Cultural Aspects

Unit 4: Country

Cultural Aspects Historical Issues Race Relations Contemporary Issues

Unit 1: The Dreaming Unit 2: Spirituality Unit 3: Protocols and Behaviours Unit 4: Country

Byron Bay, with bathers on the beach and the lighthouse in the distance, Pencil on paper, October 10, 2006.



The Western view of the landscape often focuses on the 'big picture'...Aboriginal art is a spiritual map of the land compared to the Western notion of cartography which involves (re)naming the land, identifying and exploiting resources, and subduing nature.

In my research, I discovered the work of W E H Stanner, the famous anthropologist who spent time at Daly River in 1939. He uncovered from local Aborigines a cryptic word that translates as the 'everywhen'. This term better describes the Indigenous notion of time than the more commonly used 'timeless'. The everywhen challenges the Western idea of linear time, as notions of prehistory, history and the present merge. Rather than standing still, time moves through cycles allowing understanding and explanation of environmental patterns.

(Tunnicliff, 2004, interview with David Marshall, Masters candidate, Visual Arts University of Southern QLD)


Activity 4.1

What Aboriginal people mean when you hear them use the term 'my Country', or 'I'm from (such and such) a country', or 'my mother's country.'

Aboriginal people differ in how they refer Country, perhaps depending on how much they know about their traditional heritage. For example, in conversation with Aboriginal artist Elaine Russell a few weeks ago, she talked about her country in terms of where she grew up with her family. She lived in a few different places, and connected more closely with some places than others. She connected closley with the places where her dad taught her things about the bush, and how to survive there. She remembers where her mother taught her things about Country, and so connects with those places through this knowledge. Through her paintings, Elaine Russell expresses interconnections between her people, and their environment - in all its detail. Her pictures pass on sense of connection to future generations. As expressed at the conclusion of a poem by Bill Neidjie, this is part of dreaming:

My grandpa taught me that.
He said,

'Don't forget this.

Tell this story with kids...

so he can listen...


And then story will come for him...

exactly like this.

This story right, exactly right,

because it dreaming'.

Aboriginal people have always believed that we are descendants of the land. By that we mean we believe we were formed out of the land in the beginning of time. That is why we class the land as our mother.

Uncle Norm Newling and Uncle Charles Moran, cited by Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. Unit 4, p.9, 2000, Aspects of Cultural Studies A Learner's Guide, Open Training and Education Network, Sydney.

For Aboriginal people, the passing on of self knowledge, knowledge of one's origins in the land, occurs through the ritualistic arts of dancing, painting and singing. The Spirit Ancestors sang the country into existence.

There is great diversity in Australian landscape. It is not all the same, as some outsiders may think. It is not all one great brown land, a 'suburnt country', as Dorothea Mackellars poem, My Country, tells us. For example, the Tharawal and Bundjalung people's country is made up of coastal and river areas. The Wiradjuri people's country encompasses mountains, plains and rivers.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. (2000) Unit 4, p.13.


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Activity 4.2

What sounds do I hear when I walk out into the back yard (which is all native plants)? If it is daytime now, compare the sounds in the same place at night. In the daytime I hear the birds calling loudly in the morning, and the odd frog croak. I hear the frogs more at night. Look at the different textures of objects around me. Touch a rock, or the bark of different trees. The native grasses brush against my bare legs, and make a dry, light sweeping sound.

Last week I saw a friend off from Sydney airport. Out of the blue, as I was walking home through Alexandria towards Newtown, my sense of the landscape changed. I could feel how it might have been before all these roads and industrial buildings were here. I was only aware of the the soil, the trees, the birds and the sky.

Culture is the land, the land and spirituality of Aboriginal people, our cultural beliefs or reason for existence is the land. You take that away and you take away our reason for existence. We have grown up the land. We are dancing, singing and painting for the land. We are celebrating the land. Removed from our lands, we are literally removed from ourselves.

Dodson, M. (1997) p 41.


