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Passionate Histories: Myth, Memory and Indigenous Australia

Notes on Contributors

Jay Arthur: I am passionate about telling histories as three-dimensional stories, that is, as an exhibition. The kind of exhibition I am interested in is one that is not solely about the objects, but about the way in which people move through that physical space to relate to the objects and the context in which these objects are placed. The National Library of Australia’s ‘Treasures’ exhibition could have been held in a basketball court with the items laid on card tables and people still would have queued all night to see Jane Austen’s letter or Beethoven’s handwritten score. The kind of exhibition I am interested in is one that has an idea behind it that provides the activating principle. It may be an intellectual concept, or it may be an emotional response. I want to create an ‘artwork’ or an ‘academic article’ that people can enter in real time and space. Have I ever done something like that that I was satisfied with? Not at all. Each new project lures me on with its possibilities and I leave it at the end, as from an unsatisfactory relationship, with the good memories obscured by the final failure. The joy is in the pursuit of the imagined creation. My most recent exhibition is From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920-1970, which focuses on a group of activists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who fought for the human rights of Indigenous Australians in that period. I have also been passionate about producing The Default Country: a Lexical Cartography of Twentieth Century Australia (2003), the book developed from my PhD thesis; and It’s a Dog’s Life! Animals in the Public Service, a National Archives of Australia exhibition which toured from 2004–2009.

Isabelle Auguste: I am from Reunion Island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean. My interest in Indigenous history and politics began in 1997 when I was an exchange student at the University of Minnesota. I followed some general Native American History as well as some Dakota and Ojibwa history and culture courses. I wrote my Master dissertation on ‘Gaming and Sovereignty, the Impact of Native American Gambling on Indian and Non-Indian Societies’. I became interested in the situation of Indigenous people in Australia in 1999 and have devoted my last ten years trying to learn more about the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian society. My thesis, defended in 2005, looked at the issue of Indigenous self-determination in Australia. Based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is a study of more than 30 years of Indigenous policy at the federal level and struggle for Indigenous rights. In 2007, I received a Lavoisier award from the French Department of Foreign and European Affairs to conduct some postdoctoral research on Reconciliation in Australia. I was a visiting fellow in 2007–2008 at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. I am now a lecturer and researcher at the University of la Réunion. My first book L’Administration des Affaires Aborigènes en Australie depuis 1972, l’autodétermination en question was published by l’Harmattan (Paris) in the Collection Lettres du Pacifique in 2008.

Lorina Barker: I am a descendant of the Wangkumara and Muruwari people of western New South Wales and am currently a PhD candidate researching family/community history at the University of New England. I also team-teach in Australian History in the School of Humanities at UNE. I am passionate about family/community history and I specialise in oral history and am particularly interested in the way in which Aboriginal history has been recorded. More importantly, my main interest is in the process of remodelling research methods and techniques so that they readily apply to, and are culturally appropriate for and accessible to my family and community, the core audience for my research. My recent research publications (including this chapter) focus on the interview and transcription processes of oral history research. In particular, I focus on the relationship dynamics between interviewer and interviewee and the cultural context that surrounds oral history methodology, especially when conducting research with Aboriginal people who are family/community members. I published ‘“Hangin’ Out” and “Yarnin’: reflecting on the experience of collecting oral histories”, in History Australia, 2008. My 2009 keynote address at the second Australasian Narrative Inquiry Conference, UNE highlighted the largely undocumented history of Aboriginal people’s contributions to the shearing industry in New South Wales, especially the role of Aboriginal men as shearers and rouseabouts. As part of the presentation I screened my short film, A Shearer’s Life: Introducing the Barker Brothers, to demonstrate how visual media can be used to convey people’s lived experiences and history.

Vanessa Castejon: I work in CRIDAF: Centre de recherches interculturelles sur les domaines anglophones et francophones, Université Paris 13. For many years now, I have been working on Aboriginal self-determination, treaty claims, and sovereignty as opposed to so-called solutions proposed by the Australian government to Indigenous people. I have been studying Australian institutional racism. I also worked on the recognition of Indigenous rights on an international scale, working on the declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples as well as the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and the creation of a global Indigeneity. I have also written on the image of Indigenous people outside Australia, focusing on France (concentrating on the Musée du Quai Branly).My publications include ‘Une conciliation nécessaire après la Réconciliation? L’Etat des affaires autochtones en Australie en 2006’, in Maryvonne Nedeljkovic (ed), Conciliation and Reconciliation; Volume One: Strategies in the Pacific (2008); Les Aborigènes et l’apartheid politique australien (2005); ‘L’identité aborigène sous les gouvernements d’Howard: un retour aux définitions imposées de l’Aboriginalité?’, Le Mensuel de l’Université, 20 (2007); and ‘The Exoticism of the Musée du Quai Branly: a French Perspective on Aboriginal Australia’, in Renata Summo-O’Connell (ed), Imagined Australia, Reflections around the Reciprocal Construction of Identity between Australia and Europe (2009).

