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Australian Aboriginal Studies: Issue 1, 2018

Australian Aboriginal Studies: Issue 1, 2018
Publication date
Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal


Un-filtering the settler colonial archive: Indigenous community-based photographers in Australia and the United States — Ngarrindjeri and Shinnecock perspectives — Karen Hughes and Cholena Smith

Abstract: In transnational settler colonial contexts, the photograph has been a tool of suppression, playing a key role in the categorisation of race and difference, as well as furthering the logic of elimination through gestures towards whiteness, authenticity and vanishing races. For Indigenous peoples living in early-invaded, densely settled areas, such as the participants in this study — Ngarrindjeri in southeastern Australia and the Shinnecock Algonquin in the north-eastern United States (US) —- the problem of visual representation has long contributed to a denial of their contemporary identity and to persistent discrimination. Administrative and anthropological photography in the early twentieth century across these settler colonial polities was inextricably connected with policies of assimilation, eugenics and anti-miscegenation, and to the making of racial categories. Yet at the same time that official photographers were consciously filtering out the impacts of colonisation — imaging perennial stereotypes of the lone plains Indian on horseback in full regalia, for example, or the northern Aboriginal man poised on one leg, spear in hand — pioneering Ngarrindjeri and Shinnecock women and men creatively seized upon the camera, experimenting with new technologies and media to counter these colonial imaginings. Producing rich archives in their own communities that assert visual sovereignty, their photographs narrate vital histories not known through other means. This paper arises from research with the Ngarrindjeri and Shinnecock communities to reveal the practice of two prolific Indigenous community- based photographers from the mid-twentieth century: Charlotte Richards and Wickham Hunter. We explore the democratising ways in which they worked intentionally to undo colonial stereotypes and represent their people, shedding new light on Indigenous aesthetic traditions and technologies, identity, cultural continuity and belonging, and adding to recent transnational scholarship on visual sovereignty and the decolonising of the settler colonial archive.

The brumby dance episode: on the value of cultural continuity within the localised complexity of remote Indigenous education —David Spillman

Abstract: The brumby dance episode occurred as a Warlpiri-inspired response to an emotionally charged conversation regarding the Northern Territory Emergency Response. It took place during the Cross-Cultural Collaboration Project, undertaken in the Northern Territory Department of Education, Employment and Training in 2008. This paper contextualises, describes and analyses the brumby dance episode, examining the perspectives and intentions underlying its enactment. This analysis proposes the brumby dance episode as an exemplar of the great value of cultural continuity processes in bringing traditional Aboriginal ways of knowing, doing and being to the localised complexity of contemporary Indigenous education in Australia, particularly in remote settings. Such strongly relational, strength-based approaches are juxtaposed with those of the currently dominant standardisation policy agenda in Indigenous education, critiqued as over-simplistic (one size fits all), deficit-focused and relationally impoverished.

Some burning issues: Arthur Upfield and the Murchison murders, marginalising Aboriginal people and suggestions on teaching Australia’s history of frontier violence — Bill Casey

Abstract: This paper’s main concern is how educators can best face the challenge of teaching Australia’s history of frontier violence. Understandably, high school and undergraduate students are wary of such a dark topic that draws in massacres, rapes and allegations of genocide. However, if teachers steer clear of the controversial material, students are left with significantly reduced understandings of why Australian race relations can be so strained. Ignoring the full story of colonisation undermines reconciliation and augments a racial divide. Ignoring frontier violence also strengthens imperialism’s capacity to render subjugated people ‘invisible’. The curriculum’s requirement to teach Australian Aboriginal history in partnership with Indigenous community members is therefore a crucial way of dispelling invisibility and reasserting the legitimate rights of Indigenous peoples to their intangible heritage. Shared teaching humanises the impact of colonisation and frontier violence on Australia’s First Peoples, and protects, maintains and respects Indigenous knowledge, practices and innovations. This is the first paper to indicate that Western Australia’s 1927 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Killing and Burning of Bodies of Aborigines in East Kimberley and into Police Methods when Effecting Arrests may be the plot source for Arthur Upfield’s (1961[1931]) novel The Sands of Windee and for the Murchison murders (1929–30). The case study’s example of Kimberley Aboriginal people becoming ‘invisible’ leads into an overview of imperialism, where invisibility is implicated in the process of colonisation. The paper then illustrates how collaborative teaching benefits students, teachers and Indigenous people.

Blaks and stats in Aboriginal Victoria: census resistance and participation — Julie Andrews

Abstract: Calls are growing within the social sciences for Indigenous peoples to assume sovereignty over data that are about them and for analysis of these data to be led by, or be inclusive of, an Indigenous perspective (Kukutai and Taylor 2016; Walter 2016; Walter and Andersen 2013). This paper presents data based on interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Melbourne and Victoria that provide an Aboriginal voice to show the degrees of both constraint and choice in the formulation of Indigenous data. The results show that the census as a social instrument needs to be viewed as a dynamic interplay between the state and Indigenous people, and that Indigenous community awareness of their role in this process needs to be further explored. Although volatility of Aboriginal census data is a key focus of this paper, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has attempted to investigate from time to time why the census counts should be so volatile, yet its investigations have been undertaken as an outsider on what makes people (as it puts it) ‘change their identity’. In this paper I examine the issue of census volatility from within the Indigenous community and get people to openly provide their perspectives on census engagement and census utility as an expression of Indigenous data sovereignty. This approach has not been adopted before in relation to the issue of census volatility but the views of Indigenous people on such matters are likely to become more prevalent as the issue of Indigenous data sovereignty gains ground.

Two-way conflation of home and school realities: local science and Linnaean language in the biology curriculum — Joël Rioux with Bronwyn Ewing and Tom Cooper 

Abstract: This paper reports on an action research study that investigated the integration of Aboriginal and Western science knowledges and languages into science learning for Aboriginal adolescent students in one regional independent secondary school in Queensland. To strengthen the students’ learning, the study drew on community members’ local knowledge and language of fauna and integrated this understanding with the teaching of science to 12 students in Years 8–9. As part of the study, 75 lessons were conducted and included an initial short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) study and a collection of local animal narratives. It applied thematic analysis to data to explore the effect of this integrated approach on students’ language use, pride in heritage, cultural knowledge, learning and the Linnaean zoology taxonomy. Results showed that to enable the flow of the science lessons, the average number of words spoken (103) at introduction times needed to remain low to facilitate engagement and to avoid embarrassment and an overwhelming factor when the teaching site is cluttered with words. The sensitive planning in terms of two-way Linnaean and local languages gave rise to meaningful contextualisation of culture.