Skip to main content

Australian Aboriginal Studies: Issue 2, 2019

Australian Aboriginal Studies: Issue 2, 2019 cover
Publication date
Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal


Lawrence Bamblett

Major articles

'Our ways to planning': Preparing organisations to plan with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability

Angela Dew, Priya Vaughan, Elizabeth McEntyre, Leanne Dowse

Abstract: This paper reports on the development of the Our Ways to Planning framework. The framework is intended as a guide for Australian organisations to work in safe and culturally appropriate ways to assist and enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability to make plans about their physical and mental health, wellbeing and future. The Our Ways to Planning framework is based on data collected via community-led research undertaken with Aboriginal people with disability and their family members and workers from five communities in New South Wales. Community mapping, an arts-based research method, was used to learn about the experiences of Aboriginal people with disability and their families regarding planning and access to services. Using iterative, thematic analysis, the research team identified core themes and concepts around which to structure the framework. The framework identifies three 'bridges' to organisational readiness for planning: knowledge, understanding and choice. It focuses on the importance of non-Aboriginal-led organisations learning from, and collaborating with, community-based Aboriginal-led organisations in order to build capacity in both types of organisations. The framework advocates for open and respectful organisational engagement with the needs of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people with disability. It also acknowledges the importance of developing an awareness of Aboriginal cultures, histories and points of view, given their influence on planning processes. The Our Ways to Planning framework provides a model for organisational capacity-building for effective planning that responds directly to the experiences and needs of Aboriginal people with disability, family members and workers.

Mission rehabilitation - a community-centric approach to Aboriginal healing

Reena Tiwari; John Stephens; Ryan Hooper

Abstract: From the early twentieth century until the 1970s Australian states enacted laws that allowed the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their parents. The laws further allowed for the children to be placed in state or church-run institutions and to be raised to enter non-Indigenous society. The harm done though separation from family, language and culture has had devastating effects on their lives, as well as on succeeding generations. Healing the trauma of Stolen Generations people is a primary aim of various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led organisations across Australia. In partnership with Bringing Them Home WA the authors are assisting in the restoration and regeneration of two former mission institutions at Carrolup/Marribank and Wandering in Western Australia to be used as healing centres for Aboriginal people formerly confined at these places. This paper takes a holistic view of healing and proposes a cultural healing framework that moves beyond physical human functioning. It emphasises the connection to land, memory and community identity as critical to social and emotional wellbeing and healing, and reflects on the project process and the impact of this work on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It elaborates on the community-centric approach that positions the Survivors as drivers and decision makers for this project. Can this approach build capacity for the Survivors in the short and long term?

The power to move Aborigines: Law, housing and welfare

David McCallum, Jennifer Laurence

Abstract: By the mid-1960s young Aboriginal people in Victoria were streaming into the child welfare system, in the name of 'protection', in unprecedented and vastly disproportionate numbers. This movement occurred in the wake of government attempts to establish Aboriginal housing settlements. This paper argues that the logic and practices through which Aborigines were judged as suitable or not for a new transitional housing scheme rendered them accountable to mainstream child welfare practices, and hence how governments could think and act upon their circumstances devoid of the context of colonisation. It explores the gap between the banner of liberalism under which the scheme was launched and the authoritarianism that continued to pervade administrative practice, despite declarations from the late 1950s of an end to all racially discriminatory law and the promise of freedom to Aboriginal peoples.

Changing Warlpiri marriage patterns: The use of APR data in anthropological research 

Rob Robertson

Abstract: The early 1960s saw a major shift in Aboriginal policy. In the Northern Territory the Welfare Ordinance 1953 was replaced by the Social Welfare Ordinance 1964, and the earlier policies of assimilation and protectionism were abandoned, together with the concept of Aborigines as 'wards' and the associated Register of Wards. Under the new ordinance, the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory embarked on an ambitious project to develop an accurate computer-based record of personal and family information for all Aborigines in the Territory 'living as part of the Aboriginal community'. The Aboriginal Population Record (APR) project ran for almost a decade, and has been described as one of the most extensive and reliable records of an Aboriginal population ever compiled. And yet, surprisingly, the APR was almost unknown except within the Welfare Branch. When the project was finally abandoned in 1976, the data was archived and virtually forgotten until it was rediscovered 30 years later. This paper introduces the APR database. It describes its background, development, use and subsequent history. It also illustrates the APR's potential for use in anthropological research with a study to analyse changes in traditional Warlpiri patterns over time. While this study is limited in scope, the APR database offers many more opportunities for anthropological and historical research, as well as applications such as family searches and support for land title claims.

