Politics of Aboriginal Art

Unit code: AEK2205 | Study level: Undergraduate
(Generally, 1 credit = 10 hours of classes and independent study.)
Footscray Park
Online Real Time
AEK1105 - Aboriginal Traditions and Policy; or
AEK1204 - Aboriginal History and Political Movements
Students enrolled in course code ABAB and LBLA must complete at least 72 credit points (equivalent to 6 units) in Year 1 before undertaking any Level 2 units.
(Or equivalent to be determined by unit coordinator)


Aboriginal art is a global multi-million dollar business, and for many non-Aboriginal people, the stereotypical view is that Aboriginal art is only authentic if it is in the form of dot paintings. Contemporary Victorian Aboriginal art, however, emanates from range of lifestyles, landscapes, cultural experiences and beliefs. Many Koori artists work from ancestral designs and their continuing connection to the land, producing possum skin cloaks, carving emu eggs and creating artefacts such as shields, boomerangs and jewellery, while others are inspired by contemporary issues, blending cultural traditions with personal, political views and contemporary modes. Many urban Aboriginal artists use their art practice to affect change across their communities through the provision and delivery of community cultural development projects to enable positive outcomes in colonised and disadvantaged families and groups. Contemporary Aboriginal art practice is an expression of Aboriginal story/stories and is a way of articulating cultural sovereignty, autonomy, survival and resistance to dominant colonial and patriarchal narratives. In this unit, students investigate and understand the range of Victorian Indigenous art, its cultural underpinnings and its style and medium. Students analyse the impact of colonisation on Victorian Aboriginal communities, the art practices in relation to outcomes in disadvantaged communities, the reclamation of cultural practices and oral traditions and subsequent effects on art style and subject matter. Students also reflect on their own understandings and undertake comparative research on Aboriginal art in an Australian and global Indigenous context.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Analyse the impact of colonial settlement on the cultural, health and social outcomes of urban Victorian Aboriginal populations and their art;
  2. Describe how different art styles and subject matter have shaped and framed Victorian Aboriginal resistance and reclamation of cultural practices;
  3. Critique the impact and role of Indigenous art, its impact on Aboriginal communities and how art and community development can transform place and space and impart oral tradition;
  4. Recognise the importance of and reflect on how culturally appropriate and culturally safe urban Indigenous art projects impact and produce positive outcomes in Aboriginal communities; and
  5. Argue how contemporary Indigenous art practice, in all mediums, are fundamental products and processes of Aboriginal sovereignty.


For Melbourne campuses

Assessment type: Journal
Grade: 30%
Journal reflections (3 x entry)
Assessment type: Essay
Grade: 40%
Written assessment
Assessment type: Presentation
Grade: 30%
Individual presentation

Required reading

Readings will be available in VUC.

As part of a course

This unit is not compulsory for any specific course. Depending on the course you study, this unit may be taken as an elective.

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