More than just funding- the importance of choosing a “good” Faculty and Department for Honours.

This week I consider how a good supervisor is important, but so too is belonging to a good Faculty and Department.

The notion of a “good” faculty is really quite subjective. I had, through my experiences on campus, and reading of academic commentary, come to define “good” as a Faculty which provided financial support for research. From reading about academic life online I determined my chosen Faculty should financially support my desire to attend conferences, support me to take time to write and also to undertake further training. It was also my understanding large amounts of funding would allow my Faculty to attract the best scholars in a particular research stream.

And in part, I continue to agree with this perception. We live in a capitalist society and money is an important element of scholarship. I’m also going to argue against this point and say that finances are not the only element that should matter to those seeking a career in academia.

A department is a sub-section of a Faculty. While a Faculty is important for funding it is also the host for a community of scholars with the same disciplinary interest as you. Perhaps other people already know this. Maybe doing my Bachelor of Arts online meant I had been far removed from the realities of belonging to a Faculty. Probably being first in family to attend university means I am still trying to understand the complex structures of the institution which I inhabit on a daily basis. Whatever the reason, when I was invited to attend the first ‘Honours History Department Meeting’. I was excited. I thought I was going to learn the secrets of Faculty funding! What I gained was much more important. Here I was offered an opportunity to get to know other members of my Faculty Department.

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Being ‘first in family’ to attend university meant that my family’s expectations were not always in alignment with the reality of writing an Honours thesis. Having a Department of people that understood the situation definitely helped to deal with the stress.

Well, actually, now that I am reflecting on it, I was slightly petrified at being in the same room as all of these incredible scholars. But I was excited to see what was going to come from the meeting.

Walking through the door I was nervous. Would they pile us up with readings? Would they tell us our lives would be over as we knew it? Would they pit us against each other for funding?

Perhaps my previous searches on Twitter hadn’t produced the most optimistic of mindsets.

This isn’t to say I was completely ignorant of the people that I was about to meet with. I had communicated with these people previously. The Convenor had recommended an oral history workshop a couple of weeks prior to this meeting. Not knowing if this was applicable to my thesis I enrolled anyway(the reality of finding descendants of my thesis subjects was slim, and slimmer when the realities of budget finances were considered). I thought at the very least this workshop would offer good practical experience.  This was an early benefit of being so readily welcomed into a network of diverse scholars. I was able to broaden my understanding of applied history and industry opportunities.

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I quickly came to realise that being open to speaking with and taking on the suggestions from other members of my Faculty would introduce me to opportunities I had not previously considered, such as attending an Oral History Victoria workshop.

My supervisor couldn’t make it to the meeting so I didn’t fall into our standard discussion about where I was at with my thesis. Instead, as I laid out my laptop and logged on, I paid attention to the arrangement of scholars in the room before me. I knew a couple of tutors from taking their classes. Others I associated with from working around campus as a peer mentor. Some I knew simply from reputation. There were historians of gender, race, war, revolutions, politics, Australia, Pacific, and Europe. It was a little overwhelming. I think I was having a fan-girl (woman?) moment, to be honest.  

As these historians sat before me and talked amongst themselves or quickly fired off one last email before we started, I began to think, do I really belong here? Just then, the History Honours Convenor called the meeting to order. We did a round of introductions. I fumbled through my thesis topic and sat mortified at my inability to state verbally what I, so clearly, could think. While I wallowed, I also listened to what was expected of me academically for the duration of Honours. The importance of actively producing work, of attending archives, and writing chapters were clearly asserted.

Then came the element of the meeting I found most beneficial, even to this day. These academics talked about how they approached the task of writing. Their challenges and particular quirks were verbalised. They spoke, seemingly without censure, about the realities of what they do. And I suddenly started to feel like maybe I did belong. There were planners and procrastinators. Scholars that loved the writing process and those that loathed it. Before me was a mixed group of people that were actively practising history and making a career of it. And while their research interests were diverse, every single one of these people showed a passion for what they do.

It was rather awe-inspiring.

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Learning to balance the input from multiple people was certainly a challenge. Yet one that was worth it.

It was this Faculty Department meeting that gave me the means to converse with a diverse range of academics throughout my Honours year. We didn’t have another group meeting like that again. However, I saw everyone in that room at varying times throughout the year. Some more frequently than others. Each time there was a hello, questions as to how was my research progressing. Sometimes there was a subtle (or not) suggestion made regarding reading I should be doing. As the year progressed and my intention to aim for a PhD became certain our conversations changed. I was given advice as to how to complete my Honours thesis on time, how to progress in academia, networking, the realities of the industry, how to apply for a PhD scholarship and pull together a proposal.

I was always, and continue to be, in awe of these people’s generosity with their knowledge and their time. Over the course of the year I gained experience with the Australian Policy and History network, I became a member of the Contemporary Histories Research Group, I started a dialogue with the Professional Historians Australia Vic and Tas. I took risks that I otherwise would have left alone, I attended conferences, I promoted my discipline and I gleefully danced into the space that had been opened to me by this group of scholars.

It is this creation of space, the important sense of belonging, that is little spoken of in academia. In this Faculty, in this History Department, I was welcomed and supported. The willingness and generosity of the members in the History Department at Deakin University to share their knowledge and experience enabled me to find a place to firmly position and assert myself as an emerging scholar. While money is all good (and I admit having extra finances is very very good when trying to organise remote access archives overseas) the cultural capital of your Faculty and Department should matter in the search for a place to undertake your Honours.

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My Honours year was certainly about producing an original piece of work, but it also became about shifting from the identity of ‘student’ to ‘student-scholar’.

 

So, when it is said you need to find a good supervisor, take the time to do so. At the same time, I strongly urge you to consider and speak to others in the Faculty and Department with which you will be associated. I was lucky that I fell into a really amazing space with a great group of people. Yet if I could go back in time I would tell myself to make it a conscious decision. Take the time to consider the other people in my Faculty and ask, ‘will these be the people that will help you to become the scholar you want to be?’ 

– Keep happy flippin’ pages

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The risks of becoming a turtle on campus.

This week I remember the first frantic reading days of my Honours thesis and how I came to realise why trust in my supervisor was so important to my thesis’ development. 

There is a lot of conversation about finding a supervisor that will support you during your Honours year. Considerations must be made regarding their specialisation, their industry experience and how will they assist you during your learning, and perhaps employment, journey.

I had come to know my Honours supervisor during my third year of study. I had asked for, and promptly received, special permission to join her class (I hadn’t completed the unit’s prerequisites and I’d never been enrolled in a History unit before). I knew from discussions held during class that her research tended towards Pacific history and religion. Papua New Guinea was also a consistent thread throughout her career.

These were all elements that I thought I could study for a year in Honours. Therefore, I mentioned quite early in our association I was aiming for admission into Honours. Ever cautious and realistic, she asked me to just concentrate on my assignments for the Bachelor of Arts, then we would speak about it further. True to her word, a week after my third-year classes ended I was invited to her office to discuss a potential plan for Honours and what I thought I could achieve during this year of intensive study and writing.

Being the first in my family to attend university I had no real idea of what Honours involved, nor did I understand what comes afterwards. I knew I would be creating an original piece of research. Beyond that, the coming year was a bit of a mystery. Therefore, I approached our first meeting planning to be honest and ask as many questions as possible about the processes of the university just as much as the academic outcomes.

I think it was during this meeting, when I admitted I didn’t really know what I was aiming for I just wanted to study material that would improve our understanding of the world where we live and how we live, that I began to understand why trust is such an integral element of the student/supervisor relationship during thesis writing. If I couldn’t admit what I didn’t know and be open to receiving constructive criticism, then when it came time to writing my chapters and making the required changes I would find the experience very difficult. Also, if my supervisor couldn’t communicate with me in a way that I could relate to and act upon, it would negatively impact my thesis.

The first time these issues of communication and understanding became really important was immediately after I had returned from my weekend away. I had come home, spent a few days deciding was whether my chapter was okay or not, and concluded I may not like it but I had written it. Plus, a big factor was I didn’t know what to do from here. So I sent it off to my supervisor.

It really was one of the most unsettling feelings I had experienced. Sending off this email was different from submitting an assignment. Firstly, it was clearly an unfinished piece of writing. I didn’t I deliberately neglect to have an introduction, body or conclusion. Nor did I forget to write topic sentences. Rather this was a piece of work that had half-formed ideas and connections. What if my supervisor realised that she had made a mistake taking me on as her student this year? What if it was so bad I would be dropped as her student? What if, what if…

Within a day or so I got a very pleasant thank you email and a request for a meeting time to discuss my chapter. That was a positive development. Feeling confident again I passed the time until our meeting catching up on personal tasks. Eventually, the allotted time came and I arrived at her office. I knocked nervously on the door, but my nerves vanished when I was warmly welcomed in and, well, we started discussing my chapter. 

In hindsight, I readily admit the file I had submitted was a mess of various thought-streams, themes and case studies. My supervisor did a really good job of conveying to me I had good ideas and knowledge, but I needed to learn how to convey them in a manner that makes sense to other people. ‘You are the expert here, not me!’ she would say. I didn’t understand what she meant. This woman had been in the industry for years. How was I an expert? She explained I was the person most interested in this topic and I knew it, or would by the end of the year, better than anyone else.

A problem that needed to be addressed, she very kindly explained, was I needed to better contextualise the chapter for my reader. The chapter I was writing now was not like an assignment when my tutor knew the primary readings from which I was drawing my analysis and, perhaps, case-studies. The chapter I had written was based on materials I had independently located and perceived using theories I had thought best. Therefore, I needed to provide more explanation to bring my reader along for the ride.

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Having a supervisor that can convey to you “bad news” in a way that doesn’t destroy your motivation and ideas is really so very important.

I left the meeting, with notes on my laptop and a game plan. I felt determined, well supported and like I had a definite direction. As I walked away from her office the realisation gradually came that I had been told to do a chapter rewrite. I tested the way I felt. My writing had been found wanting and it wasn’t that bad. I had been told, critically and with empathy, what I needed to fix and how to go about fixing it. I informed my partner later when we were talking it over it was like I was being told, in the tradition of Foucault, ‘here’s a knife and fork. Now get cutting.’*

Part of that rewriting process was to visit the library and broaden my reading. I had become so narrow in my research focus, just considering The Argus expedition and the few months in which it occurred, I had forgotten to look at the wider political, social, cultural and economic structures surrounding the expedition. I had, in a sense, narrowed my research to a point so it meant very little to others.

