John Antill’s orchestral ballet Corroboree was neither the first work, nor the last, in which a non-Indigenous composer sought to represent Australian distinctiveness by evoking Aboriginal culture. Amanda Harris uses the examples of Corroboree and the Australian Aborigines’ League’s production Aboriginal Moomba – Out of the Dark from the 1951 Jubilee to discuss the issues around representation and cultural appropriation in Australian music history.

Aboriginal Moomba
Performers in the Aboriginal Moomba – Out of the Dark produced by Bill Onus and Professor Doug Nicholls for the Australian Aborigines’ League, 23–27 June, 1951, Princess Theatre, Melbourne. Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria.

The writing of Australian music history represents certain points of view. It also excludes others. This story from 1951 is about how some representations of Australian culture have been...