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Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 6, 2022 »

Publication date: May 2022
This special issue of Australian Journal of Biography and History, ‘Writing Slavery into Biography: Australian Legacies of British Slavery’, uses biographical approaches to explore how British slavery shaped the Australian colonies. It is the first stand-alone journal issue to feature an emerging body of historical work tracing the movement of people, investment and ideas from the Caribbean to Australia. Seven refereed articles and a roundtable discussion show how investment, imperial aspiration and migration turned towards Britain's ‘Second Empire’ in the aftermath of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. A substantive introduction reviews this emerging field of research and outlines preliminary findings. In her article, Jane Lydon examines the movement of two interconnected families (the Ridleys and Walcotts) from Demerara to Britain to the Swan River, where they acquired large land grants, participated in exploration and resource exploitation, and led the search for labour sources. Georgina Arnott investigates Western Australia’s first governor James Stirling’s biographical links to American and Caribbean slavery in light of ideas about race and labour that he promoted in Western Australia. And together Zoë Laidlaw and Georgina Arnott show how dictionaries of biography can be used alongside the Legacies of British Slavery database (hosted by University College London) to identify Australasian settlers with connections to slavery. They note the ways in which collective approaches to biography can reveal otherwise invisible patterns in global transfers of wealth, people and ideas. With an eye to regionally specific processes of subjugation and enslavement in the northern Western Australian pearling and pastoralist industries, Malcolm Allbrook considers biography’s potential to illustrate the shadowy world of ‘blackbirding’ in relation to the perpetrators, the officials and the Aboriginal enslaved. Emma Christopher brings to life the colonial legacies of slavery in her account of Albert Messiah, Ishmael Williamson and John Henderson, sailors of African origin who worked on Pacific labour ships during the late nineteenth century, and whose lives illuminate the complex racial hierarchies of the Queensland frontier. Beth Robertson tells the layered story of her own great-great-grandfather, Edward Stirling, the illegitimate son of a British slave-owner and a woman of Ghanaian descent, whose material benefit from slavery helped him become a successful pastoralist and miner in South Australia, despite remaining the subject of racial prejudice. Paul Arthur and Isabel Smith note the ‘biographical turn’ in museum exhibitions featuring stories of enslavement over the last two decades. They argue that this has enabled exhibitors to show stories of resistance, contingency and agency, albeit while navigating the ethical complexities of telling other people’s traumatic life stories. The feature section of this issue concludes with a roundtable discussion between Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland, Zoë Laidlaw, Jeremy Martens and Georgina Arnott on the topic of linking the legacies of British slave ownership to Australian colonisation. Here, Hall observes that biography, when used in combination with prosopography, reveals how the lives and family trajectories of slave owners were distinguished amongst imperial capitalists at large. This issue builds understanding of the precise ways that slavery shaped the Australian colonies.
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Aboriginal History Journal: Volume 45 »

Edited by: Crystal McKinnon, Ben Silverstein
Publication date: April 2022
This volume begins with Michael Aird, Joanna Sassoon and David Trigger’s meticulous research tracing the well-known but sometimes confused identity of Jackey Jackey of the Lower Logan River in south-east Queensland. Emma Cupitt describes the multivocality and intertextuality of Radio Redfern’s coverage of Aboriginal protests in Sydney as the 1988 Australian Bicentenary celebrations took place elsewhere in the city. Similarly approaching sources for their multiplicity, Matt Poll and Amanda Harris provide a reading of the ambassadorial work performed by assemblages of Yolngu bark paintings in diverse exhibition spaces after the Second World War. Cara Cross historicises the production and use of mineral medicine—or lithotherapeutics—derived from Burning Mountain in Wonnarua Country, issuing a powerful call for the recognition of Indigenous innovation as cultural heritage. In a collaborative article, Fred Cahir, Ian Clark, Dan Tout, Benjamin Wilkie and Jidah Clark read colonial records against the grain to narrate a nineteenth-century history of Victorian Aboriginal relationships with fire, strengthening the case for the revitalisation of these fire management practices. And, based on extensive oral history work, Maria Panagopoulos presents Aboriginal narrations of the experience of moving—or being moved—from the Manatunga settlement on the outskirts of Robinvale into the town itself, on Tati Tati Country in the Mallee region of Victoria. In addition to a range of book reviews, we are also pleased to include Greg Lehman’s review essay concerning Cassandra Pybus’s recent award-winning Truganini: Journey through the Apocalypse, which considers the implications of our relationships with history and how they help to think through practices of researching and writing Aboriginal history.
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Power and Dysfunction »

