Re-Framing Indigenous Biography

The National Centre of Biography, in collaboration with our ARC Project 'An Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography', is hosting a conference on Indigenous biography.

The aim of our conference is to explore and re-think Indigenous biography, considering what aspects make it distinct, what issues and concerns need to be taken into account, how do we convey the voices and perspectives of Indigenous people in different ways, and how might we approach biography more creatively in the future. The ultimate aim of the conference is to discover new approaches and considerations when we produce approximately 190 new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander biographies for the Australian Dictionary of Biography over the next three years.

The keynote speakers are:

  • Alexis Wright (University of Melbourne)
  • Ashley Glassburn Falzetti (University of Windsor, Canada), and
  • Alice Te Punga Somerville (University of Waikato, New Zealand/Aotearoa).

Other confirmed speakers are Malcolm Allbrook (ANU), Odette Best (Southern Queensland), Tony Birch (Victoria), Kate Fullagar (Macquarie), Julie Gough (independent artist), Grace Karskens (UNSW), Shino Konishi (UWA), Arini Loader (Victoria University, Wellington), Michael McDonnell (Sydney), Margo Neale (National Museum of Australia), Alistair Paterson (UWA), and Katerina Teiwa (ANU).

The conference will also include an innovative Biography Slam, in which presenters offer innovative, concise biographical snapshots of Indigenous individuals, highlighting the diversity of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives and biographical practices.

Special Event:
The Conference will include a public lecture by keynote speaker Alice Te Punga Somerville at the National Portrait Gallery, followed by a cocktail reception, on Thursday 15 November, 5pm.

Registration fee: $170; $85 for one day

Participation: Maximum of 100 people

The conference is organised by Shino Konishi, Malcolm Allbrook and Tom Griffiths, and generously supported by the National Centre of Biography, the Australian Research Council and the College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU.

Conference Program

Program Day One: Thursday 15 November 2018




Welcome and Introduction Chair: Malcolm Allbrook

Tyronne Bell: Welcome to Country

Melanie Nolan: Welcome from the National Centre for Biography


Keynote 1. Chair: Tom Griffiths

Alexis Wright, ‘Alexis Wright speaks with Tom Griffiths about her biography, Tracker


Morning Tea


Session 1. Challenges Chair: Shino Konishi

Michael A. McDonnell: ‘Re-Centring Native American History: The Opportunities—and Limits—of Biography in Eighteenth-Century North America’

Julie Gough: ‘The Missing: The lost Aboriginal children of Van Diemen’s Land’




Session 2. Ways Chair: Steve Kinnane

Kate Fullagar: ‘Biography in Eighteenth-Century Tōtaiete Mā: Insights from the Whole Lives of Purea, Tupaia, and Hitihiti’

Shino Konishi: ‘Embodying Indigenous Biography’

Arini Loader: ‘Māori in the Mirror: Approaching 19th Century Māori Lives’


Afternoon Tea


Biography Slam 1 Chair: Malcolm Allbrook

Laurie Allen: ‘Guldy: An Indigenous Ned Kelly’

Alex Bond and Libby Connors: ‘The Making of a Warrior in a time of Frontier War’

Jodi Haines: ‘Charlie Dennison is my Great Grandfather’

Brenda L. Croft: ‘Two promising lads: Joseph and Lindsay Croft’

Lucy Davies and Kate Laing: ‘Joyce Clague’


Coach transport to National Portrait Gallery


Keynote 2. Chair: Kate Fullagar

Alice Te Punga Somerville: ‘Te Rangihiroa, Oodgeroo, Te Hurinui, Hamuera and me: Indigenous biographies without borders’



Cocktail Reception and Gallery Visit

Coach transport to ANU


Program Day Two: Friday 16 November 2018


Keynote 3. Chair: Shino Konishi

Ashley Glassburn Falzetti: ‘Both/And: Anti-colonial Approaches to Writing Indigenous Life Stories’


Morning Tea


Session 3. Stories Chair: Melanie Nolan

Grace Karskens: ‘Nah Doongh’s Story: Aboriginal history, biography and memory in Western Sydney’

Katerina Teaiwa: ‘Finding Nimanoa's Daughters’

Natalie Harkin: ‘Archival-poetics and Aboriginal Domestic Labour Stories from South Australia’




Session 4. Futures Chair: Sam Furphy

Malcolm Allbrook: Biographies of Deep Time Figures

Alistair Paterson: Archaeological Biographies of Historical Experiences

Leah Lui-Chivizhe: ‘A biography or life history of the Auridh mask’


Afternoon Tea


Biography Slam 2 Chair: Tom Griffiths

Louise Martin-Chew: ‘Fiona Foley: Provocateur: Writing her life’

Suzanne Spunner: ‘All-About Rover Thomas’

Alec O’Halloran: ‘The Master from Marnpi’

Kathryn Wells: ‘Georgia Lee (Dulcie Pitt), 1921-2010’


Closing Remarks: Malcolm Allbrook, Tom Griffiths and Shino Konishi

Image gallery

Date & time

Thu 15 Nov 2018, 8.30am – Fri 16 Nov 2018, 5pm


Auditorium, Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU


Alexis Wright
Alice Te Punga Somerville
Ashley Glassburn Falzetti


National Centre of Biography


Shino Konishi


Updated:  23 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications