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Presenter:  Leonie Norrington

Date: Sep 08, 2017

Time: 10:00am to 11:00am

Contact person:  LEBA Research
T: 08 8946 6156

Location:  Yellow 1.2.48, Savanna Room

A Novel Approach: Making History from Pre-History”

Historical fiction provides an interface between academic history and the history available to, and appealing to, the general public. Historical fiction creates generalisations about the past, and these generalisations inform our national identity. Historians consider Aboriginal people’s, 60,000+ year-long occupation of Australia to be ‘pre-history’, and relegate it to anthropology and archaeology in the academy. If Australian historical fiction does not acknowledge the successful pre-colonial Aboriginal culture, then Aboriginal people in the national identity can only play the role of either villain or victim. As it is, Aboriginal people only appear in Australian history and historical fiction in response to the ‘colonial’ intrusion: the ‘Stone Age hunter gathers’ decimated by the more advanced culture. In this PhD, I plan to write a historical novel that brings the pre-colonial Aboriginal culture into our historical narrative. The novel will be set in southern Arnhemland near Numbulwar during the 1600s. The reader will experience Nuggubuyu culture unmarred by the dislocations and losses of colonisation. Academic archaeological and anthropological documentation will inform the everyday social, political, and economic situations in the novel. The narrative will present a people who, rather than being left behind in the Stone Age, have instead chosen not to fashion metal, not to farm the land, and not to use a currency exchange system. This story will create new narratives of pre-colonial Aboriginal cultures in Australia.

Leonie Norrington has grown up in Arnhemland in a mixed cultural environment. She has published children’s books, set in remote communities and written in a combination of English, Kriol, and other Indigenous languages. Norrington has remarked: “I am interested in where cultures and languages meet, especially how people use language and story to bridge cultural differences or make statements about their separateness.” Her work has won (or has been shortlisted) for most Australian literary awards.

Christian Bok
Adelle Sefton-Rowston
Helen Verran