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Christine Judith Nicholls

Honorary Senior Lecturer, Australian National University

Christine has been involved in education, both in the tertiary and schooling sectors, since launching her teaching career in Sydney in the early 1970s. Beginning in the early 1980s, Christine Nicholls spent more than a decade living at Lajamanu, a remote Warlpiri Aboriginal settlement in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory, where she worked first as a linguist and then as the Principal of the local school, and played an instrumental part during the beginning of the art movement at Lajamanu. She is also a proficient speaker of, and/or understands, a number of Aboriginal languages, particularly the Warlpiri language.

In terms of her background in Indigenous matters, Christine was an expert witness in the Royal Commission into the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and is quoted in the report; she has also continuously acted as an Expert Examiner for the Federal Government (since being appointed by the Howard Government in 1998, she continues in this role up to the present day, the purpose of which is to consider applications for potential overseas purchasers of Aboriginal artworks and artefacts, i.e. considering the applications of those who wish to purchase such objects for placement in overseas galleries or collections); she has worked on the National Curriculum in Aboriginal Languages (which is now used in schools throughout Australia) and was involved in the developmental phase of the Indigenous Art component of the Australian National Curriculum in Visual Art, operational in 2013.

Christine has also worked, either short term as a visiting scholar, or for longer terms, at numerous universities outside of Australia, including Klagenfurt University (Austria), University of Geneva (Switzerland) and University of Tokyo (2004-2005) where she was Professor of Australian Studies. Over the years she has also served on a number of Boards, including, most recently, the Boards of Craftsouth and The JamFactory in Adelaide, with those terms expiring earlier in 2012, and is currently a SALA Board Member and has very recently been appointed as an Art Monthly Board Member.

In terms of her background in curatorial work, Christine Nicholls has curated many visual art exhibitions, including two for the Adelaide Festival of Arts (2000 and 2002), two jointly curated (with MCA staff) major exhibitions at the MCA Sydney (Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place, and Dancing Up Country: the Art of Dorothy Napangardi) and a major and very popular exhibition of Indigenous prints, Yilpinji: Love, Magic and Ceremony which has been touring the world for a number of years now. She curated two major Indigenous art exhibitions in Croatia and Serbia. She is also in high demand as a public speaker, particularly in the areas of Indigenous Australian art and languages.

Christine has published more than twenty books, all of which have won significant prizes (for example, Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place, co-written with Ian North, and published by Wakefield Press, and one of the earliest publications in the SALA series, won The Art Association of Australia and New Zealand publication Prize for the Best Visual Art Book published in the region, in 2001). Among Christine’s publications is the framing essay Painting Alone in Yulyurlu: Lorna Fencer Napurrurla, published by Wakefield Press in 2011, and EarthWorks, and overview of the history of Indigenous Australian ceramics, which is accompanied by a book that she has written on that history of Indigenous ceramics.

In addition to Indigenous Australian art, Christine writes about diverse areas of visual art, including sculpture, jewellery, ceramics and public art. She also writes, translates and edits children’s books. Unusually perhaps, while Christine works at ‘high end’ of the visual art world, she is equally committed to writing about and acting as an advocate for emerging and unknown artists, many of whom have since gone on to receive public acclaim.

Dr Nicholls is currently focussing on Australian literature in articles that include a no-holds-barred critique of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines (herewith the Open Access version:; Aboriginal monsters in Australia and Canada and Australian eco-crime novels (in progress); an alternative view of Patrick White's 'Voss' and 'A Fringe of Leaves' (also in progress) and more.

Christine is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at The Australian National University, Canberra.


  • 2004–2005
    Professor of Australian Studies, University of Tokyo


  • 1997 
    Macquarie University , Doctor of Philosophy


  • 2012
    The International Art in Early Childhood Research Journa, Understanding and Judging Children’s Artworks by ‘the standards of a different procedure’: Space, Cognition and the Visual Art of 21st century Warlpiri and Kukatja Schoolchildren, in The International Art in Early Childhood Research Journal, Volume 4, Number 1, 2012, Australia and the U.S. [online:] ARTEC_2012_Research_Journal_1_Article_2_Nicolls.pdf
  • 2012
    Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, South Australia, Nicholls, Christine, 2012, Earth Works: contemporary Indigenous Australian ceramic art, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, South Australia
  • 2005
    The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Death By a Thousand Cuts: Indigenous Language Bilingual Education Programmes in the Northern Territory of Australia, 1972-1998, in The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism special issue on Heritage / Community Language Education: US and Australian Perspectives, guest edited by Nancy H. Hornberger, an international journal, edited by Colin Baker and published by Multilingual Matters in Clevedon, UK., pp 160-177
  • 2004
    Cahiers Internationaux de symbolisme, Nicholls, Christine, 2004, ‘Dorothy Napangardi: une place sur la carte et une place dans l’histoire de l’art’, in Cahiers Internationaux de symbolisme, Théories et Pratiques de la Création II, la création au feminine, Numéros 107-108-109, pp. 163–169, Le Centre Interdisciplinaire D’Etudes Philosophiques de l’Université de Moin-Hainaut (Ciéphum), Belgium
  • 2003
    Australia and New Zealand Journal of Art (AAANZ) Journal of Art, God and Country: An Analysis of Works by Three Contemporary Indigenous Artists, in Australia and New Zealand Journal of Art, Indigenous Art of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) Journal of Art, Volume 4, Number 1, Indigenous Art of Australia and the South Pacific, Sydney, pp 41-60.

Grants and Contracts

  • 2000
    Funding of Adelaide Festival Art Exhibitionsl
    Funding Source:


Various Prizes for Books written, including for Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place. (co-authored by Ian North; Equal Best Art Book in Australia and New Zealand, 2001)