Once in the library, I looked at the list of names and topics my supervisor suggests and started scouring the shelves. As I located what she suggested I saw other books that sparked my interest for their ability to add depth to my chapter. A book addressing the history of The Argus led me towards texts that analysed the significance of news media to public discourse. Her suggestion of a history about New Guinea led to books that placed New Guinea in a wider context of Pacific colonisation by the “Great Powers” of Europe. These books, with their footnotes and bibliographies, led to other items such as an unpublished thesis that considered the cultural relations of the Motu people during the first contact. I started to see a way forward and, although it would be difficult work, it was also exciting. What would this chapter look like at the end of my reading and writing?

By the time I left the library, I felt the pure joy I always do after looking on the shelves and imagining. I had a backpack full of books. My arms were full of books too. As I walked up the flights of stairs to where my car was parked I remember tottering and the feeling of my backpack pulling me backwards. Leaning forward to regain my balance, I imagined myself landing on my back and spinning, unable to right myself. I thought there are risks to becoming a turtle on campus, laden with books and unable to move. However, as I pushed forward, I thought that being unable to listen to an experienced, kind and thoughtful academic would lead to far greater negative outcomes. I was willing to take the risk of spinning in place for a while if it meant I would go further in the longrun.

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Reading recommendations from my supervisor really helped me to determine what was, and was not, important to my thesis. Learning to make two library trips was one.

Next week, I consider the importance of Faculty support and how conversations with this diverse group of people vastly improved my Honours year, in ways I never imagined.

-Keep happy flippin’ pages.

*“Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.” ― Michel Foucault

It’s an Honour(able) life: a research blunder-fuss and holidaying during week one.

This week ‘s entry considers the ramifications of rushing into, and out of, an archive. Also, I consider why taking time out when ideas start flowing is not necessarily a bad thing. 

I was a bit different to other members of my Honours cohort in that I knew what my focus would be before the trimester officially commenced. The previous year I had undertaken an internship at a metropolitan museum. While there I examined and researched the 1883 Argus expedition’s artefacts that were held by the museum. I had thought for my Honours thesis I could write a comprehensive narrative which explored the relationships formed as a consequence of these items being collected. Then I lost access to the collection that I had spent the past four months learning about.

What followed was a little wailing, some wallowing and a solid set of creative cursing. After this, I set about approaching the material I knew in a different, and Honours thesis friendly, way. I asked myself what did I have access and what could I legally and ethically use?

I determined had The Argus newspaper articles. When placed side-by-side it became apparent these newspaper articles offered the viewer a series of sketch maps. The written content of the articles was interesting, but I decided to focus on the maps. I was curious as to who created them. Was their creation influenced by anyone in particular? Perhaps a particular worldview was being illustrated? Was it just from a male perspective? Being sketch maps there was an informality about them that intrigued me. So I stopped my wallowing. I transcribed the Argus articles so the would be easier to read. I started noting elements of interest that would be good for future research.

Then I started looking about for archival resources that could assist with the writing of my thesis. Drawing on my knowledge of research spaces that I use during my undergraduate degree I decided to explore the State Library of Victoria‘s catalog. I found a personal diary rather quickly that I thought would be of benefit to this project. Once I made arrangements and booked time for a future visit to the SLV I felt quite positive. I was doing something. After losing access to the material collection this development felt very positive.

The only image I have in my possession from my first Honours foray into the State Libary of Victoria manuscript collection. Source: Lee-Talbot 2018.

That positivity lasted less than an hour after my booked appointment ended. That was when, back at university, I realised I had left the USB I downloaded the microfilm images onto at the library. I promptly called the SLV and found out someone had taken my USB for themselves. I skipped past the steps of wallowing and wailing went straight for the creative cursing. As a tutor I had previously studied with walked by and discovered what happened they said to me, “That was a rookie mistake.” And it was. I was so focused and excited about doing research that I had forgotten to pay attention to the end product.  It was a lesson worth learning early, and I remain glad that I did.

But what now? I thought about what I had read that day and weighed up whether I should make another appointment. While the documents contained broadly interesting information, they were not directly relevant for the specific thesis idea with which I was playing.  I did realise too, while I had lost materials, the time hadn’t been a complete waste. I was identifying what information was relevant to my thesis (documents produced relative to New Guinea up to 1884) rather than merely historically interesting (the diary of a man that had gone to live and work in New Guinea and had also grown-up near my home).

At this point, I thought it best to produce a mind-map. As I looked at it, saw the themes and people present on the page, I thought I had enough understanding and materials to write a chapter. I had done background research during my internship that I didn’t use it then, but I could certainly use it now to situate my reader (and if truth be told myself). I could really do this! My feelings of positivity were back again!

But first I needed to take a break.

 

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Studying with a young family meant the confusion and uncertainty I felt about becoming an Honours student was sometimes flipped, and made better, by my kids.

I know, odd right? Putting the breaks on and taking a holiday as I am really starting to move forward with my thesis. Taking a holiday before the trimester even started! I can hear you wondering from here: didn’t I just have three months off from studying? Not really. I had been trying to locate materials for my thesis, digging around on TROVE and creating transcripts of the material I located. I was also working as a peer mentor over trimester three. And most importantly, I was every day, being a Mama. With all these factors in mind and the belief Honours was going to be nine months of sheer workaholic-hell, my partner and I had done what any tired and confused Australian does- we purchased tickets to a summer music festival.

 

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Not wanting to seem like I was falling into the academic trap of working on the weekend I sent out this tweet.

Well, we had thought I would take the weekend off. But I took my laptop. And a book that my supervisor recommended I read. And my fears that I would fall behind- before classes even started. This meant, when my partner slept, I worked on writing my first chapter. I referred. I cross-referenced. I made really important connections! These were, for me, moments of total delight at being able to get the ideas that had been floating around in my head for months onto a page, in complete sentences. And then came the gradual realisation. This chapter would be read by someone else. Actually, a lot of other people. People that I didn’t know. Oh, dear Goddess.

That realisation- of a larger than typical academic audience- suspended the writing flow somewhat. Like losing my USB, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to me at that time. This realisation made me close my laptop. And my book. In doing so, I started enjoying the weekend away.

With the benefit of hindsight, stopping writing was the best thing I could have done. It was the last time I had a break from work, study and parenting, for the rest of the year. And being able to reflect on holding my partner’s hand while moshing to Spiderbait? The sweet feeling of finally seeing Veruca Salt live? The blessing that was grooving in a paddock to Tumbleweed and The Fauves? These ended up being mighty potent, soul-feeding memories. Memories that provided me with a sense of wellbeing and got me through the bad days.

Next week, this blog will consider how I came to realise the importance of a good supervisor.

-Keep happy flipping pages.

Honours students: the growing pains associated with being a teenager of academia.

Hello again. Nice for you have come back to read part two of my Honours journey. Oh, you’re new here? Not a problem. Just have a quick read of last week’s post and then we’ll be in the same space. I’ll wait.

Good. Here we go.

So around this time last year I was trying to prepare for what had been described as the impending “best/worst year of your life”. I had come to understand through reading ECR and PhD authored blogs that I needed to be careful with my time. I readily acknowledge social media is a Master of Timesuckage. But we must be honest. Social media platforms also offer the possibility of making industry connections.

Initially, I thought about deleting Facebook. I wasn’t sharing original content. The shouting fest of news posts meant I wasn’t engaging as much as I used to. I had no problem catching up with friends and family IRL. But, ah. I had started a political discussion group. The purpose of the group is not to win political debates, but rather to bring in as many diverse opinions as possible and create a forum for political education and understanding (be it policy, analysis of governments or civil movements). And it seemed to be working. So Facebook stayed. I did decide to limit my usage to the political group. No more scrolling before getting out of bed. Or once in bed. Or while waiting at the bus stop. I could use my time daydreaming about my chapters. Or about nothing. Decision made.

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Then I considered what I would do with Twitter. Did it stay or go? There was potential here for me to improve usage and make it work for my career ambitions. I had used Twitter the previous year to ask for translation assistance. Outside of that I did little other than making random comments on articles that caught my interest. What would happen if I made a concentrated effort to communicate on Twitter? A lot of information was being shared there by researchers and GLAM members here. The potential of this space intrigued me. I was still awaiting feedback from my Honours convenor as to the creation of an official Honours cohort account. In the meantime, what was to stop me tweeting about my own experience? I could also make a concentrated effort to engage with others in History, Arts, politics and GLAM. Twitter would stay, but I would ensure only for work purposes.

Goodreads. Instagram. Snapchat. The same weigh up occurred. Would it support my, possibly final, year of study? By using that app would I improve awareness of Honours students’ experiences? If the answer was in the negative, I pledged to either step back or delete the app. I could always reinstall at the end of the year.

After going through this process I really felt better. A little more controlled and aware of where I was using my time and why. Now I could focus again on the academic and practical challenges of Honours life.

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Next week I’ll try to focus on how I approached my first archive visit for this project and IRL social life. Thanks for sticking with me.

Keep happy flipping pages-

Honours students: the teenagers of academia

I honestly meant to write a reflection about my Honours year at the end of 2018. The thing is- I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. It wasn’t until I walked across the stage to accept my degree that I realised I was now ready to write. Even though I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to say.

While I reflected, the following opinions began to manifest

  1. I had one of the best years of my life.
  2. I was almost mentally exhausted after my thesis submission.
  3. There were far more opportunities available to me than what I was originally told.
  4. It isn’t just your supervisor that matters, but the Faculty you are embedded in.
  5. I loathed academic life and never want to go back. Actually, this is a complete lie. Pay attention and read point one again.

Honours is quite an odd year. Really, it’s not even a complete twelve months of study. But you are expected, in a short amount of time, to create original research that fills a gap in the large, ever so large and continually changing academic sphere.

Depending on how you are feeling about further study Honours can be either the dessert to your Bachelor of Arts or the entrée to a Masters or PhD degree. For me, I didn’t know. The idea of a PhD was tempting, but I wasn’t sure if I was suited to be a full-time student. I am working class. I have a young family. I’ve worked in hospitality and retail. I am not what society tends to portray as a successful academic. While I wanted this further study to be a starting point, it could have equally been the endpoint due to family commitments and social pressures.

