Contested histories, conflicting narratives past and present Aboriginal relationships with Warwick, Queensland, Australia

by James Stewart Wallace

Institution: Monash University
Department: School of Social Science
Year: 2015
Keywords: Aborigines; Indigenous; Contact archaeology; Aboriginal camps; Country; Urban Aborigines; Warwick; Place; Landscape; Narrative; Mission; Frontier; Contact; Sport
Record ID: 1060115
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1146420


This thesis examines oral histories and historical narratives of two Aboriginal families from different language groups living in my old home town of Warwick, Queensland, Australia. I have taken an interdisciplinary perspective drawing from anthropology, archaeology, landscape studies and community-based approaches to examining Indigenous histories. This study is based on research undertaken during a twelve-month period of fieldwork in 2004. While these families have complementary narratives recounting similar stories of colonisation, there are a number of differences in their histories that also shape their own contemporary identities and experiences. My research focuses on exploring and comparing these two family narratives over a 200 year period (‘pre-contact’, ‘contact’ and recent ‘moving back into country’ periods). In particular, I focus on the later ‘contact’ period where the Boney family lived in a series of riverbank ‘fringe camps’ and the McIntosh family were placed within a number of Aboriginal Reserves and Stations. I also explore how these particular histories guide and influence the identities and experiences of the Boney and McIntosh families today in relation specifically to their returning to live in contemporary Warwick. Here, references to the past through oral history and historical narrative have become political tools of the present, allowing families to demonstrate connections to ancestral groups and place and to assert rights to live in, and claim ownership over, Warwick. Present-day Aboriginal socio-political patterns in the town in many ways resemble those of the past, as do the spatial locations of Aboriginal houses that recall past Aboriginal group camp locations. And these socio-political relations are enacted especially through sport, such as in touch football. This rich picture of contemporary Aboriginal life interwoven with narrative, the past and place, is similar for many Aboriginal groups in many other areas in Queensland and New South Wales. In this sense, my approach can provide a model that asserts an inclusive, textured and dynamic vision of the past and its many subtle relationships with the present for exploring the complex experiences of Aboriginal life in Aboriginal-settler societies that have strong colonial histories.