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Winchester et al.

establishment of the Selwyn township. The value of such his- Fitzgerald, R. 1982 A History of Queensland: From the Dreaming
torical graffiti lies in the reconstruction of the fluid borders of to 1915. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.
senlement at the time of European the peopling Fitzgerald, S. and Keating, C. 1991 Millers Point: The Urban
of that past with individuals' lives and experiences. Village. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger.
Fysh, H. 1933 Taming the North. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
Acknowledgements Hughes, R. 1987 The Fatal Shore. New York: Knopf.
Kennedy, K.H. 1979 The profits of boom: A short history of the
W e thank Dr S.J. Gale of The University of Sydney for
Cloncurry Copper Field. Lectures on North Queensland His-
constructive comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript, tow, pp. 1-34. 7'ownsville: Department of History, Jarnes
Mr 0. Rey-Lescure of The University of Newcastle for pre- Cook University.
paring Figures 1-3, The John Oxley Library, Brisbane, for per- Kennedy, K.H. 1980 The Cloncurry copper companies. In K.H.
mission to reproduce Figure 4 from their collection, and one Kennedy (ed.) Readings in North Queensland Mining His-
anonymous referee for hidher helpful comments. tory C'ol l , pp.22 1-50. Townsville: James Cook University.
Kerr, J. 1980 North Queensland mining railways. In K.H. Kennedy
References (ed.) Readings in North Queensland Mining Histoty 1'01 l ,
Anon. ca. 19 14 Cloncurry 19 14. Unpublished typescript, part pp.272-98. Townsville: James Cook University.
missing. North Queensland Collection, James Cook Univer- Major, T. 1900 Leaves from a Squatter's NoteBook by Thomas
sity. l'ownsville. Major, Late inspector of Runs for the New South Wales Gov-
Armstrong, R.E.M. ca. 1 980 The Kalkadoons: A Study of an Abor- ernment. London: Sands and Company.
iginal Tribe on the Queensland Frontier. Brisbane: William Monvood, M.J. and Walsh, T. 1993 A mark in time. Australian
Brooks. Natural History 24(6):40-5.
Beale. P. (ed.) 1984 A Dictionay o f s l a n g and Unconventional Noble, W. and Davidson, I. 1993 Tracing the emergence of modem
English. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. human behaviour: Methodological pitfalls and a theoretical
Connell, R.W. 1995 h4u.sculinities. St Leonards: Allen and Unwin. path. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 12:12 1-49.
Cresswell, T. 1992 The crucial 'where' of graffiti: A geographical Ramson, W.S. (ed.) l988 The Australian Xational Dlctionaty.
analysis of reactions to graffiti in New York. Environment Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
and Planning D: Society and Space 10:329-44. Reekie, G. 1994 Women, region and the 'Queensland Difference'. In
Davidson, I., Sutton, S.A. and Gale. S.J. 1993 The human occu- G. Reekie (ed.) On the Edge: Women's Experiences oj'Queens-
pation of Cuckadoo 1 rockshelter, northwest central Queens- land, pp.8-24. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press.
land. In M.A. Smith, M. Spriggs and B.L. Fankhauser (eds) Rooks, J. 199 1 Ancient pitches. Archaeology 44:72.
Sahul in Review: Pleistocene Archaeology in Australia, New Simes, G. 1992 The language of homosexuality in Australia. In
Guinea and Island Melanesia. pp. 164-72. Canberra: De- R. Aldrich and G. Wotherspoon (eds) Gay Perspectives: fisays
partment of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific and Asian in Australian Gay Culture, pp.3 1-57. Sydney: Department
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Papers in Prehistory. No. 24. Spearritt, K. 1990 The market for marriage in colonial Queens-
Evans, R., Saunders, K. and Cronin, K. 1975 Exclusion, Exploitation land. Hecate 16:23-42.
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Sydney: Australia and New Zealand Book Company. London: Bloomsbury.

