Opening Australia's Multilingual Archives to Rethink Australian Identity in the Asia-Pacific


Australia has always been multilingual. Yet English language sources have dominated political and popular discourses over the last few centuries, overshadowing the significant contribution made by other languages and cultures in shaping Australian history and identity.

Professor Adrian Vickers spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about his work as part of an ambitious new Australian Research Council Discovery Project that seeks to investigate and document how speakers of (mainly non-Indigenous) languages apart from English have recorded and represented Australia. As Professor Vickers explains, these languages include Indonesian, in which he specialises, as well as many other Asian and European languages. In examining Australia’s history from non-English perspectives, the project challenges dominant narratives of what being Australian means and asks how language both shapes and reflects notions of belonging in an Australian context.

In this podcast, Professor Adrian Vickers delves into Australia’s migrant and settler history to highlight the importance of language diversity, narrating countless tales of cross-cultural exchanges and how they have informed the Australian past.

About Professor Adrian Vickers:

Adrian researches and publishes on the cultural history of Southeast Asia. He has held a series of Australian Research Council grants (Discovery and Linkage), the most recent looking at modern and contemporary Indonesian art, Cold War history, and labour and industry in Southeast Asia. As part of a linkage grant on the history of Balinese painting, he created a virtual museum, continuing previous pioneering work in eResearch and teaching. His books include the highly popular Bali: A Paradise Created (2012), The Pearl Frontier: Indonesian Labor and Indigenous Encounters in Australia's Northern Trading Network (2015, with Associate Professor Julia Martínez, funded by an ARC Discovery Project Grant), A History of Modern Indonesia (2013) and Balinese Art: Paintings and Drawings of Bali, 1800-2010 (2012). Adrian is frequently asked to comment on Indonesia and Australian-Indonesian relations for national and international media.

You can follow Adrian on Twitter: @AdrianVickers5.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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