Folklore (in a broader sense, traditional and popular culture) is a group-orientated and tradition-based creation of groups or individuals reflecting the expectations of the community as an adequate expression of its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms include, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture and other arts.
- UNESCO, 1985

Australian folklore covers the full diversity of customs and traditions existing in our multicultural society, including the folklore of indigenous and immigrant groups. The Australian Folklore Association, Inc. was formed to promote the study of folklore, to facilitate communication and information dissemination amongst researchers, and to develop the public appreciation of the cultural role of folklore. The Associationís members include writers, academics, researchers and performers. This leaflet gives an introduction to the aims and activities of the Association.


In December, 1987, a forum was held at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, on 'Collecting Folk Music in Australia'. The 25 forum participants were drawn together by their common interest in Australian folklore. A committee was nominated to draw up a draft constitution for a proposed association of people interested in Australian folklore. There was consensus that better mechanisms of communication between researchers needed to be established. Also that the association should be democratically elected; independently funded so that it could 'speak its mind' on matters of public policy or practice; and work cooperatively with existing bodies in the field.

The draft constitution was presented to a meeting at the Third National Folklife Conference held at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, in November, 1988. At that meeting, the Australian Folklore Association was inaugurated, adopting the below-listed aims which are enshrined in the Association's Constitution. The organisation operates with a national executive of elected representatives.


  1. To promote the collection, preservation and study of folklore in Australia.
  2. To foster the discussion and dissemination of information about folklore in Australia.
  3. To promote understanding and appreciation of the important social and cultural role of folklore in Australian society.


The Australian Folklore Association's ongoing activities include:
  • ∑ Answering public and specialist inquiries about folklore in Australia.
  • ∑ Lobbying government and public bodies in support of folklore research and preservation.
  • ∑ Representing the interests of folklorists at meetings and inquiries.
  • ∑ Organising or sponsoring national conferences and seminars, including the biannual National Folklife Conferences.
  • ∑ Offering support and expertise for folklore research programmes, especially for researchers new to the field.
  • ∑ Engaging in special projects, such as the development of a code of ethics for Australian folklorists.
  • ∑ Facilitating communications between researchers, including through the Association's publications.

Folklife is a tradition-based and/or contemporary expressive culture repeated and shared within a community, and accepted by it as an adequate reflection of its cultural and social identity. It embraces a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, mythology, legend, ritual, pageantry, literature, technical skill, play, music, dance, song, drama, narrative, architecture, craft. Its expressions are mainly learnt orally, by imitation or in performance, and are generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction.
- Australian Folklife Inquiry, 1987


Australian Folklore is the annual, refereed journal of the Australian Folklore Association. It publishes scholarly articles, reviews, correspondence, and news and reports on various fieldwork projects. Each issue is 200 to 300 pages. Back issues are available.

Past issues have included papers on such topics as Italian traditional music in Adelaide, folklore generated by the Azaria Chamberlain case, contemporary folklore and racism, folklore in literature, collection issues, roaming gnomes, bushranger outlaw traditions, contemporary legends about AIDS and human organ thefts, folk speech, Victorian goldfields songs, copyright protection for Aboriginal folklore, food rioting, convict vocabulary, regional oral history projects, folk tales, the Australian bush, changing religious traditions, the debutante ceremony, the Republican controversy, Aboriginal myths, bush hospitality, plant lore, the functions of immigrant Korean churches, and changing life in Australian country towns.

The journal was established in 1987 by Graham Seal and David S Hults and was originally published through the Centre for Australian Studies at Curtin University, Perth. In 1992, Australian Folklore became the official journal of the Australian Folklore Association. Since 1992, the journal has been edited by Professor John S Ryan at the University of New England, Armidale.

Australian Folklore welcomes contributions on folklore subjects, especially relating to Australian culture, in either disk or written text formats. Australian Folklore is on the World Wide Web at - Journal/AF.htm.

AFA Newsletter is usually published several times per year. Since its commencement in 1989, it has functioned to allow the informal exchange of information on folklore matters. Short contributions are invited about current folklore work, projects and activities.


Membership of the Australian Folklore Association is open to all people interested in folklore research in Australia, and who support the aims of the Association. Benefits include the receipt of the Association's annual journal, Australian Folklore, and issues of the AFA Newsletter. The membership fee is as listed on the current membership application form. By joining the Australian Folklore Association, you will be demonstrating your tangible support for the Association's programme of lobbying for the recognition of the importance of folklore studies and protections.


  • Anderson, Hugh, Gwenda Davey and Keith McKenry. Folklife: Our Living Heritage. Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1987.
  • Australian Folklore Association, Inc. Constitution. Australian Folklore, Sep 1992, 155 - 160.
  • Davey, Gwenda Beed, and Graham Seal. (Editors.) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Stubington, Jill. Editorial. Australian Folklore Association Newsletter. 1, July 1989, 1 - 2.
  • Stubington, Jill. President's Report. Australian Folklore Association Newsletter. 3, Dec 1990, 3 - 4.
  • UNESCO. Draft Report of the Second Committee of Government Experts on the Safeguarding of Folklore. Paris: UNESCO, 1985.


  • Australian Folklore Association - Membership and Enquiries :
    Mark Moravec, AFA Secretary,
    104 Howitt St,
    Ballarat VIC 3350.

    telephone: 03 5331 4408

  • Australian Folklore - Journal Back Issues and Editor :
    Professor John S. Ryan, Editor,
    Department of English and Communication Studies,
    University of New England,
    Armidale NSW 2351.

    fax: 02 6773 2623

  • AFA Newsletter - Contributions and Editor :
    Currently vacant.

The evolution of Australia's folklife over time, with the disappearance of some items, the progressive alteration of others, and the development of new forms, is a natural process. It is important however to maintain conditions where folk traditions can survive within communities, and to ensure these traditions are identified and documented, as part of Australia's evolving cultural heritage. This is often not the case at present, and elements of our folk heritage are constantly being lost. Community and government concern for heritage protection in Australia has so focused on material heritage - 'the things you keep' - that the essential intangible elements of our heritage, our folklife in all its myriad forms, have been neglected.
- Australian Folklife Inquiry, 1987