Therefore I wanted to know as much as possible about what to expect. I had seen friends complete their Honours. One of the calmest, clever and organised people I know turned into a self-doubting student before her time in Honours concluded. Another passionate and opinionated associate said ‘have you got a comfy spot on your study floor? ‘Cause I guarantee you’ll be crying in a foetal position on it before the end.’ I heard about high withdrawal rates. I was told I would have issues balancing activities with my family and friends. Honours did not seem to be a time or place where academic kindness, to both self and others occurred.

Before I became too overwhelmed and ran away (as only a Monty Python fan can) I sought out information about what was possible during that one year and how to make Honours tolerable. I wanted to have a plan as to what I was aiming for, sure. But I need to know how to get there too. And I wanted to make sure I didn’t sacrifice my mental health in the process.

I decided I would aim for a First Class outcome. I figured if I aimed for that, and achieved it, I would have proven to myself that I have what it takes to be an academic. But, if this was to be the end of my academic life, I wanted to tie things up in a very pretty bow. It was a matter of doing the best I could while I could: who knew when I would have another opportunity to study at this level?

Once knowing what outcome I wanted, I looked for tips and ideas as to how to achieve this goal. What I found was a lot of blogs dealing with life when starting as an undergraduate student. There are also a lot of musing about life (or lack thereof) as a PhD student. I thought reading about the experiences of others that had gone before me was a good idea. This so I could consider adaptations to my ambitions and existing study skill improvements if needed. The problem was, there wasn’t really anything addressing the Honours year of study.

I thought these findings a bit odd. Considering the amount of conversation and consideration that occurs on campus about completing one’s Honours degree there’s not a lot, if anything, that explicitly addresses life as a Honours student.

Consequently, I modelled my approach to Honours as first-year PhD students appear to do during the early days of their thesis. I mostly enjoyed reading The Thesis Whisperer. The variance in circumstances, different Faculties, different life experiences, different life stages, made it very appealing. I also followed #phdlife on Twitter.

From my BA I knew where I studied best (silence for writing, somewhere I can groove to tunes when editing) and how (with a weekly plan and monthly outcome targets). I knew reading and mind-mapping was best for the night, musing and researching best for the day. This isn’t saying I study all day and night. I have personal and work commitments. It just meant when I had to do my casual/paid work elsewhere during the day, I knew what tasks I could do during the night.

Experience as a peer mentor also allowed me to reflect on the wider student experience in general. I considered how, when students were starting a new course, be it as an undergraduate or a postgraduate, there are certain areas they are most likely to experience problematic issues: personal commitments verses study requirements; financial requirements verses study requirements and commitments; upskilling in areas such as library research. These then became areas for me to raise for discussion with my partner, my supervisor and the library liaison officer.

I then approached my Faculty’s Honours Convenor. This was really nerve-wracking. But I thought it was important to address. I explained how there was a gap in the sector, apparently Honours students are the teenagers of academia (no one sees them and acknowledges their presence unless they’re causing problems). I told him how I thought there was the potential for us to get a Twitter account running to promote both the experience of Honours as an Arts and Education student and also the benefits of specialisation in History. He advised that he would have to propose this to the social media team, he could not guarantee an outcome but was overall very supportive and enthusiastic about the idea.

At this stage, I was still nervous about whether I was suited to complete Honours. But I had identified possible problematic issues and areas where I could improve my skill set.  I was excited about the possibility of sharing my experiences, in some kind of digital format, to create greater awareness of Honours study life.

And that, my dear reader, is where I leave you for the moment. I’ll write to you again shortly. I think next time we will be considering the first weeks of Honours, and how to negotiate expectations versus reality.

Keep happy flipping pages-

 

Beyond the goldfields: Australian migration to early-twentieth-century Shanghai

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A review of a recent book by Sophie Loy-Wilson about Australian migration to China during the early twentieth century.

Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson, Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China  (New York: Routledge 2016), RRP $42.19 AUD. ISBN 9781315756998 (ebook).

I often find myself fascinated by Chinese-Australian relationships due to the topic’s prominence in today’s media. Yet, prior to undertaking this VIDA blog book review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I knew little beyond the mainstream Chinese-Australian histories concerning gold-rush immigration or the ramifications of the White Australia policy for Chinese Australians. When I heard Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson was releasing Australians in Shanghai: Race, Rights and Nation in Treaty Port China, I set about sourcing a copy to delve into this previously little-explored aspect of Australian migration.

Australians in Shanghai focuses upon Australian migration to China during the early twentieth century. Considering histories of both Chinese Australians and white Australians, Loy-Wilson examines life in the Shanghai treaty port in three parts: ‘Building Empires, Crossing Borders,’ ‘Finding Work in the Eastern Markets’, and ‘“Liberating” China, “Saving” Australia.’ What makes this port space so intriguing, Loy-Wilson argues, is how nationals from French and British colonies existed within this Chinese space, yet were subject to the laws of their own colonial nation.

An Australian history lecturer at The University of Sydney, Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson specialises in the social and cultural histories concerning Australian engagement in China. Significantly, Loy-Wilson’s personal background underlies her work. In 1995, she arrived in Shanghai as a teenager with her parents when her father took up a post in the Australian Embassy. It was this experience which initiated her interest concerning the experiences of Australians in China.

Australians in Shanghai narrows the broader scope of the Shanghai port to an analysis of the life of Shanghai Princess, Daisy Kwok.  Through materials from the Kwok family archive, readers are taken on a journey which considers this inter-cultural port, politics in Communist China, and transnational familial relationships. Kwok’s story becomes a means for Loy-Wilson to demonstrate how four famous department-store businesses were established by Chinese Australians, the Kwok family contribution being Wing On (22-23). During a period in which capitalism and industrialisation emerged in Shanghai, these stores became crucial capitalist sites (52). The impact of such spaces continues to be significant. Through Loy-Wilson’s descriptions of this business space, I came to feel empathy for Daisy. Her dualistic national identity in association with capitalist acts led to punitive treatment by China’s Red Guards and the deliberate destruction of her ‘luxurious’ pre-Revolution life (71-82). 

Another fascinating element of Australian history explored in Australians in Shanghai is the exploration of white Australians in Shanghai. Using records from the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) archives, Loy-Wilson considers how the Great Depression impacted Australian migrants. Her thorough research illuminates how economic migrants from Australia drew upon colonial relationships to gain economic privilege and settle in Shanghai (93). By dislodging the supremacy of narratives concerning Chinese migrants entering Australia, Loy-Wilson creates a space to examine how class and commerce intersected as Australian expatriate communities were established in Shanghai (96). Archival documents concerning people such as an Australian piano player Harry Kerry illustrate how Australians were considered as uncivilised with ‘drunken behaviour and non-payment of debts’ due to the indulgence in ‘alcoholic bouts from time to time,’ which left Kerry ‘quite unfit for work’ (118). Interestingly, the widespread behaviours of people such as Kerry led to a formal request being made to the Australian government to stop these ‘undesirables’ coming into China (96).

Some readers might interpret Australians in Shanghai as more inclined towards an academic audience, or one with pre-existing knowledge of political Chinese-Australian relations. However, Loy-Wilson provides readers with only a foundational understanding of Chinese-Australian relations with suggestions, directing them towards broader foundational works about Chinese Australian history and heritage, such as Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynold’s book Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the Question of Racial Equality (2008) and contemporary blogs such as Kate Bagnall’s The Tiger’s Mouth (28).

Overall, Australians in Shanghai is a fantastic book through which to consider the complex migratory relationships existing between Australia and China. Loy-Wilson expertly draws her readers in and past key moments in Australian-Chinese relations, such as the late nineteenth century gold rush and the ‘Australian diplomats visiting China to re-establish ties’ at the end of the Cold War (182). In doing so, she reveals how to move beyond the goldfields and into a boisterous space in which individual Chinese-Australian and white-Australian voices were the motivation to establish complex transcolonial connections (187).

 

Moving beyond the stainglass ceiling: a reflection concerning NGV’s Colony and Frontier (2018).

I grew up under the stain-glass ceiling of the National Gallery of Victoria [NGV]. My grandmother had two set outings for her grandchildren once they had celebrated their fifth birthday- a visit to the Royal Melbourne Show and a journey to the NGV. Recently, I walked beyond what my grandmother had known to explore the companion exhibitions of  Colony: Australia 1770-1861 [Colony] and Colony: Frontier Wars[1] [Frontier] at the Ian Potter Centre, Federation Square.

To be clear, my expectations for these exhibitions was firmly grounded in previous experiences of the NGV. I had expected, with being housed at the Ian Potter Centre, that this exhibition/ s would be not lesser, as I expected to come away thinking about both colonial and indigenous experiences of settlement and invasion, but requiring less of my time than would, say MoMA.[2]

First impressions of Colony were of appreciation. A line of shields from various indigenous spaces line the wall. I was drawn to them, seeking to see in greater detail their carvings and use of pigmentation. It was not until I reached the end of the line that I realised I had not read the formal introduction to the exhibition. I backtracked, the shields drawing my attention again until I was ready to read the note a curator had written to introduce me to the Colony exhibition. Once I finished reading I returned to the line of shields, having commenced what I call my viewing two-step: I walk a step forward and then tiptoe back for another glimpse at something which I can’t quite let go of yet. For me the greatest impression had already been made- Australia’s history should be recognised as existing prior to Cook’s arrival.

The exhibition continued with focusing on the classic characterisations of Captain Cook and Joseph Banks and at this I wasn’t surprised. However, the content placed these “great” European men in different contexts to what I usually saw, demonstrating both the admiration in the engraving ‘The Apotheosis of Captain Cook’ (1794) and condemnation in ‘The great South Seas Caterpillar transformed into a Bath Butterfly’ they received for their acts as explorers and natural historians.

Image: Ferdinand Bauer 
Banksia coccinea 1806–13, published 1813 
plate 3 from Illustrationes florae Novae Hollandiae, sive icones generum quae in Prodromo Novae Hollandiae et insulae van Diemen decripsit Robertus Brown, published London 1813

Walking through Colony, it became apparent from the items within that curiosity was a driver to capture images of the new land. Images of caterpillars, flowers, birds, and landscapes abounded. Almost immediately the colonisers attempts to understand the land and the people occupying this land becomes apparent. Here I was most delighted with the hand-coloured engraving by Johann Eberhard Ihle and John Chapman. I cringed at the name, ‘An exact portrait of a savage of Botany Bay (1895) however I did enjoy being able to move close enough to see the minute detail of orange parrot feathers in this Aboriginal man’s hair. I relished the moment- one which reminded me so much of the parrots I see in my present-day life, one which would have been lost had I simply looked through the frame of a distant painting high up on the wall.