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Activity 4.3

Lalgambook (Mount Franklin), Victoria, near Fryers Creek, where my great grandmother, Hannah Brown once lived.

Although I was born on Norfolk Island, I do not identify strongly with that place. I might feel differently if I were to go back there. I don't know. I moved from there with my family to New Zealand when I was just a baby. On my fifth birthday we arrived in Melbourne and moved into a little house in the Dandenong Ranges, built in the 1920's by my English great grandparents Tom and Lillie. I connect with this place because it's so bound up with stories of my father's family. I feel part of their story, and I feel that place through my whole being. Tom and Lillie were artists. They passed on to me (through my father, and through the things they left behind) a love of both English and Australian landscapes, and of making art to celebrate those places and their peoples. Their pictures were all arounds me, and will be with me always in my mind. My mother's family were a mixture of English, Scottish, Irish and, some family members tell me, Aboriginal. I know very little about them. Fryerstown was where my maternal great grandmother, Hannah Brown, was born, and that place has a different hold on me. Walking through that country for the first time last year, I felt the struggles of the Irish and the Aboriginal lives that (it is suggested) conceived her. She remains an unknown presence.


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Activity 4.4

I found a book of Australian poems in a Newtown op shop, first published in Sydney in 1934 and reprinted in 1959. It's title is 'The Wide Brown Land', promoting that stereotype of Australia reflected in such poems as Dorothea Mackellar's:

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains.

Australia in fact is a huge place of striking geographic diversity, ranging from the hot red soils and sultry humidity of Cape York at the top, to the misty, cold, green and snowy mountains of southern Tasmania.

The Country which identifies an Australian Aboriginal person is not that imagined place, but a specific place, where that person has intimate personal and cultural connections.

It is not the land as the whole continent that gives identity to an Aboriginal person, it is the specific Country within the overall land that gives this.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. (2000) Unit 4, p.13.


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Activity 4.5

In October this year (2006) I went to Byron Bay for the first time. Sitting on the grassy banks beside Byron Bay itself, I got talking with a local man who had been working on a nearby building site. He pointed to the cape, and told me that a clean fresh water spring was once there, and used by the Arakwal Aboriginal people before white men came. In the 1950's, a public toilet block was built over it, for the use of white people who came to play on the beach. A lighthouse had already been built above the spring in the 1850's. The people living in the lighthouse would have already fouled that natural water. Building the toilet block over it seemed to me an act of brutal disrespect to the Arakwal Aboriginal people, as it was one of their sacred places, and their vital resource. It was through this area that I walked, alone, after meeting with and talking to one of the Arakwal people who was working with National Parks as a ranger. He told me there were places around that were special to his people, not easily accessible, and unmarked on local maps. He showed me where I could go walking alone, but before this, guided me to the nearby Information Centre, 'a small family affair', he said, 'our family.' I looked at pictures on the walls, watched the video of elders talking about their childhood on the beach, as young children danced arounds them through the waves. I imageined, as I walked, and encountering a few of the local Aboriginal boys who still play around the Cape (it was school holidays), what it was like before white people. I took off my shoes and felt the crunch of leaves and seeds and twings, and the warm earth. It was a hot day in early October.

Arakwal Aboriginal people are the acknowledged custodians of the Byron Bay area and retain a strong role and interest in the maintenance, protection and management of Aboriginal cultural values... The NSW North Coast - SE Queensland region has been inhabited by Aboriginal people for at least 20,000 years.

As the ice caps melted at the end of the Pleistocene about 10,000 years ago, sea levels rose and covered an 8 km wide strip of land off Cape Byron, leaving high relief terrain exposed as a coastal promontory. Coastal campsites used before the sea stabilised around 6,000 years ago, lie beneath the sea. Most of the Aboriginal archaeological sites so far investigated on the North Coast have dated to more recent times.

