Abstracts for Issue 2, 2008
Mawul Rom Project: Openness, obligation and reconciliation
Morgan Brigg (Universtiy of Queensland) and Anke Tonnaer (University of Aarhus, Denmark)
Aboriginal Australian initiatives to restore balanced relationships with White Australians have recently become part of reconciliation efforts. This paper provides a contextualised report on one such initiative, the Mawul Rom crosscultural mediation project. Viewing Mawul Rom as a diplomatic venture in the lineage of adjustment and earlier Rom rituals raises questions about receptiveness, individual responsibility and the role of Indigenous ceremony in reconciliation efforts. Yolngu ceremonial leaders successfully draw participants into relationship and personally commit them to the tasks of cross-cultural advocacy and reconciliation. But Mawul Rom must also negotiate a paradox because emphasis on the cultural difference of ceremony risks increasing the very social distance that the ritual attempts to confront. Managing this tension will be a key challenge if Mawul Rom is to become an effective diplomatic mechanism for cross-cultural conflict resolution and reconciliation.
Living in two camps: the strategies Goldfields Aboriginal people use to manage in the customary economy and the mainstream economy at the same time
Howard Sercombe (Strathclyde University, Glasgow)
The economic sustainability of Aboriginal households has been a matter of public concern across a range of contexts. This research, conducted in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia, shows how economically successful Aboriginal persons manage ‘dual economic engagement’, or involvement in the customary economy and the mainstream economy at the same time. The two economies sometimes reinforce each other but are more often in conflict, and management of conflicting obligations requires high degrees of skill and innovation. As well as creating financially sustainable households, the participants contributed significantly to the health of their extended families and communities. The research also shows that many Aboriginal people, no matter what their material and personal resources, are conscious of how fragile and unpredictable their economic lives can be, and that involvement in the customary economy is a kind of mutual insurance to guarantee survival if times get tough.
Indigenous population data for evaluation and performance measurement: A cautionary note
Gaminiratne Wijesekere (Dept. of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra)
I outline the status of population census counts for Indigenous peoples, identifying information on Indigenous births and deaths, and internal migration estimates. I comment on the ‘experimental’ Indigenous population projections and question the rationale for having two sets of projections. Program managers and evaluators need to be mindful of limitations of the data when using these projections for monitoring, evaluating and measuring Indigenous programs.
Reaching out to a younger generation using a 3D computer game for storytelling: Vincent Serico’s legacy
Theodor G Wyeld (Flinders University, Adeliade) and Brett Leavy (CyberDreaming Australia)
Sadly, Vincent Serico (1949–2008), artist, activist and humanist, recently passed away. Born in southern Queensland in Wakka Wakka/Kabi Kabi Country (Carnarvon Gorge region) in 1949, Vincent was a member of the Stolen Generations. He was separated from his family by White administration at four years of age. He grew up on the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve in the 1950s, when the policies of segregation and assimilation were at their peak. Only returning to his Country in his early forties, Vincent started painting his stories and the stories that had been passed on to him about the region. These paintings manifest Vincent’s sanctity for tradition, storytelling, language, spirit and beliefs. A team of researchers was honoured and fortunate to have worked closely with Vincent to develop a 3D simulation of his Country using a 3D computer game toolkit. Embedded in this simulation of his Country, in the locations that their stories speak to, are some of Vincent’s important contemporary art works. They are accompanied by a narration of Vincent’s oral history about the places, people and events depicted.
Vincent was deeply concerned about members of the younger generation around him ‘losing their way’ in modern times. In a similar vein, Brett Leavy (Kooma) sees the 3D game engine as an opportunity to engage the younger generation in its own cultural heritage in an activity that capitalises on a common pastime. Vincent was an enthusiastic advocate of this approach. Working in consultation with Vincent and the research team, CyberDreaming developed a simulation of Vincent’s Country for young Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal persons from the Carnarvon Gorge region to explore Vincent’s life stories of the region. The use of Vincent’s contemporary paintings as storyboards provides a traditional medium for the local people to interactively re-engage with traditional values. Called Serico’s World, it represents a legacy to his life’s works, joys and regrets. Here we discuss the background to this project and Vincent’s contribution.
A singular beeswax representation of Namarrkon, the Lightning Man, from western Arnhem Land
RG Gunn (La Trobe University) and RL Whear (Jawoyn Association)
Samples from a beeswax representation of Namarrkon, the Lightning Man, from western Arnhem Land were analysed for radiocarbon and dated to be about 150 years old. An underlying beeswax figure was found to be approximately 1100 years old. The Dreaming Being Namarrkon is well known throughout Arnhem Land, although his sphere of activity is concentrated around the northern half of the Arnhem Land plateau. Namarrkon is well represented in rock-paintings in this area and continues to be well represented in contemporary canvas-paintings by artists from the broader plateau region. We conclude that representations of Namarrkon in both painted and beeswax forms appear to be parallel manifestations of the late Holocene regionalisation of Arnhem Land.
‘Missing the point’ or ‘what to believe — the theory or the data’: Rationales for the production of Kimberley points
Kim Akerman (Moonah)
In a recent article, Rodney Harrison presented an interesting view on the role glass Kimberley points played in the lives of the Aborigines who made and used them. Harrison employed ethnographic and historical data to argue that glass Kimberley points were not part of the normal suite of post-contact artefacts used primarily for hunting and fighting or Indigenous exchange purposes, but primarily were created to service a non-Indigenous market for aesthetically pleasing artefacts. Harrison asserted that this market determined the form that these points took. A critical analysis of the data does not substantiate either of these claims. Here I do not deal with Harrison’s theoretical material or arguments; I focus on the ethnographic and historical material that he has either omitted or failed to appreciate in developing his thesis and which, in turn, renders it invalid.
The intensity of raw material utilisation as an indication of occupational history in surface stone artefact assemblages from the Strathbogie Ranges, central Victoria
Justin Ian Shiner (La Trobe University, Bundoora)
Stone artefact assemblages are a major source of information on past human–landscape relationships throughout much of Australia. These relationships are not well understood in the Strathbogie Ranges of central Victoria, where few detailed analyses of stone artefact assemblages have been undertaken. The purpose of this paper is to redress this situation through the analysis of two surface stone artefact assemblages recorded in early 2000 during a wider investigation of the region’s potential for postgraduate archaeological fieldwork. Analysis of raw material utilisation is used to assess the characteristics of the occupational histories of two locations with similar landscape settings. The analysis indicates variability in the intensity of raw material use between the assemblages, which suggests subtle differences in the occupational history of each location. The results of this work provide a direction for future stone artefact studies within this poorly understood region.