As I progressed through the exhibition a theme which became apparent to me within a majority of the landscape paintings was the prominence of flags. The Union Jack. Ship flags. Flags with family crest. Later, State flags. From George Reaper’s pen and ink and watercolour ‘Plan of Port Jackson, coast of New South Wales’ (1788-91), to W.B. Gould’s watercolour ‘A north east view of Macquarie Harbour’ (1833), and Joseph Lycett’s hand-coloured lithograph ‘North east view of Hobart-Town, Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land’ (1823), to John Michael Skipper’s watercolour ‘Holdfast Bay, South Australia 1836’ (1836), flags abounded. It got to the point I was bouncing (carefully) from image to image pointing (carefully) to each flag I saw. It became so clear that I was in the process of viewing border construction and claims; it was both fascinating and terrifying to see how quickly the various flags proliferated across the rapidly urbanising landscapes.

While amused at times, this feeling was minimal with the knowledge I was viewing a contentious history. This was no more apparent than when I came across a series of sketch maps produced during the 1840s, in Victoria.  Woiwurrung man Billibellary provided a pencil map of the Yarra Region. William Thomas worked with Kuburra of the Kulin nation during the 1840s to produce a map of the Yarra Ranges while Thomas is also attributed with a map concerning the Yarra region. Significantly, unlike previous colonial-themed exhibitions I have viewed, it was here I saw recognition of the massacres which occurred during Victoria’s colonisation. Thomas’ pen and ink map titled ‘Muston’s Creek massacre map: Where the blacks were shot’ (1842) provides detailed visual evidence when three women and a child were killed with another woman mortally wounded. While three of the eight men were brought to trial for their roles in these deaths ‘[t]hey were found not guilty.’ This map appears to me as a crime scene sketch rather than a sketch map- the distance from a European landowner’s hut measured to the place ‘where the blacks were shot’. This document speaks clearly of the violence within Australia’s colonial history.

As Colony concludes it can be clearly seen there is an evolution of colonists’ understanding of the land. This became particularly apparent once South Australia and Victoria’s colonisation stories had been presented to viewers and the emergence of pastoralism in works such as the oil on canvas by Robert Dowling ‘Jeremiah Ware’s stock on Minjah Station (1856) and Eugene von Guerard’s oil on canvas ‘Koort Koort-nong homestead near Camperdown, Victoria, with Mount Elephant in the distance’ (1860). Again, boundaries were being drawn, but this time with fences rather than with flags.

Image: Eugene von Guérard
Koort Koort-nong homestead, near
Camperdown, Victoria 1860
Rex Nan Kivell Collection: National Library of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Within Frontier, my sense of awe and interest was replaced with engagement and listening, or viewing, not so much a removed process of aesthetic pleasure. I was pulled into the exhibition space by Gordon Bennett’s ‘Terra Nullius’; the bright colours, blue and red, a stark contrast to the earth-tones of the shields which had pulled me into Colony.

From this moment I felt I was being pulled between Colony and Frontier. The images in Colony which had represented colonial skills and curiosity were here placed in a context of categorisation and hierarchies. Brook Andrew’s ‘Vox: Beyond Tasmania’ (2013) literally stopped me, asked me to twist and bend my body to see the various images taken from the archives, previously used to categorise Aboriginal Australia. Here the archival representation shocked me, for it did make me think about not only what I had appreciated and questioned in Colony hours before, but the position from which I posed those questions.

If the theme of Colony was flags within Frontier women were the strongest presence. While I didn’t dance as before across from artwork to artwork I did relish each moment I saw a female face and read a woman’s story. These women were not represented only as mothers or wives, as predominantly done in Colony, but as knowledgeable leaders, active, and alive. From Maree Clarke’s ‘Ritual and Ceremony’ (2013) photograph, r e a’s video ‘PolesApart’ (2009), to Genevieve Grieves video ‘Lament’ (2015) and Yvonne Koolmatrie’s woven sculpture ‘Mother’ (2005);   each woman present, be she an image on a canvas or a name on an information plate commanded my attention, compelling me to engage with her stories.

It was the light in Frontier which has stayed with me in the days since I visited NGV. The way Steaphan Paton’s video ‘Cloaked Combat’ (2013) flickered, calling us into the interior room and the white cross painted at the lower right corner of Clinton Nain’s painting ‘Erub has a bitumen road now’ (2004) representing the unwanted cultural work of evangelical missionaries. The black gloss of Yhonnie Scarce’s sculpture ‘Blood on the Wattle (Elliston, South Australia, 1849’ (2013) pulled my shadow into its folds as I stood over the two mounds, covered by 400 individual casts of long yams inside a life-sized Perspex coffin, giving me time to acknowledge the wrongs and pains of past massacres. It was the light of Frontier which both soothed my eyes, tired from looking all day, but commanded me to be there, witness, and see.

Finally, in our last moments within the display, we looped back, figuratively, to where we had started hours before. Again, I stood in front of a display of shields. This time, however, it wasn’t a conforming display of regimented shields with the provenance and maker lost to processes of colonisation. This time I saw piles of artefacts, their makers “once known”, bringing the fragility of knowledge into my awareness.

Installation view of Steaphan Paton’s Cloaked combat 2013 and midden of 85 cultural objects by once known Indigenous makers in Colony: Frontier Wars at NGV Australia, Fed Square. Image: Tom Ross

As closing time came my partner and I walked away from Colony and Frontier to find a quiet spot to talk over what we had seen that day. For my partner, one of the greatest highlights in Colony had been the artistic evolution from 2D to 3D images. Within Frontier it was the way light was used; Julie Dowling’s ‘Federation Series: 1901-2001’ (2001) especially captured his attention. He explained Dowling made him see, through what must have been an illusion, his image in theirs. I voiced my wish, that I had more time to return to both exhibitions and view them again. I wondered what the music sheet, ‘Music of the Natives of New South Wales’ (1824) sounded like-was it anything like the true sound made at that time? We pondered why we had never spent so long in an NGV exhibition before. Was it my interest in History and issues of representation within museums which drew me in? [1] Was it my partner’s love of art which drew them in? In the end we decided it was the ability of the artists and curators involved to represent the interplay between two cultures, both of which inform our positions as Australians trying to find our way in a world debating treaty, the colonial role of museums and galleries, and issues of Australian identity which kept us there. With the 250 anniversary of James Cook’s landing on Australia set to occur in 2020 it is vital spaces such as the National Gallery of Victoria which continue to work to ‘highlight…the multiple perspectives of our colonial history.’ [2] If only so to give Australia’s populations the means to both push back and pull forward upon their histories.

Note: Deakin University is a major sponsor to this exhibition. While a student of Deakin, I have not received any financial or material contributions to assist with the writing of this post.

[1] Which could of have acknowledged the longevity on this land with the apply something as simple as “past to present”.

[2] On this I was so very wrong. We spent three hours at Colony, two hours at MoMA and one hour at Frontier, but the latter was rushed due to closing time coming far too soon for our liking.

[3] For more information regarding neutrality in museums see: N Sentance, ‘Your neutral is not our neutral’, in Archival Decolonist [- o -], , 2018, <https://archivaldecolonist.com/2018/05/30/your-neutral-is-not-our-neutral-2/&gt; [accessed 30 May 2018].

[4] Colony Australia 1770-1861, C Leahy & J Ryan (eds), Melbourne, Vic, NGV, 2018, p.X.

Lancelot Threlkeld

Users are warned the below content may contain words which may be culturally sensitive. These terms and concepts may be the consequence of historical author’s worldview and may not be considered appropriate today.  These views are not necessarily the views of the below article’s author.[1]

Born                20 October 1788

Died                 10 October 1859

Spouse             married 1808, Martha Goss (born 1794, died 7 March 1824)

married 20 October 1824, Sarah Arndell (born 17 January 1796, died 1853)

Children          with Martha: [unnamed] Threlkeld (born and died 1816), Joseph Thomas Threlkeld (born 1817), Martha, Tabitha, Mary Williams (born 1823, died 1887).

with Sarah: Elizabeth Sophia (born 1825), Lancelot Edward Threlkeld born 1827, died 1882), Sarah Ann (born 1830), Thomas Samuel Threlkeld (born 1834, died 1883).

Ordained         8 November 1815

 

The Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld (20 October 1788 – 10 October 1859) was an English evangelical missionary, primarily situated in Australia. Threlkeld was married twice and was survived by sons and daughters from both marriages.[1]

Early Life

Born in England, on 20 October 1788, Threlkeld was son of Samuel Joseph Threlkeld, a brush maker and Mary, his wife.[2] In 1813 Threlkeld commenced training as an evangelical missionary with the London Missionary Society. His missionary career began in 1814 when he was sent on assignment to the Society Islands.[3]

Missionary Life

Evangelist

Threlkeld was ordained as a missionary on 8 November 1815 and sailed for Tahiti, but the illness and subsequent death of his child detained Threlkeld for a year at Rio de Janeiro, where he started a Protestant church.[4] He left for Sydney on 22 January 1817, arrived on 11 May, after a short stay went to the South Sea Islands, and arrived at Eimeo (now Mo’orea, in French Polynesia) in November.