At the time of the first European settlement, around twenty different dialects of the Bundjalung language were spoken in the NSW North Coast - SE Queensland region, with the Minjungbal dialect spoken in some of Byron Bay. In resource rich areas like Cape Byron, Aboriginal land-owning clan groups with at least 100 members subsisted within relatively small territories. The boundaries of these territories were generally known and were clearly established in local mythology.

In contrast with what is known of other parts of Australia, local Aboriginal groups enjoyed a comparatively settled lifestyle, building large comfortable huts of tea tree bark laid over a frame of bent saplings. The early European settlers reported finding groups of these huts at the mouths of larger rivers along the NSW North Coast and on the islands of Moreton Bay. During the course of everyday life Aboriginal clan groups remained within their own well-defined boundaries, moving short distances in response to the availability of individual resources. Long-ranging movement between territories was often undertaken for the purpose of attending social and ceremonial gatherings.

[Online accessed 24 October 2006]

The grandfather of the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' poet Lord Byron was a renowned navigator in the 1760s, and Captain Cook named this spot, Australia's most easterly, after him. (A star-struck clerk in Sydney thought the grandson was the one being honoured, and subsequently named the streets in the town after poets: Keats, Jonson, Shelley.) On the cape, the views are beyond perfection on all sides and the ocean is alive with schools of dolphins. Humpback whales pass nearby during their northern (Jun-Jul) and southern (Sep- Nov) migrations. Keep your peepers especially peeled: there's a whale they call Migaloo that's been known to be fond of Byron waters. He's the only known all-white humpback whale in the world.

Loney Planet Guide,

/new-south-wales/byron-bay?v=print [Online accessed 24 October 2006]


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Davidson plum, brown pine plum, lillypilly and red monkey nuts. Isaacs, J. (1987).

Plants and animals around Byron Bay continue to provide bush tucker for the locals. Now a popular tourist destination, local bush tucker can be experienced by visitors who seek them out though some of the local Aboriginal-run tourist activities.

Banksia, known by locals as honey suckle is a treat still used as a sweetener on bread. The bloom is then dried to become a hair comb. The dried cones or nobbies are then used as fuel for the campfire.

Davidson plum





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Activity 4.6

Country is a word used to describe an area of land in which a number of Aboriginal people families live. This country has its own borders, history, language, or dialect, laws, protocols, music, dances, songs and ceremonies. Aboriginal Australia is made up of hundreds of countries that still exist today.

Edwards, C.O. and Buxton, L. (1998) An Aboriginal Way of Being, Teachers Notes, Catholic Scools Office, Sydney.

The meaning of Country is defined here as a bounded place shared by a number of families, who share the same culture. The 'hundreds of countries' that continue to exist in Australia have changed however. There are far fewer people, and through loss of languages, stories, and rituals have been lost, and so knowledge of country is lost. What is left is prescious, and must be documented now through every means available.


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Activity 4.7

The poem by Kevin Gilbert and a prose piece by David Mowalijarlai (From: Craven, R. (1999) p 40.) both express the inseparable connetion Aboriginal people feel with Country, but from different perspectives. They use different voices. In the poem, the voice is that of the land: 'I am the land.' All creatures are presented as part of the land. Humans, whose sense of belonging is 'sometime discordant', are still part of the land's song. In the prose piece, the voice is that of an Aboriginal person, talking about the physical agony he and his people feel whenever sacred sites are interfered with: "Graders are scraping the skin off our flesh'.


I am the land
with you who belong

sometime dischordant

but part of my song

birds are a whisper

the four breeses croon

raindrops in melody

all forms the tune

of being belonging

aglow with the surge

to life and its passions

to create its urge

in living expression

its total of one

and I and the tree

and the you and the me

and the rivers and birds

and the rocks that we've heard

sing the songs we are one I'm the tree you and me

with the land and the sea

we are one life not three

in the essence of life

we are one.

