Australian Aboriginal Studies: Abstracts 2011

2011: Volume 1


Youth media as cultural practice: Remote Indigenous youth speaking out loud

Inge Kral

The rapid development of new information and communications technologies, an increase in affordable, small mobile technologies and the penetration of the internet and mobile telephony over the past decade account for an explosion in new modes and channels for communication and multimedia production. Internationally, such developments have led to substantial ethnographic inquiry into youth and the emergence of new social practices surrounding new media. Some researchers posit that digital technologies are enabling new kinds of agency and engagement in learning and others suggest that new thinking about language and literacy has been catalysed. In Australia, accounts of remote Indigenous youth culture in public or policy discourse tend not to portray their agentive participation in new forms of learning, multimodal practice and production or online communication. Additionally, relatively little ethnographic information is available on how Indigenous youth are shaping the creative, cultural and communicative uses of new media, and how and why these practices are taking hold in remote contexts. This paper looks at the uptake of new media technologies in remote Indigenous contexts and the implications for youth learning and cultural practice by tracing the way in which social relations and communication styles have altered across the generations. Data gathered through ethnographic research indicate that where young people have access to new media technologies, expertise is acquired with ease, often leading to the rapid development of new communication practices and new forms of cultural production and public participation. Through participating in collaborative research young people are also reflecting on their changing cultural practice and giving voice to these reflections.

Mapping an Ancestral Past: Discovering Charles Richards' Maps of Aboriginal South-Eastern Australia

Gareth Knapman

Drawn in 1892, the Charles Richards' maps locate 208 Aboriginal linguistic groups in south-eastern Australia. In 2009 the maps were rediscovered in the departmental archives of Museum Victoria. The maps are an important new nineteenth-century source for understanding the boundaries of language groups at that time. Richards interviewed Aboriginal people and recorded their languages and customs. As an ethnologist, Richards seems not to have been involved in many of the correspondence networks that were central to nineteenth-century ethnology and he was therefore little known in his own time and subsequently. Some of his word-list/dictionaries were published in 1902 in the journal Science of Man, but his maps have never been published before. This paper explores what is known about Richards, his research methodology and his work to compile the maps. The construction of these maps points to the importance of Charles Richards as a nineteenth-century ethnologist. His story is a window into nineteenth-century ethnology and Aboriginal/settler relations, and necessitates further research into this little-known figure.

Birrdhawal Language and Territory: A Reconsideration

Ian D Clark

This paper offers a fundamental critique and re-evaluation of the historical sources and more recent reconstructions which have been used to determine the language area of the Birrdhawal people of far eastern Victoria. In relation to Birrdhawal tribal territory, this paper addresses three critical issues: first, whether the Birrdhawal language is related to the Ganai language, is part of the Yuin language cluster or is a standalone distinct language; second, whether or not their country included any coastline or was landlocked; and, third, whether or not any of their country was subsumed into that of the Krauatungalung through land succession as argued by Wesson (1994, 2000, 2002). The paper offers a comparative and quantitative analysis of vocabulary from the study area and critiques previous research into constituent local group organisation.

Aboriginal literature in Austria: a discussion of three audiobooks

Oliver Haag

The overseas marketing of translated Aboriginal literature has received scant scholarly attention. This paper examines three examples of Aboriginal literature that have been translated into German and produced as audiobooks by two Austrian publishers. This special format, unique in comparison to other types of German translations, has implications for the representation of Aboriginal people. This paper focuses on the translation and promotion of these audiobooks by their Austrian publishers and argues that an understanding of the representation of Aboriginal people in these audiobooks is informed by different aspects of translation and advertisement, as well as the format of the medium itself.

Home to own: potential for Indigenous housing by Indigenous people

David O'Brien

Responding to criticism that the housing stock in many of Australia's Indigenous communities has reached a critical state, the Commonwealth and Territory governments allocated significant resources to improve public housing in the Northern Territory. To this end, the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) was initiated in September 2007 to provide 750 new houses, rebuild 230 houses and refurbish 2500 houses by 2013. This type of top-down procurement structure is necessary when such a quantity of housing needs to be upgraded or built from scratch in such short timeframes. However, there is evidence that housing projects driven by both 'self-build' and 'supporter' ideologies can offer outcomes in tune with community aspirations and at lower cost. This paper argues that self-build and supporter-driven programs should also become part of the overall Indigenous housing strategy sponsored by the Commonwealth and Territory governments and that a long-term view of Indigenous housing procurement must be supported with a raft of new policies and funding opportunities. Although any new programs would require a sustained effort over many years - rather than the shorter 'burst' of activity associated with the SIHIP initiative - they are likely to produce cost-effective, sustainable and positive outcomes for Indigenous communities.