A missionary station was formed at Raiatea and Threlkeld worked there for nearly seven years. His wife died, and being left with four children he returned to Sydney in 1824.[5] Here, Daniel Tyerman and George Bennet, travelling LMS Deputies, appointed Threlkeld as missionary to Lake Macquarie Aboriginals.[6] Situated on land allocated by Governor Brisbane, Threlkeld was instructed to teach Aboriginals agriculture, carpentry and establish a children’s school. The LMS also dictated Threlkeld learn the local language as a precursor to successful Christian conversions.[7]

Lake Macquarie Mission Map 1828

Figure 3: The shaded red area is the allocated land for the ‘Station of the Mission to the Aborigines, belonging to the London Missionary Society.’[8]

By September 1826 Threlkeld and family were living onsite at Bahtahbah mission, within a six-roomed house.[9] Alongside the Threlkeld family were three British overseers, one assigned convict, one adult and one child domestic.[10] Threlkeld, who was paying Aboriginal workers on site with fishing hooks, food and clothing, wrote in 1825 ‘[i]t is my intention to act here upon the same plan we found so successful at Raiatea namely, give nothing to any individual but in return for some labour for common good!’.[11]  Threlkeld wrote of the early period of the mission’s settlement Aboriginals frequenting the mission sought land allocations as ‘two natives have spoken to me already to allow them a portion of land for agriculture.’[12]

Residing onsite at Bahtahbah mission enabled Threlkeld to work closely and frequently with Awabakal Elder, Biraban.[13] One significant task they undertook together was the reduction of the Awabakal language into written form. Threlkeld wrote of this period as one being filled with mornings in which he worked with Biraban, ‘who speaks very good English, in writing the language…Our conversations vary, and cruise from enquiries into their customs and habits. Easy sentences, passages from scripture, and information on Christian subjects are attempted.’[14] A consequence of such interactions Threlkeld published Specimens of a Dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales.[15]

Despite this sociolinguistic success in 1827 the lack of religious conversions led to the LMS objecting to Threlkeld’s expenses, this assertion also influenced Threlkeld’s conflict with colonial Magistrate and Reverend Samuel Marsden and Presbyterian minister, John Dunmore Lang.[16] The LMS consequently appointed Marsden financial overseer, and thus manager, of Bahtahbah mission.[17] In 1828 the LMS, dissatisfied with Threkeld’s evangelical work, directed Threlkeld to abandon Bahtahbah mission, and offered to pay for his return to London.[18] Declining the LMS invitation Threlkeld was subsequently appointed by Governor Darling, on behalf of the Colonial Government, to continue his “Christianisation and civilisation” work with a salary of £150 a year and four convict servants, with rations.[19] This mission was allocated between 1000-1280 acres on the northern side of Lake Macquarie, and was named as Derabambah, Punte and Puneir by Aboriginal populations and Ebenezer (mission) by the European population. Initially, a mission house with 12 rooms was built from weatherboard and plaster.[20] Later, the site also hosted a storehouse, a barn, a hut (which was a living quarters for Australian-European men living on site), orchards and fenced cattle spaces.[21] However, with less financial support and goods to distribute Threlkeld’s ability to persuade Awabakal people to remain on site dramatically decreased.[22] The official closure of the Ebenezer Mission occurred on 31 December 1841, with the precarious financial position of Threlkeld leading to the establishment of grazing stock and mining of coal seams on the property.[23] In 1842 the British Secretary of State for the Colonies designated the evangelical missions, such as Threlkeld’s, as failures.[24] However, the LMS having received a letter from Quakers James Backhouse and George Washington Walker detailing the particular nature of missionary work in the Australian colonies, acknowledged Threlkeld’s ‘vigilance, activity and devotedness to the welfare of the Aboriginal race.’[25]

Subsequently, Threlkeld became pastor of the Congregational church at Watsons Bay, Sydney. He was appointed minister of the Mariners’ church (Sydney) in 1845 for the duration of his lifetime.

Interpreter

The Awabakal Scriptures

Threlkeld worked in association with Biraban to translate, conceptualise and write various Christian religious texts.[26] Threlkeld publish a book describing the Awabakal language An Australian Grammar, comprehending the Principles and Natural Rules of the Language, as spoken by the Aborigines, in the vicinity of Hunter’s river, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales.[27] This was followed in 1836 by An Australian Spelling Book in the Language spoken by the Aborigines. Threlkeld described the translation process with Biraban as follows: ‘[t]hrice I wrote it [the Gospel of Luke], and he and I went through it sentence by sentence as we proceeded. McGill spoke the English language fluently.’[28] The objective of Threlkeld was to create a linguistic record ‘before the speakers themselves become totally extinct’, as a means of ‘scientific inquiry’ and ‘ethnographical pursuits.’[29] Threlkeld began translating the New Testament into the Hunter’s River Aboriginal language, yet with the realisation in 1842 his mission was achieving little success Threlkeld ceased this linguistic work.[30] Threlkeld later resumed working on publications of the Awabakal language, publishing A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language (1850) and was working on a translation of the four Gospels at the time of his sudden death on October 10, 1859.[31]

The Supreme Court

Threlkeld’s linguistic work was highly valued in the Colonial Courts during the 1830s as ‘Aborigines were not permitted to give evidence in court, not being allow to swear an oath on the bible without adhering to Christianity’.[32] Threlkeld also provided ethnographic information which was used to inform Judges’ conclusions in numerous cases.[33]

Protector

Threlkeld used the mission’s Annual Reports and formal inquiries, such as Committee on the Aborigines Question, as moments to attempt to ameliorate Aboriginal dispossession and violent subjection.[34] In 1840 Threlkeld, writing to Colonial Secretary, highlighted the paradoxical nature of the colonial courts:

I am now perfectly at a loss to describe to them [Aboriginals] their position. Christian laws will hang the aborigines from violence done to Christians, but Christian laws will not protect them from the aggressions of nominal Christians, because aborigines must give evidence only upon oath.[35]

After the closure of Ebenezer mission, Threlkeld served on Aboriginal welfare boards, attended police courts in support of Aboriginal defendants, and became a member of the Ethnological Society, London .[36] In 1853 Threlkeld argued the low status attributed to Aboriginals was a means of ‘convenient assumption’ as such characterisation at the level of ‘species of wild beasts, [meant] there could be no guilt attributed to those [settlers] who shot them off or poisoned them,’.[37]

Contemporary relevance

From the late 1970s Threlkeld’s accounts were utilised in the regions of the Hunter Valley and Watagan Mountains in Land Rights claims and the determination of Aboriginal sites of significance.[38]

In 1986 Threlkeld’s work became the basis for an Awabakal language revitalisation project.[39]

Representations within Australia’s History Wars

Threlkeld’s Annual Reports, which contained information concerning Aboriginal massacres, such as the Waterloo Creek massacre are crucial points of contention within Australia’s History Wars. Historian Keith Windschuttle argues Threlkeld inflated numbers of the Aboriginal dead in order to gain support for his mission proposals.[40] Alternatively, John Harris, asserts Threlkeld is a source which supplements the few Aboriginal eyewitness accounts of this historic period.[41] Macintyre explains the intersection of these viewpoints within Australia’s media and the National Museum of Australia has constituted Threlkeld’s era as ‘the most fiercely contested aspect of the national story.’[42]

Publications

  • Aboriginal Mission, New South Wales (1825)
  • Specimens of a Dialect, of the Aborigines of New South Wales; being the First Attempt to Form their Speech into a Written Language (1827)
  • A Statement chiefly relating to The Formation and Abandonment of a Mission to the Aborigines (1928)
  • An Australian Grammar, Comprehending the Principles and Natural Rules of the Language, as Spoken by the Aborigines, in the Vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, &c. New South Wales (1834)
  • Morning Prayers in the Awabakal Dialect (1835)
  • An Australian Spelling Book, in the Language as Spoken by the Aborigines, in the Vicinity of Hunter’s River, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales (1836)
  • A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language (1850)

Further Reading

M. Carey, ‘Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Colonial Bible in Australia’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 52, no. 02, 2002, pp. 447-478.

H.M. Carey ‘Lancelot Threlkeld and missionary linguistics in Australia to 1850’, Missionary Linguistics/Lingüística Misionera: Selected Papers from the First International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Oslo 13-16 March 2003, ed. by Otto Zwartjes and Even Hovdhaugn, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004, pp.253-275.

Austin, et al., Land of Awabakal, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, New South Wales, 1995.

Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979.

Sutton, ‘Unusual Couples: Relationships and Research on the Knowledge Frontier’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 29 May 2002, < https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/presentations/2002-wentworth-sutton-unusual-couples-relationships-research.pdf>, retrieved 10 September 2017.

External Links

Australian Dictionary Biography

State Library of New South Wales

Trove National Library of Australia

References

 

 

[1] N. Gunson, ‘Notes’[c], p.176; Image 1: Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld (c.1850).

[2]   J. Harris, One Blood: 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity: A Story of Hope, Albatross Books, New South Wales, 1990, p.53.

[3] C. Wilkes, Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, Vol. 2, Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard, 1845, p.250; J. Harris, pp.53-5; K. Clouten, Reid’s Mistake: The Story of Lake Macquarie from its Discovery until 1890,Lake Macquarie Shire Council, New South Wales, 1967, p.22; Wikipedia, ‘Society Islands’, Wikipedia [website], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_Islands, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[4] J. Fraser, ‘Introduction’, in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p.xv; J. Harris, p.55; K. Clouten, p.22; N. Gunson, ‘Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/threlkeld-lancelot-edward-2734/text3859&gt;, retrieved 8 September 2017.

[5] A. Keary, ‘Christianity, colonialism, and cross-cultural translation: Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal,’ Aboriginal History, 2003, p.120; J. Harris, p.55; State Library of New South Wales, Biraban and the Reverend Threlkeld’, State Library of New South Wales [website], Archive, 4 September 2008, <http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/discover_collections/history_nation/indigenous/vocabularies/missionary/biraban.html> retrieved 21 September 2017.

[6] Wikipedia, ‘Daniel Tyerman’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Tyerman>, retrieved 29 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘George Bennet (missionary)’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bennet_(missionary)>, retrieved 29 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘Lake Macquarie’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Lake_Macquarie>, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[7] A. Keary, pp.120-1; J. Harris, p.55; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, The Aboriginals of Lake Macquarie: A brief history Lake Macquarie City Council, New South Wales, 1995, p.31; K. Clouten, pp.22-23; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Selected Correspondence’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume II, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.181; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘The Gospel by St. Luke Translated into the Language of the Awabakal by L.E. Threlkeld’, in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p.125; P. van Toorn, Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of writing in Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2006, p.40; Wikipedia, ‘Thomas Brisbane’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Brisbane#Governor>, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[8] J. Cross, & H. Dangar, ‘Map of the River Hunter, and its branches [cartographic material]: shewing the Lands reserved thereon for Church purposes, the Locations made to Settlers, and the Settlement and part of the Lands of the Australian Agricultural Company at Port Stephens together with the Station of the Mission to the Aborigines belonging to the London Missionary Society on Lake Macquarie, New South Wales’, Trove  [website], 1828, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-230579854, retrieved 10 September 2017.

