Woman with thick wavy hair in bottom-right foreground smiling at camera with palm trees and row of concrete wall-fence covered with straw in the background

Carole Muller’s million-dollar bequest to support research on Bali

16 January 2020
Continuing the legacy of a key player in Balinese site restorations
In memory of the former University of Sydney student, two scholarships have been established for postgraduate research and overseas fieldwork on Balinese culture.

The late Carole Muller has left a bequest of $1 million to the School of Languages and Cultures to support postgraduate students in their research on the areas of Balinese art, culture or history. Valued up to $35,000 per annum, the Carole Muller Awards were established in December 2019 to offer scholarships for postgraduate research at the University and fieldwork in Bali.

Carole Muller is known among the Australian academic community for her self-published books and contribution to research on the Bali Aga, the ethnic sub-group known as 'Mountain Balinese' or 'Original Balinese'.

“In honour of Carole’s memory, we are pleased to announce our first scholarship to support PhD research on Bali,” said Professor Adrian Vickers, Acting Head of the School of Languages and Cultures and professor in Southeast Asian studies. “Carole Muller’s generous gift will allow future research students to continue her interest in the visual culture of Bali Aga and contribute to the support of Balinese culture.”

Lounge day-bed with rattan-like curved head-rest in the foreground, with lush green water garden fountain with small padoga-shaped waterfall structure in the centre

Tirta Gangga water palace in Karangasem, east Bali.

In the early 1970s, Carole worked on hotel design in Bali with the renowned Australian architect Peter Muller. Her engagement with Balinese art and culture led to restorations of key sites, including the former home and studio of Dutch expatriate artist Rudolf Bonnet in Campuhan; the house of American architect Buckminster Fuller in Ubud; and the Tirta Gangga water palace in Karangasem.

Carole’s design work and eye for distinctive artistic forms led her to look at the Bali Aga culture. The Bali Aga see themselves as the indigenous Balinese in contrast to those who are descended from the priests and nobility of medieval Java. During the 1980s, she visited local villages to look at architectural form and traditional planning modes to understand their relationship to cosmology and social structure.

In her later years, Carole sought to further pursue her interest in Bali Aga visual culture through a Master of Arts (Honours) in 1982 at the University of Sydney where she undertook coursework with the Department of Indonesian Studies and postgraduate research in anthropology.

Bespectacled woman in black long-sleeved top and long patik-printed skirt sitting on a step with a couple plates of fruits and small cups of tea on a rattan mat, next to three local Balinese including a woman in traditional Balinese outfit of long-sleeved dark green top and batik skirts and two men with white head-wraps and long-sleeved tops and batik skirt.

Carole Muller with the Balinese involved in the renovation of former palace pavilions in the Tirta Gangga water gardens.

Carole’s research on the Bali Aga had a significant impact on her own design work as well as the architects' whom she was associated with,” said Professor Vickers. “She was also an important supporter and mentor for others involved in research and artistic work on Bali.”

Despite macular degeneration, Carole published her results from decades-long field research which led to three books on Bali Aga villages. Carole passed away in Sydney on December 2017 at the age of 81.

“Carole’s determination to promote research on Bali Aga culture led to her bequest to the University in her will,” said Professor Vickers. “Her legacy will continue at the University of Sydney.”

The Carole Muller Awards are offered annually to eligible domestic and international PhD students of the University of Sydney.

Photos used in this article are supplied by Siobhan Campbell with courtesy of Peter Muller.

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