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Prof Catherine Falk


Emeritus Professor Catherine Falk, PhD (Monash), former Dean of Music at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Emerita Catherine Falk is one of Australia’s most significant ethnomusicologists. Her doctoral research involved extensive fieldwork in West Java, Indonesia, during the 1970s. She focused on ceremonial life and music in the villages of West Java. She received her PhD from Monash University in 1981, having already published three articles.


During the 1980s she was influential in promoting the study of migrant music-making in Melbourne to the wider community and advocating for recognition of the creative musical life represented by migrant musicians through her work with the Victorian Ministry for the Arts, the Australia Council, the Boite, Piccolo Spoleto, the Festival of all Nations and Multicultural Arts Victoria. Engagement with migrant communities led to her long involvement with the Hmong community in Australia.


Her publications about Hmong music and funeral rites are recognised internationally as seminal works. She was part of a consortium of ethnomusicologists and linguists from the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney and the ANU that received ARC funding to establish PARADISEC, the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources for Endangered Cultures. She served on numerous editorial boards including Hmong Studies Journal and the Asia –Pacific Journal of Anthropology.


Her recent research has focused on music-making amongst Asian communities in colonial Australia. In 2009 she was a Research Scholar in Residence at the National Sound and Film Archive in Canberra. Her project title was “Inscribing Asia in Australia’s Musical History.”

She introduced ethnomusicology subjects to the (former) Melbourne State College in 1976. She was Head of the Department of Music at the Melbourne College of Advanced Education and the Institute of Education 1986-93, and established performance of non-western music programs, particularly gamelan, at the Melbourne campus (1979).

In the Faculty of Music she served as Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies, from 1998 to 2005; as Deputy Dean and Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, 1999-2005; as Acting Dean in 2000; as Dean 2006-2009; and as Chair of Graduate Studies, 2009-2015. Her period as Dean of the Music Faculty was one of great challenge for the University’s relationship with Music, involving University Council’s Review of Music in 2006, the subsequent move towards amalgamation with the VCA School of Music and the emergence of the Melbourne Model.


She led the transformation of the BMus into the Melbourne Model and was a courageous voice in the maintenance of Music in the broader University curriculum, ensuring the enduring value of the discipline of Music for the whole University.

In addition to her contributions to the Faculty of Music, Catherine Falk has served the University in a range of roles, most recently as Chair of the Academic Programs Committee of Academic Board. She also served over many years as a member of the Research Training Advisory Committee, the Teaching and Learning Quality Assurance Committee, and the Teaching and Learning Development Committee.

In retirement Professor Falk continues to act as supervisor for numerous PhD candidates.


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