Kevin Gilbert, 1994. From: Craven, R. (1999) p 42


There is a traditional Aboriginal story which explains why some stars in the sky twinkle, while others do not. Looking up at the stars, people are reminded of the story, which also conveys important information about long yams, an important food source. "They are an important food, and that's why the old songman (Balibalil, an old Neinggu singer), made a song about them.' (Told by Lamilami of the Maung people of South Golburn Island N.T. From: Burke, C.., Johnson, C. and White, I. (1980) Before Invasion, Aboriginal Life to 1788, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, P 93)

The stories, song and poems about Country reinforce and pass on important spiritual, cultural and survival information. They also celebrate the power of Country and combine these into lessons of Law.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J.(2000) Unit 4, p.21.


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Activity 4.8

The following people have spoken about Custodianship:

Aden Ridgeway, the second only Aboriginal person to be elected to Federal Perliament .

One of the main parliamentary proponents of the preamble was Senator Aden Ridgeway, the only indigenous person in the Australian parliament. His maiden speech argued that a new preamble may have the effect of spurring the reconciliation process: 'The preamble decision was not an act of arrogance but an act of national interest. It sought to remove the biggest obstacle to exclusion - our recognition in the national Constitution - but most importantly it needed to be done to provide the means by which reconciliation can now proceed.'

Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, Senate, (August 25, 1999), p. 7772.

In my style of operation, you have to create space for people tp move inculding those who are you opponents. And I allowed room there for the PM (John Howard) and others to move, as well as draw a line in the sand so the government couldn't go back any further...

My soul needs to return to the land from which it came. Aboriginal spirituality ois one of the great gifts Indigenous Australians can bestow. It's about living as one with the universe.

Aden Ridgeway cited by Shelly Gare, 18 June 2000 in the Sunday Magazine. The Sunday Telegraph.

The words did not please everyone but the fact remains that we now have a proposed preamble before the public (for an Australian Constitution) that for the first time recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of this land.

Apology - Regret or Sorrow? Aden Ridgeway. Report of his paper given at the NSW Reconciliation Convention in August 1999, printed in Wlaking Together, Coinsil for Aboriginal Reconciliation No. 26, October 1999.

Lowitja (Lois) O'Donoghue, past chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and a non-parliamentary delegate at the Constitutional Convention to Republic Referendum (1999)

A Pitjantjatjara woman, Lowitja O'Donoghue has worked for Aboriginal organisations or in Indigenous affairs for the last 30 years. She was the Founding Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, 1990-1996. O'Donoghue is one of the most prominent members of the stolen generation.

National Foundation of Australian Women, Australian Women's Archives Project, [Online accessed 25 October 2006]

Patrick Dodson, Aboriginal academic, political activist and Australia's first ordained Aboriginal Catholic priest

(In)1992... the High Court had the temerity to acknowledge something that Indigenous Australians had known all along that we were and continued to be owners and custodians of the land - not its cousin, brother or sister, but owners and custodians. Not Kinship but Custodianship.

Dodson, P. 1999. LINGIARI - UNTIL THE CHAINS ARE BROKEN, The Fourth Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture. Northern Territory University.

John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia

One powerful metaphor Howard continues to adopt is that of the pendulum, borrowed from Geoffrey Blainey's Latham Lecture in 1993 - it allows him to embody balance and just compromise: "Once people start upping the ante and saying, we've got to go further, we've got to have custodianship mentioned, we've got to have ongoing rights, particular kinds mentioned, you lose me, you lose middle Australia because they would not want that and they would see that as pushing the envelope too far", Howard, Interview with Kerry O'Brien, The 7:30 Report, ABC Television (February 9, 1999); "Let's be frank, some of them will never be satisfied unless we provide words that are in turn unacceptable to the majority of the rest of the country", Howard, Interview with Vivian Schenker, Insight, SBS Television (February 19, 1999).

Ravi de Costa, 2002, New Relationships, Old Certainties - Australia's reconciliation and treaty-making in British Columbia, footnote, p. 137. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology


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Activity 4.9

Replacing what is used

When you dig up yam, you must all time leave a little bit end bit of that yam in ground...if dig it all out then that food spirit will get real angry and won't let any more yam grow in that place.