[9] A. Keary, p.122; K. Clouten, p.25.

[10] C. Wilkes, p.253; J. Harris, p.55; K. Clouten, p.25.

[11] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Selected Correspondence’, p.178; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, p.32.

[12] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Selected Correspondence’, p.183.

[13] L.E, Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.98;

[14] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, p.98; Wikipedia, ‘Biraban’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biraban>, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[15] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘The Gospel by St. Luke Translated into the Language of the Awabakal by L.E. Threlkeld’, p.125.

[16] C., Wilkes, p.252; J. Harris, pp.55-5-; K. Clouten, p.26; P. van Toorn, pp.40-41; Wikipedia, ‘John Dunmore Lang, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dunmore_Lang>, retrieved 29 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘Samuel Marsden’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Marsden>, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[17] K. Clouten, p.26.

[18] C. Wilkes, p.251; J. Harris, p.56; K. Clouten, pp.26-29; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, p.32.

[19] A. Keary, p.126; J. Harris, p.56; C. Wilkes, p.251; K. Clouten, p.28; N. Gunson, ‘Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)’, retrieved 8 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘Ralph Darling’, Wikipedia [website], < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Darling&gt;, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[20] K. Clouten, pp.28-29; Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979, p.7.

[21] C. Wilkes, p.250; K. Clouten, p.30.

[22] A. Keary, p.126.

[23] N. Gunson, ‘Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)’, retrieved 8 September 2017.

[24] J. Harris, p.23; Wikipedia, ‘Secretary of State for the Colonies’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_of_State_for_the_Colonies#Secretaries_of_State_for_the_Colonies.2C_1854.E2.80.931903>, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[25] J. Harris, p.59; K. Clouten, p.32; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, p.40; Wikipedia, ‘James Backhouse’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Backhouse>, retrieved 30 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘George Washington Walker’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_Walker>, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[26] The University of Newcastle, ‘Backhouse, James Chapters 33-35 From A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies, The University of Newcastle [website], 2017, Cultural Collections<Backhouse, James. Chapters 33-35 from A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies. London : Hamilton, Adams, 1843. pp.368 – 414.  https://downloads.newcastle.edu.au/library/cultural%20collections/pdf/backhouse.pdf > retrieved 14 September 2017, pp.381-2.

[27] A. Keary, p.125; J. Harris, p.56; The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842)  Sat 12 Mar 1831  Page 3  Original Correspondence. ; P. Sutton, ‘Unusual Couples: Relationships and Research on the Knowledge Frontier’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 29 May 2002, < https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/presentations/2002-wentworth-sutton-unusual-couples-relationships-research.pdf>, retrieved 10 September 2017. p.2. ‘Oiginal Correspondence, Civilisation of the Blacks

[28] J. Harris, p.57.

[29] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language’, in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p.120.

[30] J. Fraser, ‘Introduction’, pp.xi-lxiv; K. Clouten, p.32.

[31] Wikipedia, ‘Gospel’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel>, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[32] J. Harris, p.57; Wikipedia, ‘Christianity’, Wikipedia [website], < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity&gt;, retrieved 30 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Boatman or jackass and bulleye [1832] NSWSupC 4’, Macquarie Law School [website], 12 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1832/r_v_boatman_or_jackass_and_bulleye/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Jackey [1834] NSWSupC 94’, Macquarie Law School [website], 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1834/r_v_jackey/>, retrieved 25 September 2017.

[33] A. Johnston, ‘A Blister on the Imperial Antipodes: Lancelot Edward Threlkeld in Polynesia and Australia’, in D. Lambert & A. Lester ed., Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2006, pp.74-75; A. Johnston, The Paper War, UWA Publishing, Western Australia, 2011, p.183; J. Turner, & G. Blyton, p.38; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Boatman or jackass and bulleye [1832] NSWSupC 4’, Macquarie Law School [website], 12 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, <http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1832/r_v_boatman_or_jackass_and_bulleye/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Kilmeiste (No.1) [1838] NSWSupC 105’, Macquarie Law School [website], 22 June 2012, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1838/r_v_kilmeister1/>, retrieved 25 September 2017;  Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Long Jack [1838] NSWSupC 44’, Macquarie Law School [website], 19 September 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1838/r_v_long_jack/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Long Dick [1835] NSWSupC 43’, Macquarie Law School [website], 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1835/r_v_long_dick/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Mickey and Muscle [1835] NSWSupC 5’, Macquarie Law School [website], 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1835/r_v_mickey_and_muscle/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Murrell and Bummaree (1836) 1 Legge 72;  [1836] NSWSupC 35’, Macquarie Law School [website], 12 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1836/r_v_murrell_and_bummaree/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Tommy [1827] NSWSupC 70’, Macquarie Law School [website], 22 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, <http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1827/r_v_tommy/ >, retrieved 25 September 2017.

[34] A, Johnston, The Paper War, p.215; A. Keary, pp.122-4; A. Johnston, ‘A Blister on the Imperial Antipodes: Lancelot Edward Threlkeld in Polynesia and Australia’, p.75; K. Windschuttle, ‘The Myths of Frontier Massacres in Australian History: Part III: Massacre Stories and the Policy on Separatism’, Quandrant, December, 2000, p.9; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, pp.83-176; New South Wales Legislative Council, ‘Aborigines Question: report from the Committee on the Aborigines Question, with the minutes of evidence’, New South Wales Legislative Council, J. Spilsbury, Sydney, 1838.

[35] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, p.166.

[36] N. Gunson, ‘Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)’, retrieved 8 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘Ethnological Society of London’, Wikipedia [website], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnological_Society_of_London, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[37] J. Harris, p.27.

[38] J. Maynard, ‘Awabakal voices: The life and work of Percy Haslam, John Maynard’, Aboriginal History, Vol 37, 2013, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/24046959>, retrieved September 11 2017, p.86; K. Austin, et al., Land of Awabakal, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, New South Wales, 1995, p.24; Wikipedia, ‘Land Rights’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_land_rights_in_Australia&gt;, retrieved 4 October 2017.

[39] J. Maynard, p.88.

[40] A. Johnston, ‘A Blister on the Imperial Antipodes: Lancelot Edward Threlkeld in Polynesia and Australia’, p.81; K. Windschuttle, p.9.

[41] A, Keary, p.117; J. Harris, ‘Aboriginal Massacres DID happen’, Eternity [website],< https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/aboriginal-massacres-did-happen/&gt; , retrieved 27 August 2017.

[42] S. Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia’, 3rd edn, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2009, p.61; J. Connor, The Australian Frontier Wars: 1788-1838, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2002, pp.63-67; Wikipedia, ‘National Museum of Australia’, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_Australia>, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[1] Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, ‘Sensitivity’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 2017, Sensitivity, <https://aiatsis.gov.au/sensitivity>, retrieved 8 September 2017.

Biraban

Users are warned the below content may contain words which may be culturally sensitive. These terms and concepts may be the consequence of historical author’s worldview and may not be considered appropriate today.  These views are not necessarily the views of the below article’s author.[1]

Born                c.1800

Died                 14 April 1846

Other names    We-pohng, Barabahn, Bi-ra-ban, Biraban, John McGill, M’Gill, MacGil, Maggill.

Spouse             Ti-pah-mah-ah (Patty)

Biraban (born c.1800- died 14 April, 1846) was a leader of the Awabakal people, Indigenous Australians located at Lake Macquarie and surrounds[1]. His native name prior to Awabakal initiation was We-pohng; his naming as Biraban is reference to his totemic relationship with the eaglehawk.[2]

 

We-pohng was born at Bahtahbah (Belmont, New South Wales) c.1800[3]. During his childhood We-pohng was stolen by the British and raised within the military barracks located in Sydney.[4] Subsequently We-pohng was assigned to Captain J.M. Gill, a member of the 46th Regiment.[5] We-pohng remained with Captain Gill from February 1814 until Captain Gill departed Australia in the December of 1817.[6] It was at this time We-pohng became fluent in English and was bestowed the name M’Gill (and its derivatives) as an indication of Captain Gill’s “ownership”.[7]

We-pohng commenced assisting Captain Allman in 1821 with the establishment of a penal colony, assuming the role of regional guide, interpreter and a special constable, with We-pohng utilising his tracking skills to apprehend convicts escaping from Port Macquarie.[8]

Prior to his return to Newcastle  in 1925 We-pohng married Ti-pah-mah-ah, with which he had one son, Ye-row-wa.[9]

Return to Awabakal

From 1825 Biraban served as an informant to the missionary Lancelot Edward Threlkeld teaching him the Awabakal language and cosmology.[10]

In 1826 Biraban experienced his Awabakal clan initiation in which he was transposed from boyhood to manhood.[11] Subsequently Biraban acted as a spokesperson for the Awabakal clan, with part of his duties involving reporting ‘assaults on Aboriginal people to Threlkeld who, in turn, reported them to the colonial authorities,’ and acting as a distributor of British material goods to Aboriginal people.[12]

Biraban assisted Threlkeld to establish a LMS Mission, and later the Colonial government Ebenezer (mission), on Awabakal land.[13] In preparation for the LMS Mission Biraban worked alongside two other indigenous men to fell ‘trees to make room for the erection of…[a mission] house and prepare for planting some Indian corn.’[14]

Linguistic and translation work

Speaking English fluently Biraban was frequently was called upon by the colonial government to act as an interpreter between Aboriginal clan members and settlers.[15] A notable work in which Biraban was involved was the interpretation and transcription of Christian religious texts into the Awabakal language.[16] Threlkeld recognised the value of Biraban as his local teacher, writing, ‘[i]t was very evident that M’Gill [Biraban] was accustomed to teach his native language, for when he was asked the name of anything, he pronounced the word very distinctly, syllable by syllable, so that it was impossible to mistake it.’[17] It was later admitted by Threlkeld that Biraban was crucial to his translation work, with the Awabakal translation and publication of St. Luke’s Gospel  being ‘principally translated by Macgill himself.’[18]

Whilst translating Christian texts Biraban also shared with Threlkeld knowledge of Awabakal cosmology, detailing stories of Koun, Tippakal, Por-rang, and his personal life.[19] Biraban also incorporated Christian theology into the Awabakal cosmological order, offering a dreaming narrative, to Threlkeld, concerning Jehovah; Biraban conceptualised Jehovah as an indigenous being which appears to only men.[20] Biraban’s authority within the Aboriginal clans and his ability to disseminate Christian beliefs to Aboriginal people positioned Biraban to be considered by Threlkeld as a missionary teacher, yet this plan was abandoned as Threlkeld felt Biraban was unable to be baptised due to his preference for alcoholic beverages.[21]

By 1830 the value Biraban’s translation work was widely acknowledged. Governor Sir Ralph Darling gifted to Biraban a brass plate with the inscription: ‘Baraban, or Macgil, Chief of the Tribe at Bartabah, on Lake Macquarie: a reward for his assistance in reducing his Native Tongue to a written language.’[22]  At this time Biraban was also active in Supreme Court translations with Threlkeld. Yet, despite being fluent in English, Biraban’s non-Christian status resulted with the Court dismissing Biraban as a competent witness.[23]

Contemporary recognition

Biraban is the inspiration for the poem The Eagle Chief.[24]

The Biraban Public School recognises Biraban’s connection to the region and work as leader and linguist.[25]

In the Canberra suburb of Aranda Biraban is remembered with a street named in his honour.[26]

The University of Newcastle hosts the Birabahn Cultural Trail and Birabahn Building.