Anna Cole: I am a researcher, writer, and sometimes film-maker and currently a Visiting Fellow in the Anthropology Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London. Prior to moving to London, I was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow with the Centre for Public Culture and Ideas at Griffith University, Queensland. I work in the area of historical anthropology, embodied knowledges, and the gendered politics of colonialism. I am finding out, as the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s put it, how ‘the personal is political’ and how my own story of migration and assimilation relates to the colonisation of Australia past and present. Recent publications include ‘The Marked Body’, in Ivan Crozier (ed), A Cultural History of the Human Body in the Modern Age: volume 6 (2009); ‘Dancing with the Prime Minister’, Studies in Australasian Cinema (2008); and (with Anna Haebich), ‘Corporeal Colonialism and Corporal Punishment: a cross-cultural perspective on body modification’, in Social Semiotics (2007).

Ann Curthoys: I loved History at school in Newcastle, where I grew up, and majored in it in my BA degree at the University of Sydney in the 1960s. At Macquarie University in 1973, I completed my PhD on racism and race relations in colonial New South Wales. Since then, I have followed many intellectual passions – histories of feminism, popular culture, television and journalism, Australian politics, Chinese-Australian immigration, and especially the relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I am also passionate about historical theory and method, and the public practices of history. In recent years, I have been seeking ways to understand Australian history that bring Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations into the centre of the story, within the wider frameworks of transnational and British imperial history. I am an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow at the University of Sydney. My publications include Freedom Ride: A Freedomrider Remembers (2002); (with John Docker) Is History Fiction? (2010; 1st edition 2005); (with Ann Genovese and Alexander Reilly) Rights and Redemption: History, Law, and Indigenous People (2008); and (with Ann McGrath) How to Write History that People Want to Read (2009).

John Docker: I am a cultural historian, which I feel gives me a licence to wander. Over the decades I have been interested in literary and cultural theory, popular culture, postmodernism and poststructuralism, monotheism and polytheism, diaspora, historiography, Jewish identity, and Gandhian non-violence. I have always written personally, mixing theory and analysis with life stories and family history, and am currently writing an intellectual autobiography, Growing Up Communist and Jewish in Bondi: Memoir of a Non-Australian Australian. Since the middle 1980s, I have written critiques of Zionist nationalism and settler colonialism, and recently have been reflecting on partition in Palestine and India, and Martin Buber’s idea of a bi-national Palestine. I have devoted the last several years to genocide and massacre studies. Raphaël Lemkin suggested in his originating definition in 1944 that genocide is constitutively linked to settler colonialism. I am passionately critical of settler colonialism, whether in Israel or Australia. I am an adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. My most recent books are (with Ann Curthoys) Is History Fiction? (2005, 2010) and The Origins of Violence: Religion, History and Genocide (2008). In press is an essay entitled ‘The origins of massacres’, in Philip Dwyer and Lyndall Ryan (eds), Theatres of Violence: Massacre, Mass Killing, and Atrocity in History (2010).

Raymond Evans: I have been a practising historian for 45 years and a publishing one for 38 of these. My research has ranged over many aspects of Australian social and cultural history in this time but the core of my studies has centred on race relations, particularly indigenous/incomer contact studies and the predominant patterns of conflict these have engendered. I have grown especially interested in investigating not simply the intensity of such encounters but also the patterns of denial that have accrued around them to create a mythical webbing of camouflage, supporting an ‘innocent invaders’ syndrome of nationalistic ‘explanation’. My most recent publications include A History of Queensland (2007), Radical Brisbane: An Unruly History (2004) and the chapters ‘“Pigmentia”: racial fears and white Australia’ and ‘“Plenty Shoot ‘em”: the destruction of Aboriginal societies across the Queensland frontier’, in A Dirk Moses (ed), Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History (2004).

Kristina Everett: I hold a PhD in anthropology and am committed to classical ethnography as my research practice. I work in the Department of Indigenous Studies, Warawara at Macquarie University. My work at Warawara is focused on co-ordinating undergraduate and post-graduate Indigenous Studies programs drawing from models of best practice internationally and nationally. As well as a keen research interest in Indigenous education and inclusive curricula, I am also vitally concerned with social justice issues surrounding cultural revival and rejuvenation. My three favourite recent publications are ‘Welcome to Country … not’, Oceania (2009); ‘Affecting change through assessment: improving Indigenous Studies programs using engaging assessment’, <http://www.ojs.unisa.edu.au> (2008); ‘Too Much Information: when the burden of trust paralyses representation’, in Peter Read, Frances Peters-Little and Anna Haebich (eds), Indigenous Biography and Autobiography (2008).

