Articles on Aboriginal history

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Brenda L. Croft. shut/mouth/scream (detail) 2016 Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

Defying Empire: the legacy of 1967

The National Gallery of Australia's Third National Indigenous Art Triennial presents a passionate well-considered argument for an enduring Aboriginal culture.
On expedition with Norman Tindale and local Aboriginal group at a rock shelter at Bathurst Head (Thartali) in eastern Cape York Peninsula, 1927. Photo by Herbert Hale/South Australian Museum, Archives Norman Tindale Collection (AA 338/5/4/41)

DNA reveals Aboriginal people had a long and settled connection to country

Aboriginal people stayed settled in places across Australia for 50,000 years until Europeans arrived, showing a strong connection with the land.
A fruit cart depicting a ‘picanniny’ child: such figures were popular at a time when Aboriginal children were being removed from their families. Author provided

Friday essay: the politics of Aboriginal kitsch

What are we to make of 'Aboriginalia': bric-a-brac, tiles, ornaments and artworks - once hugely popular - depicting caricatures of Indigenous people? What if they are collected now in a knowing, ironic way?
A light graffiti image of Ms Dhu is projected on a building in Perth. Ethan Blue

Seeing Ms Dhu: how photographs argue for human rights

Noel Pearson has accused the ABC of racism in dwelling on indigenous alienation. But many advances in the status of Aboriginal Australians have been prompted by revealing ill-treatment, which is why Ms Dhu's family want footage of her last hours made public.
The Warratyi rock shelter is elevated above a local stream catchment in South Australia. Giles Hamm

The evidence of early human life in Australia’s arid interior

Archaeologists found thousands of objects in a remote Australian cave which shows Aborigines made it inland some 10,000 years earlier than first thought. So what did they find?
The facilities were poor and some inmates were subjected to unsuccessful experimentation with a “vaccine” that used arsenic compounds. Hospital Ward Dorre Island/State library of Western Australia

What do the newspapers really tell us about the lock hospital histories?

The lock hospitals inflicted incalculable traumas on Aboriginal people, wrenching them away from families and country.
Professor Eske Willerslev talks to Aboriginal elders in the Kalgoorlie area in southwestern Australia. Preben Hjort, Mayday Film

DNA reveals a new history of the First Australians

New DNA research working with Indigenous Australians is answering many of the questions about when and where the First Australians emerged many thousands of years ago.
The evidence shows counting was beyond more than a handful of numbers for Australia’s Indigenous people. Shutterstock/Sam DCruz

Why old theories on Indigenous counting just won’t go away

There is plenty of evidence to show Australia's Indigenous people had ways of counting big numbers, yet the myth persists they couldn't count more than a handful of things. Why?
The original excavation of Mungo Man, found near Lake Mungo in southwestern New South Wales, Australia. Wilfred Shawcross.

New DNA study confirms ancient Aborigines were the First Australians

Research first published in 2001 has been used to question of whether Aboriginal People were the First Australians. So why not re-test those results with improved techniques and equipment?
Whose story are you telling? Neil Armfield’s The Secret River is a chronicle of colonialism. The Sydney Theatre Company/Heidrun Löhr

The Secret River, silences and our nation’s history

The stage version of The Secret River gives us a deeper sense of our history. But can understanding the past from different perspectives help us confront the inequalities that linger in our present?
Detail of Paddy Japaljarri Sims, Warlpiri, 2003, Yanjirlpiri Jukurrpa (Star Dreaming at Yarripirlangu). Image courtesy of the artist's estate, licensed by Warlukurlangu Artists, Yuendumu.

Friday Essay: land, kinship and ownership of ‘Dreamings’

Who owns a Dreamtime story? The Warlpiri, like all Indigenous groups, use a complex system of kinship that regulates which people can depict, sing, dance or talk about which Dreamings.
Australia’s beauty is haunted by the unmarked sites of massacres and battles. Ben Quilty, Fairy Bower Rorschach, 2012. Image courtesy of AGNSW, © Ben Quilty.

Breaking the silence: Australia must acknowledge a violent past

Australia has a lesson to learn from Germany when it comes to reconciling with a shameful past. Artists are taking the lead in 'When silence falls', a formidable exhibition.
The figure of the ‘noble savage’ has deep roots in Australia colonialism. Shipwreck of the Stirling Castle, John Curtis, 1838.

Explainer: the myth of the Noble Savage

Liberal MP Dennis Jensen's comments about the 'noble savage' lifestyle tap into a centuries-old stereotype about Indigenous people.

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