Further Reading

Attwood, The Making of the Aborigines, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1989, pp.1-31.

Stockburn & G.Barker, ‘Aboriginal and European Annual Meeting Days, 1814-1837’, Parramatta Heritage Centre [website], 5 March 2014, < http://arc.parracity.nsw.gov.au/blog/2014/03/05/annual-meeting-of-the-aboriginal-tribes-at-parramatta/>.

Maynard, ‘Awabakal voices: The life and work of Percy Haslam, John Maynard’, Aboriginal History, Vol 37, 2013, pp.77-92, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/24046959>.

Gunson, ‘Biraban (?–?)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/biraban-1781/text2003, published first in hardcopy 1966.

Haslam, ‘Awabakal songs from the 1950s’, The University of Newcastle[website], 2017, Cultural Collections, < https://downloads.newcastle.edu.au/library/cultural%20collections/pdf/awabakalsongs.pdf&gt;.

State Library of New South Wales, ‘Reverend Lancelot Edward Threlkeld Papers, 1822-1862, Rediscovering Indigenous Languages [website], 2014, <https://indigenous.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/reverend-lancelot-edward-threlkeld-papers-1822-1862-136>, retrieved 21 September 2017.

State Library of New South Wales, ‘Series 02: The Gospel of St Mark, translated into the language of Lake Macquarie Aborigines’, State Library of New South Wales [website], 1837, <http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110332872> retrieved 21 September 2017.

External Links

References

 

[1] A. Keary, ‘Christianity, colonialism, and cross-cultural translation: Lancelot Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal,’ Aboriginal History, 2003, p.117; ‘Family Notices’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 1846, para. 2, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/28650011?searchTerm=M%27Gill%20died&searchLimits=l-title=35|||l-decade=184|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-year=1846>, accessed 25 September 2017; Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979, p.7; ‘Sydney, September 30, 1826’, The Australian,30 September 1826, para. 4, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/37074457/4248933>, accessed 14 September 2017; Biraban’s image reference Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, ‘Biraban’s portrait by Alfred Thomas Agate’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 2017, Threlkeld, < http://aiatsis.gov.au/collections/collections-online/digitised-collections/rare-book-collection/portraits>, accessed 4 September 2017; Wikipedia, ‘Alfred Thomas Agate’, Wikipedia [website], 2017,<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Thomas_Agate>, retrieved 1 October 2017

[2] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘A Key to the Structure of the Aboriginal Language’, in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p.103; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences of Biraban’, in J. Fraser ed., An Australian Language as spoken by the Awabakal the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (Near Newcastle, New South Wales) Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs, Charles Potter, Sydney, 1892, p.88; N. Gunson, ‘Notes’[a], in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.31; P. van Toorn, Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of writing in Australia, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2006, p.42; The University of Newcastle, ‘Biraban Cultural Trail’, The University of Newcastle[website], 2017, Our University, https://www.newcastle.edu.au/about-uon/our-university/indigenous-collaboration/birabahn-cultural-trail, retrieved 11 September 2017.

[3] Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, The Story of the Aboriginal People of the Central Coast of New South Wales, Wyong, New South Wales, 1968, p.11; Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, Toronto Lake Macquarie, N.S.W: The Pictorial Story, Westlake Printers, Boolaroo, 1979, p.7.

[4] L.E.Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences of Biraban’, p.88.

[5] A. Keary, p.123; Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, pp.9-14; Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, p.7; M. Sainty, ‘46th Regiment of Foot’, Biographical Database of Australia (BDA) [website], 2017, <http://www.bda-online.org.au/files/MR8_Military.pdf>, retrieved 30 September 2017; P. van Toorn, p.4.

[6] A. Keary, p.123; Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, pp.9-14; Lake Macquarie & District Historical society, p.7; P. van Toorn, p.4.

[7] A. Keary, p.123; Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, p.14.

[8] A. Keary, p.123; Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, p.15; N. Gunson, ‘Notes’ [b], in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.76; N. Gunson, ‘Threlkeld, Lancelot Edward (1788–1859)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/threlkeld-lancelot-edward-2734/text3859&gt;, retrieved 26 August 2017.

[9] J. Turner & G. Blyton, The Aboriginals of Lake Macquarie: A brief history Lake Macquarie City Council, New South Wales, 1995, p.39; Wikipedia, ‘Newcastle’, Wikipedia [website],  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newcastle,_New_South_Wales, 30 September 2017.

[10] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences of Biraban’, p.88; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences of the Aborigines of New South Wales’, pp. 51-62.

[11] A. Keary, p.123; K. Austin et al., Land of Awabakal, Yarnteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Corporation, New South Wales, 1995, p.22; J. Backhouse and G.W. Walker, ‘Extracts from the Journal of James Backhouse and G.W. Walker,’ in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.126; J. Turner & G. Blyton, pp.40-41; N. Gunson, ‘Introduction’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.6; The University of Newcastle, ‘Virtual Sourcebook for Aboriginal Studies in the Hunter Region Guide: 1830-1869’, The University of Newcastle[website], 2017, Cultural Collections, < http://libguides.newcastle.edu.au/aboriginalsourcebook/1830-1869>, retrieved 14 September 2017.

[12] A. Keary, p.124.

[13] Brisbane Water Historical Society & The Entrance and District Historical Society, p.11; C. Wilkes, Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, Vol. 2, Philadelphia, Lea and Blanchard, 1845, p.250; K. Clouten, Reid’s Mistake: The Story of Lake Macquarie from its Discovery until 1890, Lake Macquarie Shire Council, New South Wales, 1967, pp.22-24.

[14] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, p.90.

[15] N. Gunson, ‘Introduction’, p.6

[16] A. Keary, p.128; J. Turner & G. Blyton, p.40; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, p.97; Wikipedia, ‘Gospel of Luke’, Wikipedia [website], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Luke, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[17] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, p.88; ‘Original Correspondence: Civilisation of the Blacks’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 12 March 1831, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2199518?searchTerm=M%27Gill&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc|||l-category=Article|||l-state=New+South+Wales|||l-decade=183, retrieved 11 September 2017.  ‘

[18] Various, ‘Selected Correspondence’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume II, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, pp.177-314.

[19] L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Reminiscences of the Aborigines of New South Wales’, in N. Gunson ed., Australian Reminiscences & Papers of L.E. Threlkeld Missionary to the Aborigines 1824-1859 Volume I, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra, pp. 51-62; P. van Toorn, p.46.

[20] A. Keary, pp.144-5; ‘The Christian Herald’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1856, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12975782?searchTerm=M%27Gill%20native%20aboriginal&searchLimits=l-title=35|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-category=Article>, retrieved 14 September 2017; L.E. Threlkeld, ‘Memoranda of Events at Lake Macquarie’, pp.98-134; P. van Toorn, pp.47-52; Wikipedia, ‘Jehovah’, Wikipedia [website], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jehovah, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[21] N. Gunson, ‘Introduction’, p.6; Various, ‘Selected Correspondence’, pp.271-2.

[22] J. Turner & G. Blyton, p.40; P. Sutton, ‘Unusual Couples: Relationships and Research on the Knowledge Frontier’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 29 May 2002, < https://aiatsis.gov.au/sites/default/files/docs/presentations/2002-wentworth-sutton-unusual-couples-relationships-research.pdf>, retrieved 10 September 2017; ‘Annual Conference with the Natives’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 9 January 1830, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2194260&gt;, retrieved 21 September 2017; National museum of Australia, ‘Aboriginal breastplates-language teacher rewarded’, National Museum of Australia, <http://www.nma.gov.au/online_features/aboriginal_breastplates/language_teacher_rewarded&gt;, retrieved 20 September 2017; N. Gunson, ‘Introduction’, p.6; Wikipedia, ‘Ralph Darling’, Wikipedia [website], < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Darling&gt;, retrieved 29 September 2017.

[23] Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Jackey [1834] NSWSupC 94’, Macquarie Law School [website], 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1834/r_v_jackey/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; Macquarie University, ‘R. v. Long Jack [1838] NSWSupC 44’, Macquarie Law School [website], 16 August 2011, Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, < http://www.law.mq.edu.au/research/colonial_case_law/nsw/cases/case_index/1838/r_v_long_jack/>, retrieved 25 September 2017; ‘Law Intelligence’, the Sydney Herald, 16 May 1836, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12854350?searchTerm=M%27Gill%20Threlkeld&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc|||l-category=Article|||l-state=New+South+Wales|||l-decade=183>, retrieved 25 September 2017; ‘Supreme Criminal Court’, The Sydney Monitor, 25 February 1832, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/32077003?searchTerm=M%27Gill&searchLimits=sortby=dateAsc|||l-category=Article|||l-state=New+South+Wales|||l-decade=183, retrieved 25 September 2017.

[24] ‘Original Poetry’, Sydney-Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 21 April 1842, <http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2556288?searchTerm=Mrs%20Dunlop&searchLimits=l-decade=184|||l-format=Article|||l-year=1842# >, retrieved 15 September 2017; P. van Toorn, p.46.

[25] M. Johns, ‘The Name’, Biraban Public School, NSW Government [website], 2017, <http://www.biraban-p.schools.nsw.edu.au/our-school/the-name>, retrieved 27 September 2017.

