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5 years ago

A Place in the Past: Pilkington and van den Berg on the Moore River ...

A Place in the Past: Pilkington and van den Berg on the Moore River ...

A Place in the Past: Pilkington and van den Berg on the Moore River

A ong>Placeong> ong>inong> ong>theong> ong>Pastong>: Pilkong>inong>gton ong>andong> ong>vanong> ong>denong> ong>Bergong> on ong>theong> Moore River Settlement Julia Ravell In ong>theong> ABC’s 1968 Boyer Lectures, W.E. Stanner told a nationwide audience that Aborigong>inong>als song>inong>ce 1788 had been given ‘no place ong>inong> our past’. 1 More than thirty years later, that message is still releong>vanong>t, although an ong>inong>creasong>inong>g amount of biographical ong>andong> autobiographical work has been published. Projects such as ong>theong> Aborigong>inong>al Biographical Index are also providong>inong>g unpreceong>denong>ted access to fragmentary materials written by Aborigong>inong>al writers across a variety of genres. While many postcolonial ong>theong>orists are turnong>inong>g towards ever more nuanced iong>denong>tity politics, based on a reflexive critique of whiteness, Aborigong>inong>al auto/biographical writong>inong>g contong>inong>ues to assert ong>theong> political efficacy of communally-sanctioned life-histories as a means of bong>inong>dong>inong>g ong>theong> present to counter-historical pasts. Aborigong>inong>al ong>inong>fant mortality, deaths ong>inong> custody, alcoholism, domestic violence, unemployment ong>andong> a host of oong>theong>r depredations usually deemed too mong>inong>or to make ong>theong> pages of ong>theong> daily news, reaffirm ong>theong> necessity for Aborigong>inong>al counter-histories, for strong claims to truth. Aborigong>inong>al oral ong>andong> written histories reconstruct cultural iong>denong>tity. As Sonia Smallacombe has said of her own oral history project, ‘Aborigong>inong>al people tellong>inong>g ong>theong>ir own stories ong>inong> ong>theong>ir own voices is an important way for members of ong>theong> Stolen Generation to openly maong>inong>taong>inong> ong>andong> pass on ong>theong>ir cultural heritage’. 2 Doris Pilkong>inong>gton (Nugi Garimara) frames her narrative about a defong>inong>ong>inong>g moment ong>inong> her family’s history by rewritong>inong>g first contact ong>inong> Western Australia from an ong>inong>digenous perspective. The openong>inong>g chapter of Follow ong>theong> Rabbit Proof Fence takes readers back to 1826 ong>andong> Major Edmund Lockyer’s survey of WA’s usefulness for English colonisation. Pilkong>inong>gton’s imperial chronicle of names – Lockyer, Stirlong>inong>g, Fremantle, Carberry, Cannong>inong>g ong>andong> ong>theong>ir various ships – flags what follows as a narrative of historical realism, at ong>theong> same time as it parodies ong>theong> taxonomic language of European history with its glorified accounts of foundong>inong>g ‘faong>theong>rs’, triumphal long>andong>ong>inong>gs, ‘discoveries’ ong>andong> heroic battles (recognised today as bloody massacres). Lockyer’s measurong>inong>g gaze translates ong>theong> long>andong> ong>inong>to a series of cartographic observations ong>inong> a familiar moment ong>inong> ong>theong> colonial adventure. But this time ong>theong> narrator, Kundilla ong>andong> his family disturb ong>theong> convention of European omniscience. They return ong>theong> white man’s curious look, observong>inong>g ong>theong> observer without his knowledge, thus makong>inong>g him ong>theong> object of an anthropologisong>inong>g scrutong>inong>y. Kundilla’s is ong>theong> commong>andong>ong>inong>g look, ong>andong> ong>theong> Englishmen’s predilection for worshippong>inong>g monuments to ong>theong>mselves becomes a ludicrous, out-of-place ritual. Lockyer’s commoditisation of ong>theong> long>andong> ong>andong> its ong>inong>habitants, ong>andong> his ignorance of local culture, differentiates ong>inong>terconnected Aborigong>inong>al time ong>andong> tradition from its colonial counterpart. Pilkong>inong>gton underlong>inong>es this poong>inong>t ong>inong> her ong>inong>troduction: Numbers, dates, ong>inong> fact maong>theong>matics of any kong>inong>d, have little or no releong>vanong>ce ong>inong> our traditional Aborigong>inong>al society. Nature was ong>theong>ir social calendar, everythong>inong>g was measured by events ong>andong> ong>inong>ciong>denong>ts affected by seasonal changes… ong>theong> days of ong>theong> week were named accordong>inong>g to which domestic duties were carried out: Monday was referred to as washong>inong>g day, Tuesday was ironong>inong>g day, Wednesday was mendong>inong>g day, ong>andong> so on… seasonal time ong>andong> ong>theong> features of ong>theong> natural environment are more important to recountong>inong>g this journey than are ong>theong> western notions of time ong>andong> distance. 3

Torsos by Dutch sculptor Eja Siepman van den Berg Beauty in ...