 2008. Her dissertation was titled Redefining the Tradition: the role of Women in the Evolution of Australian Folk music.

Morgyn Phillips is Exhibitions Co-ordinator at the National Film and Sound Archive. She curated the current exhibition of glass Song Slides and is currently in France researching the life of Marius Sestier, an early Australian film maker.

Robert James Smith
The Second Bite: An Appraisal of the Meat Pie in Australian Folk Culture
With a meat pie, the first bite is merely into the crust, affording only a preliminary appraisal.  It is the second bite, often cautiously made, where the fuller quality of the pie becomes evident. This presentation will be a follow-up to one delivered to this conference in 2008. Appropriately, this ‘second bite’ will further explore the language and images used to represent the Australian meat pie, and clarify its distinctive role in contemporary culture as a marker of location and of identity.
Robert James Smith is a teacher-educator at Southern Cross University in northern New South Wales, and is co-editor of the annual journal Australian Folklore. He has been a life-long ‘pie-eater’.

Adrienne L. Kaeppler
Chanting Grief, Dancing Memories: Objectifying Hawaiian Laments
Hawaiian rituals associated with death have changed dramatically during the past century in metropolitan Hawai`i. Only a few accomplished chanters continue to voice the difficult ho`ouweuwe, however, the poetry of kanikau is still widely composed and published. The paper will examine traditions associated with grief -- including tattoo, chanting, and structured movement, as well as modern grieving found in poetry and the performance of hula.
Adrienne L Kaeppler is a social/cultural anthropologist and Curator of Oceanic Ethnology (Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Guinea, and Australia) at the National Museum of Natural History/National Museum of Man, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Helen Yunupingu and Lysbeth Ford.
Crying songs of Arnhem Land
Aboriginal singing in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, has traditionally been depicted as a men’s activity, accompanied by a man playing didjeridu; women are relegated to dancing only. Women, according to this interpretation, do not sing, they only dance to men’s singing. As a footnote, women are said to “keen” in a sort of melodious way on the death of a significant person. However, can this “keening” be differentiated so clearly from what passes as “men’s singing”? Literacy worker Helen Yunupingu from Elcho Island, assisted by linguist Lysbeth Ford (Bachelor Institute) demonstrates the structure and sophistication of so-called “women’s crying songs” (or “keening”) and their relationship with ancestral subjects in a way that subverts the notion of this phenomenon as lesser than or apart from the men’s religious clan songs.
Helen Yunupingu is a literacy worker from Elcho Island and Lysbeth Ford is a linguist at Bachelor Institute, NT.

Steven Patrick Jangala and Yukihiro Doi.
Milpirri: A Response to Cultural Loss
Milpirri is a modernized ceremony of the Warnayaka Warlpiri in northern central Australia. Threatened with cultural extinction, the community under the leadership of Steven Patrick Jangala and in collaboration with Tracks dance company in Darwin devised a one-day ceremony which incorporates traditional music and dance and popular styles of country, rock and hip hop performance. Milpirri is based on a traditional story of the fusion of smoke and clouds to produce rain which nurtures the country. As smoke and clouds are opposites in many ways, so Milpirri fuses traditional and modern performance styles, Aboriginal and White music, older and younger generations. Held every two years since 2005, each Milpirri performance is based on a traditional ceremony – initiation, public corroboree, and fire ceremony – and the conceptual themes of the ceremony on which it is based are expressed through traditional and contemporary performance styles. Beyond the ceremony itself, Milpirri is also a revitalisation movement whose aims are achieved in collaboration with the community school - learning Warlpiri language, stories, songs, dances, artistic designs and visiting outstation sites to be taught traditional bush craft and skills.
Steven Patrick Jangala and Yukihiro Doi worked on this project with Tracks dance company in Darwin.

The conference organizing committee was:
Graham Seal – Centre for Advanced Studies in Australia, Asia and the Pacific, Curtin University (Convener)
Kevin Bradley – National Library of Australia
Rob Willis – Australian Folklore Network

Red Rooster press publications in Australian folklore and history are available from 38 Canning Street, North Melbourne, 3051.
The Mounted Butchers: Some Songs and Verses of Eureka
Compiled by Hugh Anderson; music edited by Stephen Hutton. Studies in Australian Folklore No. 10, 2010. Limited edition 150 copies.$25.00 RRP.
The Launch of the SS Great Britain and other broadside ballads. Edited by Hugh Anderson. Studies in Australian Folklore No 14, 2010. $16.20 incl p+p.
Number 13 in the series was recently published as Paddy Collins, a Sydney street poet by Hugh Anderson.


A newly established centre and journal, Tradition Today, can be accessed