[26] P. Sutton, p.3; Wikipedia, ‘Canberra, Wikipedia [website], <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canberra&gt;, retrieved 30 September 2017.

[1] Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, ‘Sensitivity’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies [website], 2017, Sensitivity, <https://aiatsis.gov.au/sensitivity>, retrieved 8 September 2017.

Fashioning a woman’s place: The creation of an inclusive Australian history

An analytical review of an Australian history classic.

Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath, and Marian Quartly, Creating A Nation: 1788-1990 (Ringwood: Penguin, 1994), ISBN 0-14-025905-8 (paperback).

As an optimistic bibliophile, I have the inclination to bring home more books than I could possibly have time to read. Therefore, I was grateful for the opportunity offered by the Australian Women Writers Challenge to return to Creating a Nation: 1788-1990 (1994), the scholarly classic by Patricia Grimshaw, Marilyn Lake, Ann McGrath and Marian Quartly. Creating A Nation has been notable since its publication: it won the 1994 Human Rights Award for non-fiction and was shortlisted for the 1996 Adelaide Writer’s Prize.

Creating a Nation is co-written by four prominent Australian historians, who use a feminist framework to construct an alternative perspective toward Australia’s history, previously dominated by the presence and perspective of British white males. While historical textbooks often offer detailed vignettes concerning ‘history from below’, Creating a Nation was the first national historical study written from a feminist perspective. Each chapter is written by an individual, yet the consistent theme is to consider the impact of women-driven social movements upon the environmental, social, cultural, political and economic landscapes of Australia.

Today, Ann McGrath is a Professor of History at Australian National University, Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History and 2017 recipient of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship. Her research uses extensive archival research and oral history to expose the stories of marginalised Australians, for which she was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2007. Marian Quartly is Professor Emerita of Australian history in the Monash School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies. Since retiring from academia in 2006, Quartly has continued to research Australian women’s history, with a focus on family, religion, gendered citizenship, and the ways in which ‘truth’ is constructed. Patricia Grimshaw, a Professor Emerita at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, explores the histories of feminist and aboriginal issues within the Pacific and Australasia. Although officially Grimshaw retired in 2006, she remains active in academia and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2017 for distinguished service to the social sciences and to the humanities. Marilyn Lake is a Professor Emerita at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research has shaped discussions about Australian history and nationalism; gender, war and citizenship; feminine and masculine identities; history of feminism; race, gender and imperialism; and global and transnational history.

THE AVENGERS (1869), BY S.T. GILL, ILLUSTRATES THE CLOSE PROXIMITY AND CONTENTION BETWEEN ABORIGINAL AND BRITISH SETTLERS, WHICH LED TO COMPLEX AND OFTEN VIOLENT RELATIONS. IMAGE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

One particularly outstanding element is how well this collaboration of authors wrote fluid yet separate chapters. McGrath’s chapters (1, 6 and 12) focus on Aboriginal historical experiences and Quartly’s chapters (2, 3 and 4) present historical narratives about the colonies between 1788 and 1860. Grimshaw’s chapters (5, 7 and 8) create a framework through which to conceptualise Australia from Federation to 1912, whilst Lake’s chapters (9, 10 and 11) finally focus on the more recent twentieth-century history. Admittedly, I was unable to acquire the revised 2004 edition, which has an additional chapter. The following review focuses on a chapter from each author which I found to be the most engaging, informative and thought-provoking.

McGrath begins Creating a Nation with the chapter ‘Birthplaces’. This chapter sets the tone for the book, juxtaposing dominant with marginal groups. It begins by charting the intercultural experiences of Aboriginal and British and men and women. McGrath invites readers to perceive how cultural misunderstandings occurred between distinct social and cultural groups through the birthing stories of Warreweer, a Wangal woman, and Barangaroo, a Cammeraygal woman. Specifically, Barangaroo’s birthing story details how the Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, denied her birthing at Government House. This was, McGrath explains, an attempt to incorporate the British into Aboriginal kin networks which was declined by Phillip due to the distinction from British ‘laying in’ processes. Importantly, McGrath demonstrates how Australia’s national narrative must move beyond recognition of 1788. Rather, readers are drawn in to read about a specific time frame; when Aboriginal Australians were primary landowners and the pivotal moment when the balance of power between Aboriginals and Britons changed, was yet to come through ‘clearing, ploughing and building works’ which had ecological as well as social impact (22-24).

WOMEN WERE CONVINCED LIFE WOULD BE IMPROVED IN AUSTRALIAN COLONIES, THUS THEY ARRIVED AS INDENTURED LABOURERS AS DEPICTED IN THE EMIGRANT (C. 1850). IMAGE VIA NATIONAL LIBRARY OF AUSTRALIA.

Quartly’s chapter, ‘Making Male and Female Worlds,’ focuses on the debates occurring during the 1830s. Specifically, Quartly demonstrates how increasing condemnation of convict transportation alongside the maintenance of arguments supporting the emigration of the British create a foundation for the Australian colonies (79). Crucially, emigrants came to replace convict labour, leading the white population to surpass the Aboriginal population (79). Detailing the history of women such as Mrs Phillip Parker, Quartly demonstrates how women laboured for independency. Parker married for the first time in 1827; and having four children, she married again after her husband died, this time to the mentally unstable George Bruce Barton in 1836. Parker became the sole provider of the family by ‘writing the first children’s book published in the colony,’ A mothers offering to her children (1841). Unlike contemporary narratives of bunnies and crayons on adventures, A mothers offering consisted of ‘blood thirsty tales of shipwreck and murder, made moral by occasional references to province’ (80).

Quartly subsequently illustrates how women were believed to be social redeemers and foundation for a stable and moral colony. The story of Caroline Chisholm especially gives the reader the understanding the moral and social value of women, with ‘good’ women within the colonies having ‘the power to civilise men through love’ (83-89). Significantly, it is through Chisholm’s story that readers are provided insight into the ways in which women’s mobility was often limited to marriage or domestic service and their experiences of domestic abuse (94). There were many spaces from which women were excluded, such as the political sphere, where men – from landholders to working citizens – contended for dominance (94-102).

Grimshaw’s ‘Contested Domains’ continues the trend of utilising individual narratives to explore marginalised Australian history, this time between the 1880s and 1890s. The stories of Louisa Lawson and Bessie Harrison Lee are threaded through the chapter to demonstrate political public demands for social justice and the dominance of white peer issues (151). Lawson, editor and publisher of the Dawn, the first recorded women’s journal in the Australian colonies, also inaugurated the Women’s Suffrage League. The Melbourne-based Lee, having been raised by alcoholics, became involved in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which exposed the ‘consequences for women of widespread alcohol abuse by men, not only in frontier communities but throughout urban society’ (173). Here, Grimshaw astutely notes, Aboriginal-Australians were made absent from multiple reform agendas while white Australians debated the meaning and significance of the public and private spheres, as well as the roles of men and women within each (154). Grimshaw powerfully demonstrates limited, white, feminist discourses at play within late-nineteenth-century Australia (167-170).

In ‘Giving Birth to the New Nation,’ Lake considers how twentieth-century social debates and legislative reform constructed white women as valuable contributors to Australian society. At this time, Australian women sought social change with the institution of a maternity allowance (205-6). As with previous social welfare reforms, Lake demonstrates the conscious exclusion of ‘Asiatics’ and ‘Aboriginal natives of Australia, Papua of the island of the Pacific’ (206). While there were some Australians which argued ‘maternity is maternity whatever the race,’ they were amongst the minority (206). Accordingly, Lake critically examines how Australia’s maternity debates became sites for the expression of racial social anxieties. Significantly she highlights how white women, regardless of class, ethnicity or age, became idealised parents with policy endorsing the removal of Indigenous children from their parents and placement within white families (201). Yet, Lake also takes the opportunity to explore how white women also became subjects to paternalistic policy. Specifically, maternal and infant care institutions were initially conceived as space ‘run for and by women independent of the male medical establishment’ however state regulation and legislation subjected women to the medicalised gaze of male experts (227-228). Lake concludes her chapter by showing the continued economic oppression of Australian mothers who, unlike the ANZAC soldiers who were generously provided a pension, did not gain the motherhood endowment (229).

WEDDING OF PHILIP AND EDITH LEONG, INCLUDING BRIDESMAIDS AND FAMILY (1944). IMAGE VIA JOHN OXLEY LIBRARY, STATE LIBRARY OF QUEENSLAND.

Overall, Creating a Nation presents a multifaceted vision of Australian history whereby race, gender, class and ethnicity are illuminated as categories of contention. It also demonstrates how women, as companions or individuals, became drivers which influenced our modern society (153). I greatly enjoyed a theme throughout the book which revealed how Australian women authors, such as Louisa Lawson, Ada Cambridge, Rosa Praed, and Miles Franklin utilised print media to promote social change. The focus on these authors also reveals how silences occur in Australian history, as women from marginalised groups, being undocumented or without archives often remain unrecognised by contemporary society.

As a junior researcher, this book is still relevant for combatting the persisting silences of marginalised populations within Australian history. After reading this book I found myself considering how little my fellow students refer to Creating A Nation, as well as how thought-provoking it remains for new history, gender and cultural studies authors despite being over 20 years years old. The history which McGrath, Quartly, Grimshaw and Lake created continues to challenge authors to represent diverse Australian narratives based upon gendered, LGBTQ, rural, urban, immigrant, Aboriginal, and local perspectives – without relying on the traditional silences or binaries upon which mainstream Australian history too often falls. This book offers the starting point for authors who wish to challenge hegemonic society – much as Lawson, Cambridge, Praed and Franklin did – to create spaces for new and innovative national discourse discussions. 

Creating A Nation is a highly valuable text for anyone interested in an inclusive understanding of the development of Australia as a nation. I greatly admire the authors’ treatment of various cultural, political, and economic discourses across a range of generations. Together these women created a balanced and well-researched book. The disruption of the dominant white male perspective of Australian history creates a space to value the diverse peoples which did, indeed, create a nation.

 

Deb Lee-Talbot is completing a Bachelor of Arts (sociology) at Deakin University. Deb is also a volunteer with Melbourne Museum, researching historic Australasian expeditions. Her primary research interests are religion, gender, Australian and Pacific history.

Follow Deb on Twitter @socialquery101.

Note: Originally published by MANAGING EDITOR posted on