The New South Wales Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1883–1940

Authored by: Richard Egan
Publication date: October 2021
In 1883, the New South Wales Board for the Protection of Aborigines was tasked with assisting and supporting an Aboriginal population that had been devastated by a brutal dispossession. It began its tenure with little government direction – its initial approach was cautious and reactionary. However, by the turn of the century this Board, driven by some forceful individuals, was squarely focused on a legislative agenda that sought policies to control, segregate and expel Aboriginal people. Over time it acquired extraordinary powers to control Aboriginal movement, remove children from their communities and send them into domestic service, collect wages and hold them in trust, withhold rations, expel individuals from stations and reserves, authorise medical inspections, and prevent any Aboriginal person from leaving the state. Power and Dysfunction explores this Board and uncovers who were the major drivers of these policies, who were its most influential people, and how this body came to wield so much power. Paradoxically, despite its considerable influence, through its bravado, structural dysfunction, flawed policies and general indifference, it failed to manage core aspects of Aboriginal policy. In the 1930s, when the Board was finally challenged by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups seeking its abolition, it had become moribund, paranoid and secretive as it railed against all detractors. When it was finally disbanded in 1940, its 57-year legacy had touched every Aboriginal community in New South Wales with lasting consequences that still resonate today.
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Aboriginal History Journal: Volume 44 »

Edited by: Crystal McKinnon, Ben Silverstein
Publication date: May 2021
In this volume, Charlotte Ward’s narration of re-enactments of the Endeavour’s landing in Cooktown traces local processes of engaging with and producing histories that bring together stories of that landing with the much longer story of Guugu Yimithirr sovereignty. Heather Burke, Ray Kerkhove, Lynley A. Wallis, Cathy Keys and Bryce Barker analyse the extent of fear on the Queensland frontier through a historical and archaeological study of homes and huts and their fortification. In a collaborative article, Myfany Turpin, Felicity Meakins, Marie Mudgedell, Angie Tchooga and Calista Yeoh consider three performances of Puranguwana, a ‘classical’ Western Desert song that emerges from the death of Yawalyurru, a Pintupi man. Paige Gleeson offers us a new perspective on the well-known image of Warlpiri-Anmatyerr man Gwoja Tjungurrayi, known since the 1950s as ‘One Pound Jimmy’, an image featured on postage stamps and on the two dollar coin. And Gretchen Stolte’s study of Queensland Aboriginal Creations situates the production of boomerangs for sale as work of cultural importance, enriching understandings of Aboriginal artwork and its production.
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Aboriginal History Journal: Volume 43 »

Edited by: Ingereth Macfarlane
Publication date: December 2020
Volume 43 opens with an unexpectedly timely essay. Tom Gara’s study of the influenza epidemic that reached Australia in 1919 expands consideration of its global effects to include the poorly documented impacts on Aboriginal people in South Australia. The study was written and finalised to mark the centenary, prior to the advent of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. In this dramatically altered context, Gara’s evidence becomes significantly comparative as well as an account of an under-researched aspect of past infectious disease spread. Annemarie McLaren’s article poses questions about the differing assumptions Aboriginal men and colonists made about their earliest travels together in country around Sydney Cove in 1791. McLaren interrogates Watkin Tench’s and John Hunter’s accounts of their joint travels with Colebee and Balloderry to explore how ‘guiding’ relationships first developed between Aboriginal people and expeditionary parties in New South Wales. Grace Karskens’ conversation with Mark McKenna about her engagement with the story of Nah Doong, a nineteenth-century Aboriginal woman living in colonial Penrith, NSW, offers ‘a masterclass in how to write history’. Careful reading against the grain brings Nah Doong’s experience alive in a rare, fleshed-out biographical picture of an individual woman. ‘Big John Dodo’ (c. 1910–2003) is respected as a ceremonial and cultural leader for Karajarri country, south of Broome, WA. Darren Jorgensen draws on family and personal interviews to re-position John Dodo Nangkiriny’s ‘transitional’ art forms, which do not emulate pre-colonial or contemporary forms and are produced with new materials. Beth Marsden provides a close reading of the campaign to resist construction of a ‘transit village’ in Morwell, Victoria, in the 1960s, illuminating various strands of assimilationist policy as well as multilayered political and grassroots resistance. Tim Rowse and Barry Leithhead re-examine the underlying assumptions held by Dr Cecil Cook in his career as a Northern Territory administrator and commentator (1925–69). Demonstrating the relationship between racial thought and liberalism in Cook’s policies and advocacy, they argue that Cook’s common function as a shorthand for ‘ideologies, policies and practices of government that seem at best misguided and at worst cruel and racist’ needs re-evaluation. In addition to a wide range of book reviews, this volume also has a review of the important Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition.
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On Taungurung Land »