Histories of Indigenous-settler relations: reflections on internal Colonialism and the hybrid economy

John M White

To what extent can models of economic hybridity provide a theoretical basis for histories of Indigenous-settler relations that emerged as Indigenous labour came to be incorporated into settler economies, and the transformation of those relationships through time? This paper reflects upon this question by sketching some theoretical links between Jeremy Beckett's application of the theory of internal colonialism and Jon Altman's model of the hybrid economy. As part of a greater legacy, Beckett's analysis of the engagement between Torres Strait Islanders and the pearling industry served as a corrective to the general orthodoxy in which Indigenous Australians were considered to be peripheral to the settler economy. The two approaches are discussed in relation to recent ethnographic and archival research on the history of Indigenous-settler relations in the Eurobodalla region of the New South Wales south coast.

A practical method of embedding a traditional Indigenous perspective in tertiary training for future health practitioners

Karen Anne Sullivan and Rachael Sharman

Rather than teaching culture as a separate subject or specialist course, the embedding of cultural learnings (education about other cultures) within the standard health promotion curriculum is a relatively new advance in curriculum design. Although embedding can be achieved in a number of ways, this project trialled a relatively straightforward adaptation of an applied undergraduate assessment with the additional inclusion of a traditional Indigenous perspective. A web-based multimedia (WBMM) assessment tool was developed in order to adapt an original assessment on psycho-diagnostic reasoning.

2011: Volume 2

Straight line stories: Representations and Indigenous Australian identities in sports discourses

Lawrence Bamblett

There is an increasing body of literature, and awareness, of the nature of deficit discourse and its contribution to the essentialising of Indigenous identity. Through an analysis of sports writing since the 1960s, this paper explores how such
discourses can develop.

Sport, however, has another attribute: it is the avenue by which Aborigines
and Islanders have earned and demanded the respect of non-Aboriginal
Australia; it has given them a sense of worth and pride, especially since they
have had to overcome the twin burdens of racism and opposition on the field.
It has shown Aborigines and Islanders that using their bodies is still the one
and only way they can compete on equal terms with an often hostile, certainly
indifferent, mainstream society (Tatz and Tatz 2000:33).
In the aftermath of civil rights victories, the politics of ‘victimhood’ became
the predominant methodology of black advocacy and the reigning paradigm
of public policy thinking (Pearson 2007:26).

Journalism and Indigneous health policy

Kerry McCallum

The Australian News Media and Indigenous Policymaking 1988–2008 project is investigating the relationships between media attention to Indigenous issues and policy development processes. The ways in which Indigenous issues are
discussed through public media as ‘intractable’ have concrete policy outcomes that impact on the lives of Indigenous Australians, and on the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in urban, rural and remote settings.
The project is investigating the emergence of policies governing Indigenous populations in specific discursive environments, through the analysis of news reporting, policy outcomes, and the local knowledge of actors involved in the development
of health, media and education policies. This paper reports on a qualitative framing analysis of media texts, policy documents and public statements concerning Indigenous health from 1988 to 1995, finding that there were direct and indirect
relationships between media reporting of Indigenous issues as policy ‘failure’ and dramatic shifts in federal government health policies.

Aboriginal water values and resource development pressures in the Pilbara region of north-west Australia

Marcus Barer and Sue Jackson

The Pilbara is a remote arid region with a significant Aboriginal population, rich mineral resources and rapid rates of mineral resource development. Pilbara Aboriginal people claim deep ongoing connections to the land and waterscapes
of the area and value water sources and features for a range of socio-cultural, economic and environmental reasons. Those water sources have come under increasing pressure from a new phase of development in the mining sector and
so Aboriginal people have a strong interest in the long-term sustainability of this activity. We outline research generated through an agreement between the CSIRO and a major mining company in which fieldwork interviews were combined with
the first peer-reviewed synthesis of the diverse and scattered literature describing Aboriginal people’s water interests in the area. The paper describes and contextualises Pilbara Aboriginal peoples’ relationships to water, highlighting its significance as part of the creative legacy of the ancestral beings, as an elemental resource for life, as reflective and constitutive of group and individual identity by relating people across time and space, and as a key focus of concerns about the ongoing effects of resource development. The scale of water use pressures in the Pilbara and the depth of feeling among its Aboriginal traditional owners and residents emphasise the need for greater resource allocations and engagement by those involved in mine water management and regional water planning, as well as in Aboriginal advocacy and research.