When camp dogs run over maps: 'Proper-way' research in an Aboriginal community in the North-East of Western Australia

Rhonda Povey and Michelle Trudgett

Abstract: A 'continual flow of commentary and classification' (Dodson 1994:2) has marked research relationships with Aboriginal people since the initial invasion of this country. Under the colonisers' ethnographic gaze, Aboriginal people have been the subject of surveillance, with research linked to imperialism and colonialism perpetuating the fantasy of superiority of white nation and framing indigeneity within racialised deficit assumptions. Colonial relationships persist within institutional centres such as research spaces, as power relationships within colonial contexts continue to influence how research is conducted and interpreted (Kovach 2018). These practices have attempted to silence and exclude Aboriginal living experiences and perspectives contributing to a legacy of mistrust within Aboriginal communities. This paper explores what it means to tell a different story and demonstrates how the processes of decolonising methodologies and research methods have informed and shaped this story. The decolonisation process of research methodology is essential to Indigenous reclamation of history. The power of Indigenous oral histories in supporting the purpose of decolonising frontier history lies not in the extractive discourse of colonial practices, but in the ethical and transformative 'Aboriginal-centric practice' (Watson 2007:135) of centring Aboriginal living experiences and perceptions. Using a story about camp dogs running all over the maps, the paper describes an Indigenist approach to historical education research in an Aboriginal community in the north-east of Western Australia. The importance of valorising ethical practices and cultural safety in research is highlighted by explaining how Indigenous research methods and decolonised research design are used in the study. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates how reframed Indigenous intellectual property rights and archives are dismantling what has been remembered by whom and for what purpose. The paper argues that these collaborative and emancipatory processes support the decolonisation of history and the telling of different stories.

Playing the third quarter: Sport, memory and silences in Aboriginal memoirs 

Gary Osmond

Abstract: This paper surveys 57 published autobiographies, biographies, interviews and 'as told to' accounts by Aboriginal Queenslanders from Cherbourg, Palm Island, Woorabinda and Yarrabah - former government Aboriginal settlements and missions - for insights into the sporting past. Premised on the importance of sport to Aboriginal people, and in recognition of deep sporting engagement historically, it seeks to explore and analyse the complex relationship of people with sport, which includes, but exceeds, racism and victimhood. It conceives sport as a game with four quarters: the first largely hidden; the second marked by exposure of racist, oppressive and discriminatory practices that occurred in the first quarter; the third embracing life writings by Aboriginal people; and the fourth involving increasing collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous historians in understanding the sporting past. This paper focuses on the third quarter in an attempt to enrich those understandings via an expanded range of voices, stories and perspectives contained in published memories.

Mara yurriku: Western Desert sign languages

Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis, Jennifer Green, Inge Kral and Lauren W. Reed

Abstract: In the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of the Western Desert the phrase mara yurriku 'moving the hands' is used to describe communication by manual signing. This paper introduces some of the forms and functions of sign, based on previous documentations of sign in the Western Desert, as well as on new research supported by an ARC-funded research project on Western Desert Verbal Arts (2015-19).1 We describe the contexts of sign language use, illustrating how sign fits into the communicative ecology of Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities. The paper discusses some linguistic features of sign, including the handshapes used, the semantic domains represented in the lexicon and the development of new signs for contemporary concepts. The paper also situates sign language within the spectrum of multimodal communicative practices in the Western Desert, including the innovation of 'air writing'. The paper provides a Western Desert perspective on sign, as the first author is a Ngaanyatjarra/Ngaatjatjarra speaker and is knowledgeable about signing practices.

Dialogue, morality and the deadly questions campaign: Reconstructing, reviewing and revaluing Victorian Aboriginality

Michael Atkinson

Abstract: This paper discusses Aboriginal identity as expressed through the Deadly Questions campaign launched by Aboriginal Victoria and marketing company Clemenger BBDO in 2018. It provides an insight into the meanings that members of mainstream cultural groups bring to their dialogues with Aboriginal people. I analysed the 100 representative questions on the Deadly Questions website through three main categories: a primary category identifies those questions that frame Aboriginal identity to support non-Aboriginal constructions of national identity; a second category explores related themes of learning and reflection; a third category identifies those questions that use an inclusive, humanitarian discourse. Results indicate that people's viewpoints are strongly bound with their moral outlook. Comfortableness with cultural ambiguity aligns with a questioning of stereotypes and support for Aboriginal positions, while surety around a singular national narrative promotes a deficit positioning of Aboriginal people and culture. Between these two categories lies a readiness and willingness to learn about Aboriginal culture, but a reluctance to learn too much. The paper concludes by reflecting on pathways to promote a more dialogical vision of Aboriginal and mainstream cultural relations and makes the case that it beholds those with a humanitarian ethos to stimulate debate towards a more inclusive society for all Victorians.

Book Reviews

Regina Ganter 
The contest for Aboriginal souls: European missionary agendas in Australia
(Reviewed by Carol Pybus)

Hossein Esmaeili, Gus Worby and Simone Tur (eds)
Indigenous Australians, social justice and legal reform: Honouring Elliott Johnston
(Reviewed by Cedric Hassing