While the writers I have in mind are curiously less openly sceptical (or at least more silent) regarding recently arrived migrants’ capacity to develop emplaced identities, there is a transparent political position implied if not voiced in this writing, which joins dismissal of the broader society’s connections to place, land and sea with expressed support for Indigenous rights, as if the two are mutually incompatible.
My own view, likely influenced in part by my personal convictions about positive senses of place and belonging developed with family and peers during my youth in an Australian city, is that non-Indigenous emplaced identities, and by extension research that investigates and documents them, cannot be reduced to an expression of what Gelder terms ‘settler triumph’, or merely a language of belonging ‘used to obfuscate the history of Aboriginal dispossession’ as another Cultural Studies scholar has put it (Garbutt 2011: 148). In this context, the issue I have sought to raise is whether native title connections to place may achieve any degree of overlap with, and hence be culturally recognised by, those without Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry. Native title claims are a window for Australia on to possible, albeit in some ways unfamiliar, cultural landscapes.
Australian belonging is not adequately understood as limited to ‘settler triumph’
Native title claims are a window for Australia on to possible, albeit partially unfamiliar, cultural landscapes
What the wider society does intellectually with uneven knowledge of Indigenous place connections is instructive for understanding the post-settler society
The somewhat basic data I have considered will require substantial qualitative research investigation through the lived everyday lives of citizens most of whom will likely have no opportunity for close social relationships with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. The demography works against such opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and exchange of ideas becoming widespread. The abrasive cultural politics swirling around the issues I have broached, may also limit how closely the broad populace might come to know about the kinds of place connections that are replete throughout Indigenous Australia. And then as I have tried to discuss briefly, there are the factors of difference that may limit recognition of ontological overlaps between the respective worldviews.
However, it is my view that ethnographic research on Australian senses of place, in light of the significance of Indigenous connections to country evident across the continent through native title claims, should receive greater attention in social science. The relatively sparse literature where we would expect to find such studies leads me to conclude that this is a potentially rich arena for original contributions to scholarship as well as to public debate.
1 See for example Boccagni (2017). It is notable that the migration studies and Indigenous studies literatures are rarely engaged in Australian social science.
5 McCrindle https://mccrindle.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Deaths-and-funerals-in-Australia_McCrindle.pdf p.7
7 Coastal Themes: An Archaeology of the Southern Curtis Coast, Queensland. S. Ulm (2006) P.284.
8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Walker_(native_police_commandant), [insert MOOC interview web address]
9 Interview conducted by Dr Richard Martin, University of Qld.
10 Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma (Marquet Whitehead, whose mother’s country is in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria region, and who gave evidence in the Wellesley Islands native title claim litigation), quoted in The Australian 30 January 2002. She was interviewed in Canberra at the Tent Embassy.
11 Available from University of Western Australia.
12 Preferences in terminology when referring to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, Gulanga Program, ACTCOSS, December 2016, p.3.
13 Yorta Yorta Native Title claim, 1181 FCA, Reasons for ruling on admissibility of evidence, Olney J, 29 October 1997, ‘The question of relevance’.
15 Sutton (2010:75): ‘It seems that it originated in the Old World in ancient times, was taken over by indigenous North Americans from European Americans in the nineteenth century, was re-appropriated by non-indigenous Americans in the 1970s as an Indian tradition (see also Gill 1987; Rothenberg 1996), was exported to indigenous Australia from America as an Indian tradition, particularly in the 1980s, and has been transmitted yet again from some Aboriginal people to others as tradition. Mother Earth has been pretty busy.’
17 And although it is not a recognised religion, close to 48,000 people reported themselves as Jedi.
19 Though this reportedly can mean anything from meditation to asking questions about the meaning of life, hence the data will require careful examination.
22 Swain, T and D Rose 1988. Aboriginal Australians and Christian Missions. Australian Association for the study of Religions: South Australia.
23 A recent account from a female anthropologist (Rubinich 2019) reflects on her work in native title. Some of the challenges recounted as a young woman negotiating fieldwork on Indigenous relations with country present a rare and refreshingly honest discussion of what can be considerable tensions between gender roles among Indigenous groups and across the broader society.
24 The marketing of higher education at The University of Qld became recently ‘Create change, not if, when’.
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