Indigenous Land Use Agreement - bulding relationships between Karajarri traditional owners, the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc. and the Government of Western Australia

Joe Edgar

Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc. is located on the eastern shores of La Grange Bay, 200 kilometres south of Broome, Western Australia. Formerly known as La Grange Catholic Mission, the community has a population
of around 800 residents, which comprises the traditional owner group — the Karajarri — and their traditional neighbours — the Mangala, Juwaliny, Yulparija and Nyangumarta — who moved on to the mission when it was established in
1955. The Yawuru, northern neighbours of the Karajarri, have generally lived on their own estates and on shared country where traditional boundaries overlapped; however, in recent years a small but significant number of Yawuru have settled at
Bidyadanga and the Yardoogarra outstation 30 kilometres to the north, and regard Bidyadanga as a hub with its essential services and infrastructure. The Karajarri had their Native Title aspirations recognised by the Federal Court of Australia in
2002 and 2004. The Karajarri Native Title determinations have become significant turning points for political and community relations between traditional owners and the Bidyadanga Aboriginal Community La Grange Inc, and also affect the
way government, non-government organisations and other stakeholders manoeuvre within claimed Native Title areas. In an attempt to shed some light on the complexities and challenges that confront the people at Bidyadanga today, this
paper discusses the contemporary social, political and economic history of the former mission and its people, and comments on the new era of land management and political processes that governs and influences their lives. The author is a
member of the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association where he has served as the deputy chair since 2002.

A late nineteenth-centruy map of an Australian Aboriginal fishery at Lake Condah

Thomas Richards

Debate regarding the complexity of Aboriginal societies in south-west Victoria began in the late nineteenth century and continues to the present day. One of the bases of a transegalitarian society is the production of a stable food surplus and in this region such a surplus is related to the construction and management of extensive water control and eel trapping systems. However, such systems have to date either been described in nineteenth-century ethnohistoric documents, or recorded and mapped in the late twentieth century by archaeologists, but not both. This paper provides full publication, authentication and analysis of a nineteenthcentury map and accompanying text documenting a system of Gunditjmara eel
traps and associated water control features near the Lake Condah outlet that has been ground-truthed by recent archaeological research. This is the only historic map of such features known to exist, and it is accompanied by a detailed explanatory commentary on their functioning as a system. Much of the value of the map and text lies in their unique creation on the basis of observation in combination with information obtained from traditional owners. The documents provide invaluable information on the specific operation of features at the Lake Condah outlet and on the operation of such water control and eel management systems in general, as well as crucial evidence regarding the economic basis for transegalitarian features of the ethnographic Gunditjmara.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Lands Trust and its place in history

Sue Norman

The Aboriginal Lands Trust of New South Wales (1974–1983) was the first all-Aboriginal democratically elected statutory body to own freehold title to Aboriginal land in Australia. However, it was almost totally written out of history with the passing of the New South Wales Land Rights Act in 1983. The Trust came after the era of paternalism and the assimilation policy of the Aboriginal Welfare Board, and the Act under which it operated gave rights to the Aboriginal people of New South Wales that have yet to be matched. It was an early example of Aboriginal self-determination that ironically was destroyed by the promotion of just that ideal. The struggle to survive and to serve its people forged a fierce pride and loyalty among its staff and members, and its destruction fuelled a devastating sense of betrayal and cynicism of government. There are very few primary documents from the Trust in public collections and histories written of this era mainly focus on the land rights movement. South coast leader Ossie Cruse was elected to the Trust from its beginnings and served as chairman for seven years. He kept boxes of detailed files containing minutes of meetings and other documents, which are now housed in the Aboriginal Culture Centre Monaroo Bobberrer Gudu archive, near Eden, New South Wales. I have been working with community members since 2003 to catalogue and preserve the files. These files, along with interviews with Trust members, employees and the administrator, have provided me with the evidence to piece together the story of what the Trust was, what it did and what happened to it.