Isaacs, J. (1987) p 46

Learning and passing on knowledge

The chains of waterholes or soaks in the desert often follow the Dreaming tracks, which occur in a sequence of locations memorised as part of the sacred ceremonil song cycles. From a very young age children are required to memorise these songs and, therefore, the chains of waterholes.

Isaacs, J. (1987) pp 25-26

Keeping watch

Management of the land as an economic resource was so important that in some language group areas certain older men were given the authority to watch over and protect certain areas.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. (2000)Unit 4, p.31.

Talking for Country

No Aboriginal language group accepts that any people from outside their area have the right to make decisions about, or take resources from their Country unless prior negotiations have been carried out and agreements reached.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. (2000)Unit 4, p.32.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J. Unit 4, p.31, 2000, Aspects of Cultural Studies A Learner's Guide, Open Training and Education Network, Sydney.


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Activity 4.10

Living in Newtown, I am near the Cook's River, and pass over it and along it on the way to one of the places where I work. I'm becoming familiar with that landscape in a new way since learning more of its past. I read about the Marrickville Council's Aboriginal History Project, and that...

There may well be more remains out there yet to be discovered...

Janice Parker, the project's officer, interviewed in The Glebe newspaper, November 1999.


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Holiday at Coogee Tom Roberts, April 1888

I walked around the coast of Sydney today and stopped to look out over the sea. I imagine what it was like here, before white man. But how can I? What I imagine now, and what was experienced then by Eora people standing here, are very different things. My perception is dominated by the white culture of my upbringing. I have inherited a visual language from England . This landscape and my language are worlds apart.

What was it like to be an Eora woman standing in this place, with the sea rolling in and pounding the beach, the birds arcing through the sky and the wind sounding in the trees?

The red waratah is in bloom and the days are getting warmer and longer.

This is the Murrai'yunggoray, the first season of the local Aboriginal calendar, spanning September and October. It is a time when the temperature starts to rise. Soon the two-veined hickory wattle will flower and it will be summer or Goraymurrai, a time of warm, wet weather.   I am intrigued that Sydney 's six-season Aboriginal calendar is based on the flowering of various native plants.   Historically, through this season, which covers November and December, Aborigines would not camp near rivers for fear of flooding.

When the single-veined hickory wattle flowers, in January and February, or the season of Gadalung marool, the weather turns hot and dry.   Aborigines only ate fruit and seeds at this time of year as the heat meant stored meat would spoil quickly.

When the lillipilli tree produces tiny sour berries, from March to May the season is Banamurrai'yung and it is a time of wet, cooling temperatures, a signal to make cloaks to keep warm.

In Tugarah'tuli, the forest red gum flowers, and it is a cold time - around June to July. Aborigines would traditionally journey to the coast during these months where food was more abundant.

Tugarah'gunyamarra, when the gossamer wattle flowers around August, is the end of the annual weather calendar. It is a cold and windy season, a time to build shelters facing the rising sun. It was also a time for Aborigines to return to Sydney 's western highland, following fish upstream.

These seasons are different to what I learnt about in school, but living here, in Sydney, they make sense. I have been here nearly a year now and have lived through the changes.


This year I am a student of Aboriginal cultural practises and history, and am beginning to appreciate the multi dimensional nature of other perspectives. There is no one Aboriginal perspective. Many voices come from many places, but the concept of time for all is a continuity. In preparing this talk, I am conscious of moving through time in my personal and historical research with the aim of sensing something of the continuous present Aboriginal people call Dreamtime. The closest English equivalent to me seems to be William Wordsworth's notion of time standing still (aware as I write this of the profound inadequacy of such a parallel).

When Joseph Banks first set eyes upon the original people of Sydney in April 1770, he wrote what he saw in his journal. It provides us with only a glimpse of what life here was like before the white man, as he observed through white man's eyes, and spoke white man's words. Like the countless Englishmen and women who followed him, he described this place in terms of what was missing himself quite likely missand the rivers and birdsing the landscapes and trappings of his own English life. Without their eyes, or ears or voices, he was incapable of seeing, hearing or describing the place the Eora people knew as theirs.