Shino Konishi: I am a descendant of the Yawuru people of Broome, Western Australia, and became passionate about history when I was a student at the University of Sydney and first read early explorers’ descriptions of Aboriginal people. My PhD critically examined eighteenth-century ethnographic accounts of Aboriginal men, and I have since developed an interest in contemporary representations of Indigenous masculinity in politics and film. In late 2009 Maria Nugent and I co-convened a conference called ‘Baz Luhrmann’s Australia Reviewed: History, Film and Popular Culture’ at the National Museum of Australia, and I am preparing an article on David Gulpilil’s character King George and paternal love. However, my enduring interest is in the history of cross-cultural encounters between Aboriginal people and Europeans, and I am in the early stages of a new project on the nineteenth century called ‘Through travellers’ eyes: foreign observations of Aboriginal people and British colonisation, 1800-1850’. I am a research fellow at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University, and a new co-editor of the journal Aboriginal History with Maria Nugent. My recent publications include ‘“Wanton with plenty”: questioning ethno-historical constructions of sexual savagery in Aboriginal societies’ in Australian Historical Studies (2008), ‘“Inhabited by a race of formidable giants”: French explorers, Aborigines, and the endurance of the fantastic in the Great South Land, 1803’, in Australian Humanities Review (2008), and a special issue of Borderlands on ‘Indigenous Bodies’ which I co-edited with Leah Lui-Chivizhe and Lisa Slater (2008).

Barbara Paulson: I am a Mununtjali/Gungari woman. I am a curator in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program (ATSIP) at the National Museum of Australia. I have worked and lived in many Aboriginal communities around Australia in differing roles such as artist, arts worker, counsellor, youth worker. Knowledge gained and developed while within those communities and positions is the reference point I use in any role where I am a cultural liaison and/or educator. The subject of representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures is a personal one, with Knowledge attained from family, communities, research and from personal experience as an Aboriginal woman of contemporary life in Australia.

Frances Peters-Little: I am a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Uralarai nations. I am also a filmmaker, historian, musician and lead singer of the band ‘The Preferred Models’. Although my main interests are writing about Aboriginal arts and media studies and making films about New South Wales Indigenous history and urban black politics, my first passion and probably my last love, is music. I have an MPhil in Australian Studies from the ANU and a BA in Communications from UTS. Currently I am a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. My most recent publications are (with Ann McGrath and Ingereth Macfarlane) (eds), Exchanging Histories, a special issue of Aboriginal History (2006); (with Peter Read and Anna Haebich) (eds), Indigenous Biography and Autobiography (2008); and Vote Yes for Aborigines, a one-hour documentary film I wrote and directed, broadcast on SBS TV, 27 May 2007.

Troy Pickwick: I am a Murri from Queensland, who completed both my undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. I have worked as an academic at universities, in addition to being the team leader of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit in the Australian Federal Police. I have a strong interest in writing film scripts and am now currently working at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Peter Read: I was in Chile the day the message came from the editors of this volume to provide a note on what I was most passionate about. By chance it was the day before the bones of Victor Jara, about whom I write in my article, were to be reburied. His remains had been recently exhumed for forensic analysis from the grave into which he had been so hurriedly bundled in the second week of September 1973. I went on the tumultuous march next day with the editors’ request uppermost in my mind. Fifteen thousand people played, sang, danced, shouted and demonstrated all the way from Santiago’s CBD to the General Cemetery: everybody seemed to know his music and often broke into spontaneous song. Some of Jara’s songs were a bit arrogant, and I’m no supporter of any party waving the hammer and sickle. But I could join in the chorus echoing Jara’s most famous song: ‘El derecho de vivir en paz’ – the right to live in peace. That is the basis of most other human rights, yet the one that Aborigines have been so consistently denied for so long, and the one that has been the mainspring of much of my writings.

I am an Australian Professorial Research Fellow, Department of History, University of Sydney. I intersperse my studies of the history of Aboriginal Sydney with interviews, with Dr Jackie Huggins, of the former members of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, and with visits to research memory and memorialisation in post-Pinochet Chile. My publications include Tripping over Feathers; Scenes in the Life of Joy Janaka Wiradjuri Williams: a Stolen Generations narrative (2009); The Stolen Generations (1981); and (with Marivic Wyndham) ‘Between the silence and the scream: recordings made at sites in the last days of Victor Jara’ in R Bandt, M Duffy and D McKinnon (eds), Hearing Places (2007).

