Box Ridge Aborigines Reserve, near Coraki NSW. Shauna's great-grandparents are among the 'residents' in this group photo.
Monday 31 August 2020
The Australian Centre for Indigenous History congratulates Shauna Bostock-Smith for submitting her PhD thesis.
Shauna describes her research projects in the following terms:
I am an Aboriginal historian, and this thesis is a narrative of my personal research journey. Figuratively speaking, I travelled into the past as a genealogist and traced my four Aboriginal grandparents’ family lines to as far back as I could go in the written historic record, which was just after the settlement of northern New South Wales. But it was the historian who slowly returned from the past to the present, unearthing interesting, turbulent and surprising histories to be placed within the context of Australian and Aboriginal history. The scope of this thesis spans five generations and examines my ancestors’ lived experience, from witnessing the continuing encroachment of white settlement, to segregation on Australian Government Aborigines reserves, to the control of the Aborigines Protection Board, to the eventual exodus to the city, to radicalisation and the fight for land rights, to Aboriginal advancement and creative expression, and onwards. The connection of this past chronology to present times culminates with my own historian’s ego-histoire, thus creating an unbroken umbilical and historical connection to time immemorial.
The key contribution of this thesis is the disclosure of copious amounts of (previously unaccessed) archives. These Aborigines Protection Board (later the Aborigines Welfare Board) archives detail the reprehensible maltreatment of Aboriginal people and the astounding incompetence of these Australian Government bodies in their destructive determination to control Aboriginal lives. Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation files reveal that government surveillance of my family members did not end after the Aborigines Welfare Board was abolished in 1969. The primary achievement of this thesis is the illumination of the long-term struggle of Aboriginal people to wrest a living free from Australian Government control and surveillance. To finally live in this country on equal footing, with the same rights and conditions as non-Indigenous Australians. Scholarly, multi-generational Aboriginal family history research, with intense archival research on Aboriginal individuals and their entire experience through time, illuminates much more than what we already know about Aboriginal history. Additionally, it is only when this kind of historical research is placed into the cosmic, big-history context that we fully understand both the cataclysmic effect of colonisation on Indigenous Australians and their tremendous survival efforts, struggle and continuing recovery.
Shauna was supervised by Professor Ann McGrath, Professor Peter Read and Associate Professor Maria Nugent. Congratulations Shauna!