As with any peoples entering a foreign country with the aim of claiming it as their own, the Europeans entering Australia used the visual, spoken and written languages of their homelands to describe their experience, just as Tom Roberts did when he painted Coogee Beach, just as I had been trained to do.

In 1869 Tom Roberts arrived in Australia at the age of 13. He worked in a tannery and a photographer's studio, to support his mother and to pay for art classes at a local Mechanics Institute. His art training here, and later in England , came from a tradition of European landscape painting. Landscape painting was about composing realistic rural scenes according to set rules of composition, colour and tone, which had evolved out of the European Renaissance. Photography had just started being popular for recording people, scenes and events and artists were questioning the need for such idealisations of reality in their work. They were looking at other ways to paint that were not another form of photographic realism.

Observant of the different Australian light, colour and general atmosphere, and influenced by the French Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Tom was inspired to find other ways to depict these differences. He spent a lifetime developing a visual language to describe the Australian landscape, and attracted several followers, such as Charles Condor and Arthur Streeton. In art histories, he came to be described as the Father of Australian Impressionism. Some of his pictures became national icons, like The Shearing of the Rams and Bailed Up, painted on a cattle station at Inverell, depicting Colonial Australia . Prints of these images, as well as his huge painting of the Opening of Parliament in 1901, could be found on the walls of schools all around the country.

I was five when my family moved into his house in Kallista, in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges. Tom had died in 1932, seventeen years before I was born, but I felt the weight of his presence. I would sit in the garden with my father, listening to him talk about things Tom had told him, about how he saw, and how he painted: 'There are no edges in nature.' he said, 'Everything is connected. Forms appear against each other as changes in light and tone. There are no lines separating things.'

I arrived at art school the day of the first Lunar landing, aching to find my own voice, my own visual language. Tom had shown it was possible, and I had a whole lifetime ahead of me to find my own way. I dreamed of being inside a painting that I was painting, which was at the same time painting me. I had a sense, then, that my perceptions needed to be open to change if I was to find my own language.

My maternal great grandmother was called Hannah Jane Brown and in 1869, the year Tom arrived in Australia, she was living in Fryers Creek and other places around south western Victoria. My mother didn't speak of her.   My grandmother Phoebe had been brought up by another woman and didn't want to know. My cousins tell me Hannah had always been referred to as a 'half-caste', and that her children had been taken away. It's a story I've never had any reason to question, as it explained my maternal family's unwillingness to speak on the matter. We have no proof of the story, and for years I let it lie, thinking it had nothing to do with me. I didn't push it, but I always felt a sense of something missing. It was so long ago, and denied, that without my generation connecting with Hannah's culture, she will have successfully been 'assimilated', or 'bred out'. Connecting with this place for me is important for my personal reconciliation, to understand its part in my history.

A friend who read a draft of this talk asked me: has my British visual language continued to deny the landscape that was here already, and in that, have I been complicit in the assimilation of Aboriginal people? Have I been complicit in the assimilation of Hannah Brown? The answer must be yes.

Since my mother's death three years ago, I have felt a great conflict within me between the two worlds my parents represent to me - the known and the unknown, the public and the private, the white and the lack - and a need to bring them together.

Today I received an envelope of old photos sent to me by my mother's sister, the last of her generation. My mother had burned all her pictures and all of Phoebe's too. These are small black and white photos, and I need a magnifying glass to see them. I look into the faces and go back in time to my childhood memories, and then stop. We have no family history that takes me any further back, like I can on my father's side. Hannah's history is not one easily found in history books. Or in Birth, Marriage and Death records.

In my search of records in the Mitchell Library I find several Hannah Browns. In 1886, on Jan 13th, I find that a Hannah Brown was married in Sydney. She was 17 old and the season in Sydney at that time was Gadalung marool, when the single-veined hickory wattle was flowering, a hot and dry season, a time for eating fruit and seeds, as the heat meant stored meat would quickly spoil.