Lyndall Ryan: After a gap of nearly 30 years, I recently returned to my original research passion – the history of the Tasmanian Aborigines. In The Aboriginal Tasmanians (1981), I argued that they used guerilla war tactics to resist the British colonial invaders with some success, but I paid scant attention to settler activism, let alone uncorroborated stories of massacre. Armed with a more coherent approach to re-examine the sources, I made an astonishing new finding: that most Tasmanian Aborigines were killed in massacres before the official record of the Black War began in 1828. I then applied the same approach to the investigation of frontier violence in colonial Victoria 1836–1851 with similarly startling results. Massacre, it seems, was more widespread on the Australian colonial frontier before 1850 than most Australian historians of my generation had previously believed. Now I am part of a global project to investigate massacre on the colonial frontiers in North America, South Africa, Australia and Europe 1780–1820. Recent publications include: ‘Massacre in the Black War in Tasmania 1823-1834: a case study of Meander River region, June 1827’, Journal of Genocide Research (2008); ‘Settler massacre on the colonial frontier in Victoria 1836-1851’, in a collection co-edited with Philip G Dwyer, Theatres of Violence: Massacre, Mass Killing and Atrocity in History (New York: Berghahn Books, forthcoming 2010); and a monograph, The Tasmanian Aborigines: A History (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, forthcoming 2011).

Rachel Standfield: I am a historian of racial thought and indigenous histories of Australia and New Zealand. I recently completed my PhD at the University of Otago in New Zealand, entitled ‘Warriors and Wanderers: Making Race in the Tasman World, 1769-1840’, and my chapter in this collection is based on part of that work. I am a lecturer in the Centre for Indigenous Studies, Charles Sturt University, and am the 2010 CH Currey Memorial Fellow at the State Library of New South Wales, researching the career of William Thomas, Protector and Guardian of Aborigines in colonial Victoria from the 1830s to the 1860s. Having previously worked in policy development, including at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, I remain passionate about the connection between politics, social justice and history. My most recent publication is ‘Violence and the intimacy of imperial ethnography: the Endeavour in the Pacific’, in Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton (eds), Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility and Intimacy in an age of global empire (2008).

Jeni Thornley: I am a documentary filmmaker. My films are personal, poetic works in the essay mode that explore ideas around memory and private and public histories. I love working with images as a way of telling stories and expressing ideas. Each film takes many years to make. Several of my films explore the impact of colonisation and neo-colonialism. I like to work collaboratively and cross-culturally. I produced my recent film Island Home Country (2008) as a DCA doctoral project (film and thesis) at the University of Technology, Sydney. Filming in Tasmania, where I was born, and working with Aboriginal protocols and Tasmanian Aboriginal community members, I learned a lot and am still learning, particularly around cross cultural issues and Indigenous knowledges. Island Home Country screened nationally on the ABC in 2008 and is distributed by the Education Shop with a Study Guide by the Australian Teachers of Media (2008). My other films include To the Other Shore (1998) a diary film about motherhood and psychoanalysis; the co-directed feature documentary and Penguin book For Love or Money: a history of women and work in Australia (1983) and Maidens: four generations of an Australian family (1978). Since 2002, I have been lecturing in documentary at the University of Technology, Sydney, focusing on documentary film’s history, changing forms, and ethics. I also work as a consultant script editor, researcher and film valuer for Australian film archives and the Federal Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

David Trudinger: Having spent the first nine years of my life on an Aboriginal mission station, I have tried in the last nine years or so to not only understand that personal experience but see it in the wider and more important context of the encounter of Europeans with indigenous peoples here in Australia as well as elsewhere in the colonised world. So, with something less than impeccable timing, but at least with some passion, I commenced an academic career late in life. My 2004 PhD from ANU, ‘Converting Salvation’, examined missionary discourse and praxis in relation to Indigenous peoples in Central Australia during the 1930s and 40s. Since 2007 I have taught Australian, urban, cultural heritage, and oral history, as well as a course on war and propaganda in the twentieth century, at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. I presented at the 2009 Australian Historical Association Conference a paper entitled, ‘“Where strangeness and intimacy, distance and proximity coexist”: some matters of power, control and (in)justice on a Central Australian mission station in the 1940s’. I have also published ‘The language(s) of Love: JRB Love and contesting tongues at Ernabella Mission Station, 1940-46’, in Aboriginal History (2007).


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