On the Couch with Dr Lou Bennett AM

AAR-Dr-Lou-Bennett-AM---By-Dr-Romaine-MoretonWho is Dr Lou Bennett AM?
My name is Dr Lou Bennett AM. I am Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung. I am an artist and academic. I am a language activist.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I could have been a great celebrity chef with my own cooking show- maybe this could be my next project.

Who inspires you and why?
My darling partner, my sister and my dear old Dad. My mum too, she passed away two years ago coming up in June. She will always be an inspiration to me. They have all taught me many things, but the stand outs are: Stay in love and respect, especially when hate and apathy arrive at your doorstep. Gentleness is strength and resilience. Persistence never give up, because with every knock-down, unsuccessful attempt or mistake comes learnings. Don’t do wrong, it’ll catch up on you! I also receive great inspiration from the country and all living beings. Sitting quietly and listening with no judgement is part of my daily practice that keeps me grounded.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Our purpose on this earth is to make a difference. I hope that my research project Sovereign Language Rematriation Through Song Pedagogy makes a difference to the communities I work with and that the ideas expand to carry on to the next generations and beyond. I am fortunate enough to now be a part of the Westpac 100 Scholars Network – an amazing, talented group of people, who are recipients of Westpac Scholarships. I have been awarded a Westpac Research Fellowship and my project explores the use of song composition in rematriating Aboriginal Languages to their respective communities.

What is rematriation I hear you ask? Well it’s a process that considers First Nations values and practices. It is the right to refuse and look beyond the limitations of colonialism. A great example of First Nations knowledge is how our mob Care for Country by controlled burning. These ancient knowledges that have been denied by Western society in the past are now getting some credibility, but there is a long way to go to convince people, even though the evidence is apparent. It is important for Australia and the global community at large to embrace First Nations ideologies and practices that are tried, tested and true. I believe it will be the way forward.

Favorite holiday destination and why?
Going bush and being able to gather food from the country – anywhere really, but at the moment it’s the South coast of NSW – Beautiful Yuin country, where you can dive for mussels, fish off the rocks, go collecting oysters and yuggeri’s (that’s pippies). It gives me such a grounded peace and contentment to be able to gather food this way and share it with loved ones.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Leanganook (Mount Alexandra) on Jaara Jharr (Jaara country) or if there’s no time for visiting Jharr then it’s a quick catch up in the city to Claypots Evening Star in South Melbourne or Claypots Seafood Bar in St Kilda – the best seafood place in Melbourne. Well ok, there are many amazing seafood places in Melbourne, but these are my partner’s and my favorites.

What are you currently reading?
Otter’s Journey Through Indigenous Language and Law by Lindsay Keegitah Borrows and Aborigines of Victoria, Volume One by Brough Smyth.

What are you currently listening to?
Rahsaan Patterson, Avery*Sunshine and Deline Briscoe.

Happiness is?
Listening to the birds’ wake up calls at sunrise and settling chatter at sunset. Feeling the cool evening breeze on my face while walking our dogs Teddy and Monty with my partner. Eating good food and feeling the energy it gives me. Being grateful for all I have and all I have not.

What does the future hold for you?
I am grateful for the life I’ve lived, and I have faith in life to come. I love what I do for a living and I approach life with humility, I have found great rewards working with and for community and will continue to do so and I will always back myself and shine as bright as my Ancestors who take their place in the cosmos and lead by example. One last thing, the Australian String Quartet has just released a series called Australian Anthologies. Here is the link to my song called Jaara Nyilamum.

Dr Lou Bennett is a performer, songwriter, musical and artistic director, composer, actor, soundscape and music designer and educator. Dr Bennett has just been announced as a 2020 Westpac Scholar. For more information, visit: scholars.westpacgroup.com.au for details.

Image: Dr Lou Bennett – photo by Dr Romaine Moreton