Angas Downs/Anangu Ngura: A History in Place
Wednesday 5 August 2015 4:15-5:30pm
School of History Seminar Series
Speaker: Shannyn Palmer, PhD Candidate, School of History, ANU
McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU
Myths and histories of pioneers and pastoralism have been potent in shaping historical understanding in the remote north of Australia. My PhD research began with what I assumedto be a single locale made through colonial structures, processes and relations. Angas Downs pastoral station was established by William Liddle in the early twentieth century in the marginal arid lands 300km southwest of Alice Springs. Over a period of four years I have lived and travelled in Central Australia, working together with Anangu recording life histories and sharing in historical remembrance inspired by life on the station. Drawing upon a variety of sources, but guided by both the form and content of Anangu oral histories and autobiographical narratives, this thesis seeks to defamiliarise the common perceptions of the outback cattle station and challenge thinking about place as bounded location. Exploring how Anangu negotiated colonialism at Angas Downs, through the ‘inscriptive practices’ in which they recall the past in relation to place, reveals how both the physical and social ecology of the desert world shaped colonial relations and also inhibited colonial power in this remote locale.
In this seminar I will discuss the major themes, arguments and methodologies of my PhD research, before focusing on a particular episode that draws upon both Anangu oral histories and correspondence files of the Northern Territory Welfare Branch. These sources combine to reveal a socio-economic history that challenges existing assumptions of the 1950s and 60s as a period characterised by increasing Anangu dependence on mission and station economies. They expose deep contradictions inherent within the Territory government’s assimilation project, and provide crucial historical perspectives that are often missing from contemporary debates about economy and employment in remote contexts.
Shannyn Palmer is a PhD Candidate in the School of History at the ANU. For the last four years she has been based in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory working with Anangu, travelling and recording oral histories inspired by life on Angas Downs station. She received an APAI Award on the ARC project ‘Deepening Histories of Place: Indigenous landscapes of national and international significance’ and was awarded a Minoru Hokari Scholarship and a Northern Territory History Grant to support her fieldwork. Throughout her candidature she has also been employed as a Field Officer with the Ara Irititja Project, an Anangu archive and knowledge management system. She has recently returned to Canberra to complete her thesis.