Sharing History and Culture

Publication date: December 2020
On Taungurung Land: Sharing History and Culture is the first monograph to examine how the Taungurung Nation of central Victoria negotiated with protectors and pastoralists to retain possession of their own country for as long as possible. Historic accounts, to date, have treated the histories of Acheron and Mohican Aboriginal stations as preliminary to the establishment of the more famous Coranderrk on Wurundjeri land. Instead of ‘rushing down the hill’ to Coranderrk, this book concentrates upon the two foundational Aboriginal stations on Taungurung Country. A collaboration between Elder Uncle Roy Patterson and Jennifer Jones, the book draws upon Taungurung oral knowledge and an unusually rich historical record. This fine-grained local history and cultural memoir shows that adaptation to white settlement and the preservation of culture were not mutually exclusive. Uncle Roy shares generational knowledge in this book in order to revitalise relationships to place and establish respect and mutual practices of care for Country.
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Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 4, 2020 »

Publication date: December 2020
This issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History includes eight peer-reviewed articles, and 12 book reviews. Each of the articles uses biography to illustrate historical themes and to add texture to historical episodes. Patricia Clarke examines the role of four women journalists who were recruited by the Australian Government to tour operational bases in eastern Australia during a critical phase in the Pacific War. In the field of journalism, women faced systemic barriers to employment; the women described in Clarke’s article went to great efforts to attain equality in the workplace, yet they were often restricted to weekly publications while the dailies remained the province of men. Lyndon and Lyne Megarrity, in their article on the two wives of the Queensland businessman and later premier Robert Philp (1899–1903, 1907–08), use the biographies of Jessie (née Bannister; 1856–90), and Mina (née Munro; 1867–1940) to illustrate the changes in the role of elite Queensland women over the relatively short period of a decade. The next two articles consider the problems of constructing biographies of those who are essentially invisible in the historical record. Melanie Nolan, Christine Fernon and Rebecca Kippen discuss the ’first-fleeter’ Sarah Bellamy’s seemingly ‘insignificant life’ to illustrate various aspects of the British colonisation of the continent. The biography of the Boonwurrung man Kurrburra (1797–1849) forms the subject of the contribution by Ian Clark, Rolf Schlagloth, Fred Cahir and Gabrielle McGinnis. By setting out to consider the whole of Kurrburra’s life rather than only the moments of contact (or conflict) with colonial society, he can be re-presented as one who was respected and important in his Aboriginal community, and who managed, negotiated and sought to control his interactions with the colonising forces. Sophie Scott-Brown, in her article on the British Marxist historian Raphael Samuel, considers the utility of biography in relation to intellectual history, and the relationship between what she terms ‘cultural persona’ and the empirical personality. By contrast, Michael Davis’s biographical portrait of the anthropologist Leonhard Adam reveals a figure who some viewed as an outsider, but whose works on Aboriginal art were highly successful. In his study of the Australian delegation to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, David Lee looks at the men who between them forcefully asserted Australia’s position, and thus contributed to the country’s consolidation as an independent nation-state during the inter-war period. In the final article, Stephen Wilks argues that biography is founded on human agency, and that political history is ‘rich in interpersonal interaction’. He concludes that biography provides scholars with ‘a platform for exploring the tortuous chains of decision, chance and error that characterise the political past and the legacies it imparts’.
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A Bridge Between »

Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia

Authored by: Katharine Massam
Publication date: October 2020
This sensitive account of Spanish Benedictine women at an Aboriginal mission in Western Australia is poignant and disturbing. Notable for its ecumenical spirit, depth of research and deep engagement with the subject, A Bridge Between is a model of how religious history, in its broader bearings, can be written. — Graeme Davison, Monash University With great insight and care, A Bridge Between presents a sympathetic but not uncritical history of the lives of individuals who have often been invisible. The story of the nuns at New Norcia is a timely contribution to Australia’s religious history. Given the findings of the Royal Commission, it will be widely read both within and beyond the academy. History is, here, a spiritual discipline, and an exercise in hope and reconciliation. — Laura Rademaker, The Australian National University A Bridge Between is the first account of the Benedictine women who worked at New Norcia and the first book-length exploration of twentieth-century life in the Western Australian mission town. From the founding of a grand school intended for ‘nativas’, through links to Mexico and Paraguay then Ireland, India and Belgium, as well as to their house in the Kimberley, and a network of villages near Burgos in the north of Spain, this is a complex international history. A Bridge Between gathers a powerful, fragmented story from the margins of the archive, recalling the Aboriginal women who joined the community in the 1950s and the compelling reunion of missionaries and former students in 2001. By tracing the all-but-forgotten story of the community of Benedictine women who were central to the experience of the mission for many Aboriginal families in the twentieth century, this book lays a foundation for further work.
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The Bible in Buffalo Country »

Oenpelli Mission 1925–1931

Publication date: October 2020
Arriving in the remote Arnhem Land Aboriginal settlement of Oenpelli (Gunbalanya) in 1925, Alf and Mary Dyer aimed to bring Christ to a former buffalo shooting camp and an Aboriginal population many whites considered difficult to control. The Bible in Buffalo Country: Oenpelli Mission 1925–1931 represents a snapshot of the tumultuous first six years of the Church Missionary Society’s mission at Oenpelli and the superintendency of Alfred Dyer between 1925 and 1931. Drawing together documentary and photographic sources with local community memory, a story emerges of miscommunication, sickness, constant logistical issues, and an Aboriginal community choosing when and how to engage with the newcomers to their land. This book provides a fascinating and detailed record of the primary sources of the mission, placed alongside the interpretation and insight of local Traditional Owners. Its contents include the historical and archaeological context of the primary source material, the vivid mission reports and correspondence, along with stunning photographs of the mission and relevant maps, and finally the oral history of Esther Manakgu, presenting Aboriginal memory of this complex era. The Bible in Buffalo Country emerged from community desire for access to the source documents of their own history and for their story to be known by the broader Australian public. It is intended for the benefit of communities in western Arnhem Land and is also a rich resource for historians of Aboriginal history (and other scholars in relevant disciplines).
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Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia »

Histories and Historiography

Publication date: September 2020
Histories of the colonisation of Australia have recognised distinct periods or eras in the colonial relationship: ‘protection’ and ‘assimilation’. It is widely understood that, in 1973, the Whitlam Government initiated a new policy era: ‘self-determination’. Yet, the defining features of this era, as well as how, why and when it ended, are far from clear. In this collection we ask: how shall we write the history of self-determination? How should we bring together, in the one narrative, innovations in public policy and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander initiatives? How (dis)continuous has ‘self-determination’ been with ‘assimilation’ or with what came after? Among the contributions to this book there are different views about whether Australia is still practising ‘self-determination’ and even whether it ever did or could. This book covers domains of government policy and Indigenous agency including local government, education, land rights, the outstation movement, international law, foreign policy, capital programs, health, public administration, mission policies and the policing of identity. Each of the contributors is a specialist in his/her topic. Few of the contributors would call themselves ‘historians’, but each has met the challenge to consider Australia’s recent past as an era animated by ideas and practices of Indigenous self-determination.
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