I look at Coogee Beach, here in Sydney, and imagine what it might have been like for Hannah Brown, if she had stood here in 1886 at the age if 17. She was getting married and already caught between two worlds. Or was she? Some time after writing this a second cousin on my mother's side finds this story on the Internet. We meet up and swap notes and public records. I bring my partner to meet his family. he says, "They look Aboriginal. They sound Aboriginal". These people are my family who identify as Aboriginal. We share stories and laugh at the points where our stories meet, like the story of Phoebe cutting the dark faces from family photos. Their family disengaged from my family who had decided to deny their past. We agree that there are inconsistencies in our records that suggest the truth was not necessarily being told, or that informants were unreliable.

Tom, my English ancestor could never have known Sydney, or feel this place, as an Eora person would have.   The challenge for me is to see it anew through a mix of cultures and to find my own language to describe it.  

Lisa Roberts, Sydney, September 2004, with thanks to Sharon Pittaway for the questions and editorial assistance.



Who was Hannah Jane Brown?

A woman called Hannah Jane Brown was born on the seventeenth of January 1869, in Nuggety Gully, in the District of Fryers Creek, Victoria. Her birth certificate indicates that her mother was also called Hannah, nee Cusak, aged 33, born by Limerick, Ireland. Her father is registered as George Brown, miner, aged 40 years, born in London , England. George Brown and Anna Cusak's marriage was registered in St. Francis Church Melbourne, October 5th, 1855. He was a Laborer, and she a Servant.

My new-found Aboriginal cousins say this is not 'our' Hannah.

Fryerstown Australia. Pop Nominal. (122km NW Melbourne ). Once a booming gold town with a population of 15,000 in the 1850's, today it is a small community of less than 100 people. The town takes its name from Peter Fryer, an English migrant who settled in the area in 1840. A large number of Chinese moved to the Fryers Creek area, and by the early 1860's controlled the puddling claims. Substantial ruins of several Chinese miners' huts are located on the Herons Reef Diggings Site. [Online accessed 10/23/2004


Soon after gold was discovered in 1851, Victoria's Governor La Trobe wrote to the Colonial Office in London, urging

'the propriety of selecting and appointing as Mineral Surveyor for this Colony a gentleman possessed of the requisite qualifications and acquaintance with geological science and phenomena'.

That gentleman was Alfred Selwyn.

Selwyn's appointment in May 1852, and his subsequent arrival in Melbourne at the end of 1852, heralded the birth of the Geological Survey of Victoria. Working at first with only one assistant and a tentkeeper, he mapped more than 1000 square miles a year.

The following map figures Fryers Creek:

Castlemaine Mining District (1860)

The work of local Mines Department surveyors, this 1860 map was, in effect, a miners' 'road map' to the gold workings in the Castlemaine mining district.

Alluvial (shallow gold-bearing) ground is plainly shown in blue, while reefs are indicated by red lines running north-south.




Tunnicliff, Fiona, 2004, Interview with David Marshall, Coppertales - A journal of rural arts. Number 10, 2006, University of Southern Queensland.

Sheridan, J. & Tranter, J., 2000, Aspects of Cultural Studies A Learner's Guide, Open Training and Education Network, Sydney.

Beneath our Feet: Department of Primary Industries URL,
-8B5B2CF1F7A00BBACA256CF00013AFE7?OpenDocument [Online accessed 4 September 2006]

Craven, R. (ed.), 1999 Teaching Aboriginal Studies, Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards, NSW.

National Foundation of Australian Women, Australian Women's Archives Project, [Online accessed 25 October 2006]

Ravi de Costa, 2002, New Relationships, Old Certainties - Australia's reconciliation and treaty-making in British Columbia, a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology, April 2002

Isaacs, J. Bushfood, 1987, Aboriginal Food and Bush Medicine, Landsdowne Publishing, Sydney.