Abstracts for Issue 1, 2014
Wal-Walang-al Ngardanginy: hunting the songs (of the Australian south-west)
Clint Bracknell, The University of Sydney
Given the paucity of research pertaining to Indigenous vocal music in the south-west of Western Australia and the present endangered state of traditional music knowledge in the region, this paper discusses contemporary community-driven Noongar language revitalisation activities and explores relevant archival song texts. Oral accounts and archival records from the south-west of Western Australia highlight the centrality of vocal music in the local Aboriginal (Noongar) society. Accordingly, Noongar people composed songs in response to new experiences and phenomena as colonial influence extended across the south-west in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These compositions experiment with point-of-view, vocabulary and metaphor, indicating the ability for Noongar singing traditions to maintain continuity and intergenerational transmission while demonstrating linguistic, thematic and semantic flexibility.
Viewed from all sides: statues, sport and Eddie Gilbert
Gary Osmond and Murray G Phillips, The University of Queensland
A bronze statue of 1930s Indigenous cricketer Eddie Gilbert was unveiled in Brisbane in 2007 to commemorate his life and legendary sporting achievements. It is one of only a few monuments to Indigenous sportspeople in Australia and the only statue dedicated to an individual Aboriginal cricketer. Previous studies of sport statues by historians typically focus on semiotic readings, largely interpreted through the historians’ eyes, and neglect the vested interests of those who create the work and audience responses to it. Recognising these limitations, this paper analyses the cultural significance of the Eddie Gilbert statue through three vignettes, or perspectives. First, we examine the types of knowledge that shape our understandings as historians and influence our approach and the questions we ask about the monument. Second, we consider the motives and contributions of the sculptor and activist groups that were responsible for the statue. And, third, we engage with the feelings, impressions and opinions of Aboriginal community members from Cherbourg, the former Aboriginal reserve and home of Eddie Gilbert, who visited the statue with us and shared their reactions in a focus group discussion. Through this three-fold approach, we argue that the multiple possible readings of monuments such as statues are not random, entirely open-ended or limitless, but are strongly prefigured by the social, cultural and political perspectives of the viewers.
The Tara-Waragal and the Governor’s levee in Melbourne, 1863 - a reinterpretation of Woiwurrung local group organisation
Ian D Clark, Federation University of Australia
This paper concerns the question of why there are so few named groups in the Woiwurrung language area compared with other language groups to its west and north-west. It does this by analysing the 1863 Governor’s levee in which representatives from three Aboriginal groups — the Boonwurrung, Woiwurrung and Tara-Waragal — presented gifts to royalty. In seeking to understand who this third group — the Tara-Waragal — was, Stephens (2003) has suggested that they were a Woiwurrung patriline. Wesson (2001) has suggested that the name was a pejorative label applied to a Gippsland group by the Kulin. This study finds that both interpretations are wrong. First, it finds that the name applies to a Brataualung clan, the Yowung, whose country centred on the Tarra and Warrigal creeks — hence the name. Second, it finds that the attempt by Stephens to identify the Tara-Waragal with a possible Woiwurrung patriline identified in a series of sketches by William Thomas found in the RB Smyth Papers was also a failure. Nevertheless, the implication that the sketch maps may reveal up to 53 patrilines is a possibility worth exploring, as it may address the issue of the apparent under-representation of Woiwurrung named groups with which I began. Analysis reveals the possibility of an additional 27 Woiwurrung patrilines. Although the exact number of additional patrilines will never be known, at least we have addressed the issue that within the ethno-historical record it is possible to find additional named groups in Woiwurrung. Thus there was in all likelihood greater internal division in the Woiwurrung than has been reconstructed by Barwick (1984) and Clark (1990).
Native Tongue Title: compensation for the loss of Aboriginal languages
Ghil'ad Zuckermann, The University of Adelaide, Shiori Shakuto-Neoh, Australian National University, and Giovanni Matteo Quer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This paper proposes the enactment of an ex gratia compensation scheme for loss of Indigenous languages in Australia. Although some Australian states have enacted ex gratia compensation schemes for the victims of the Stolen Generation policies, the victims of ‘linguicide’ (language killing) are largely overlooked by the Australian Government. Existing grant schemes to support Aboriginal languages are inadequate, and they should be complemented with compensation schemes, which are based on a claim of right. The proposed compensation scheme for the loss of Aboriginal languages should support the effort to reclaim and revive the lost languages. We first outline the history of linguicide during colonisation in Australia. We then put a case for reviving lost Aboriginal languages by highlighting the benefits of language revival. After evaluating the limits of existing Australian law in supporting the language revival efforts, this paper proposes a statute-based ex gratia compensation scheme, which can be colloquially called ‘Native Tongue Title’.
Recollections of Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission
Ruth A Fink Latukefu
In 2013 I revisited Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission after nearly 60 years. This paper describes what life was like for Aboriginal people living on the mission during my fieldwork in 1954. Information from Aboriginal informants at that time is supplemented by Jimmie Barker, whose memoir records 20 years as handyman on the mission (1920–42). There was historical continuity in racist attitudes, fears of child removal, suppression of languages and culture, inadequate schooling and authoritarian controls by the managers of the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board. People felt ashamed to be seen by white people doing anything traditionally Aboriginal, and skin colour and Aboriginal features were socially stigmatised. Apart from its cemetery, Brewarrina Mission, established in 1897, was closed in 1965 and later demolished.
Sub-theme: Two takes on social problems in Central Australia
Nicolas Peterson and Francesca Merlan, Australian National University
The three rules of being Aboriginal: anxiety and violence in Central Australia
Malcolm Frost, Forensic Psychologist
The Violence Intervention Program at the Ingkintja (Male Health) branch of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs treats Aboriginal offenders and victims of all types of interpersonal violence. By treating both offenders and victims, staff members are able to observe the effects of ongoing intergenerational violence and its consistency with violence and trauma research drawn from around the world. This paper presents several brief case studies to illustrate some of the complex interactions between the current state of Aboriginal culture in Central Australia and the behavioural responses of those who have been impacted by exposure to violence and trauma. Some cautious suggestions for long-term change are made.
Violent and tragic events: the nature of domestic violence-related homicide cases in Central Australia
Violence and abuse among Australia’s Aboriginal populations and communities, especially across Central Australia, have increasingly been the focus of government, academic, social and criminal justice, law enforcement and media reporting. Despite the weight of these reports and other evidence, such as the lengthy daily court lists of assault offences, there continues to be a culture, within both the Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal community, of minimisation and blindness about the nature and extent of domestic or intimate partner-related family violence. The very private nature of most domestic and family violence incidents within a social and cultural environment that sanctions acts of aggression and violence contributes to the minimisation and blindness. This paper focuses on how problems such as domestic and family violence in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia can be better understood by examining specific domestic violence-related homicides that occurred between January 2000 and November 2008. The domestic-related homicides involved women and men, married and/or recognised by their families and the wider community as being married, from close and inter-related families in the remote cross-border communities of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. From 1994 until 2006 I was involved in establishing and managing a program and service aimed at improving the protection and safety of Aboriginal women who experienced domestic violence in this region. I knew the victims, the offenders, and one or both of their families in eight of the homicides that occurred in that period.