Gordon Briscoe

BA (Hist), MA, PhD Dr Gordon Briscoe, from the Marduntjara/Pitjantjatjara peoples of Central Australia, is a long-standing Indigenous activist, organiser, researcher, writer, teacher and mentor. He played a key role in inspiring ANU History Program to establish its Centre for Indigenous History and became the Centre’s inaugural Research Fellow in 2003. In 2004 he was awarded the Order of Australia for services to Aboriginal health, legal services and education. Dr Briscoe helped form an Aboriginal Progress Association in the late 1950s. He worked for the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs and the Aboriginal Legal Service (a body he had helped to establish) in the late 1960s. In 1972, he helped establish a health service for the growing urban Aboriginal population in Sydney. He was also a Field Officer for the Commonwealth Office of Aboriginal Affairs and a senior liaison officer in the Department of Health and Acting Director of Professor Fred Hollows National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, where he advised on cultural protocols for approaching Aboriginal communities. Dr Briscoe began his academic career in 1981, studying history and politics at ANU. He gained his PhD on Indigenous health in the RSSS History Program in 1997. His current research projects include the Sydney Harbour Trust project, the ‘Native Census, 1920-44′, an Indigenous population study, and ‘Aborigines Between The Wars: 1920-1944’.

Racial Folly »

A Twentieth-Century Aboriginal Family

Authored by: Gordon Briscoe
Publication date: February 2010
Briscoe’s grandmother remembered stories about the first white men coming to the Northern Territory. This extraordinary memoir shows us the history of an Aboriginal family who lived under the race laws, practices and policies of Australia in the twentieth century. It tells the story of a people trapped in ideological folly spawned to solve ‘the half-caste problem’. It gives life to those generations of Aboriginal people assumed to have no history and whose past labels them only as shadowy figures. Briscoe’s enthralling narrative combines his, and his contemporaries, institutional and family life with a high-level career at the heart of the Aboriginal political movement at its most dynamic time. It also documents the road he travelled as a seventeen year old fireman on the South Australia Railways to becoming the first Aboriginal person to achieve a PhD in history. For more information on Aboriginal History Inc. please visit aboriginalhistory.org.au.