Monsters: Australian mythology, national identity and the design of Australian material culture



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of the Arts, English and Media


This studio-based thesis develops a speculative theoretical framework to assist in the design of quintessentially Australian objects. Through both project-driven and academic research, the thesis has sought to identify several core signifiers in the discourse of Australian national identity and material culture. The aim was to design furniture pieces inspired by those components of uniquely Australian culture that might resonate with a large percentage of Australians.

Using material culture theory as a foundation, this body of research surveys a broad selection of pre- and post-colonial Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian artefacts, concluding that the most geographically unique examples of material culture made in Australia are pre-colonial artefacts made by Indigenous Australians. Simultaneously, this thesis analyses a set of core narratives most broadly associated with Australian national identity, discovering that these national myths are culturally exclusive, forgetting large components of Australian society. This thesis then suggests a group of culturally inclusive creature myths that proliferated around the time of colonisation and could potentially be inclusive national myths.

Several creative outcomes have been generated in response to this thesis, but the core creative works are interpretations of two Australian creature myths. These include four furniture and object design interpretations of pankalangu, a creature myth from Western Arrernte culture in Central Australia, three furniture and object design interpretations of the Hairy Wild Man from Botany Bay, which has British origins prior to the departure of the First Fleet and two furniture design interpretations of the bunyip, a myth with origins in both colonial and Aboriginal culture.

This thesis is unavailable until Friday, July 12, 2019