Self-representation and Aboriginal communities in the Northern


Territory: Implications for archaeological research

Peter Thorley

Recent criticisms of ethnographic practice have focused broader trends in adopting reflexive approaches to archae-
attention on the way Aborigines (among other groups) are ology, approaches which are directed toward the analysis of
represented in anthropological literature (Carrier 1992, 1995; the author's role, placing particular emphasis on the produc-
Myers 1986a; Rose 1992; Toussaint 1994, 1996). In archae- tion of texts (Burke et al. 1994). My main concern here is
ology, the notion of representation has been raised in relation with the practical implications of these ideas, that is, how
to issues such as ownership of the past (McBryde 1985), the they apply in the face to face situations in which archaeolo-
role of indigenous communities in archaeological research gists working in remote Australia are typically engaged. In
(Pardoe 1992) and in the context of current theoretical dis- this paper, examples are drawn from Aboriginal communities
cussions within the discipline (Hodder 199 1 ;Smith 1995). It in the Northern Territory to illustrate the complexities of self-
has been suggested recently that Australia is responding to representation through archaeological research.

I>epartnient of Anthropology. Northern Territory University, PO Box


403 16, Casuarina. NT 08 1 1, Australia

Australran Archaeology, Number 43, 1996


Self-represenfution and .4borigrnal communities in the .4'ortherrr Territont Implications for archaeological research

Self-representation values and conventions for transmitting information within


Anthropological and historical perspectives their own society, rather than have them tampered with to
The term self-representation is used here to refer to the facilitate their translation to a wider audience.
way individuals or groups within society choose to represent Once the accounts have been removed from their original
themselves, and how those representations are transmitted and contexts, there are also difficulties involved in their valida-
validated. In this sense, the concept is relevant to the propo- tion. In recognising the problems confronting ethnographic
sition that archaeological research should become a 'voice' for informants as arbiters of their own accounts, Carrier (1992:
Aboriginal viewpoints or that research questions should be 197) writes:
generated by Aboriginal communities rather than by issues Western anthropologists, describing societies that
primarily of concern to archaeology. To examine the basis of they have studied closely and sympathetically, are
these propositions and their relevance to the applied contexts likely to c o n h n t only their own honour as a check
in which archaeologists in the Northern Territory work, it is on the representations they produce. Even if those
necessary as a first step to turn to the disciplines of anthro- being described come to read and reject the repre-
pology and ethnohistory. sentations, their rejection is unlikely to be voiced
In anthropology, the issue of self-representation has been in the academic or social contexts which matter
examined as part of the broader inquiry into the dynamics most to anthropologists.
of the way human cultures represent themselves and others Jackson (1987: 19) has taken a similar stance, noting further
(Carrier 1992, 1995; Myers 1986a; Linnekin 1992; Wagner that, through its emphasis on texts, reflexive anthropology has
1980). This analysis has led to a critique of ethnographic achieved little more than 'salving our consciences':
writing as an essentially political exercise which excludes the textualism tends to ignore the flux of human inter-
voices of minority cultures and justifies their subordination relationships, the ways meanings are created inter-
(Attwood and Amold 1992; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Mar- subjectlvdy as weJJ as 'intertextually', embodied in
cus and Fischer 1986; Lattas 1992). As a consequence there gestures as well as in words, and connected to poli-
has been a growing number of claims for the recognition of tical, moral and aesthetic interests. Quite simply,
the rights of indigenous and minority groups to produce their people cannot be reduced to texts any more than
own representations to counter those generated by majority they can be reduced to objects (Jackson 1987:19).
culture interests (Handler 1993). While Jackson (1987) draws attention to the limitations
These themes have parallels in the recent literature on inherent in the reflexive emphasis on texts his comments high-
ethnohistory, where history is increasingly viewed as a form light the complexities of interaction which underlie ethno-
of 'cultural biography' and historical sources (including arch- graphic representations. Carrier (1992) and Myers ( l986b)
aeology) are 'joined to the memories and voices of living have made similar observations.
people' (Simmons 1988:10). In the context of ethnohistory, One of the main implications to come out of this literature
much attention has been given to the role of oral accounts in in anthropology is the point that ethnographic representations
representing the views of cultures without a written tradition. cannot be isolated fiom relationships formed with participants
Down (1990) argues that oral history is as valid a form of during the research process. Research creates a dynamic be-
historical account as written history, while Muecke (1992) sug- tween researcher and participants, which influences the way
gests that Aboriginal oral history is in itself a form of 'textual the process is perceived and represented by each side. The
representation', although as Barwick (l98 1) has pointed out, perceptions each side has of the other are typically influenced
its conventions are quite distinct fi-om those of written history. by their own assumptions and values, while the views they
Others have taken the view that the transcription of oral his- project of themselves are often embellished to fit external
tory provides cultures without a written tradition an oppor- and somewhat idealised notions. Taken at face value these
tunity to represent their oral accounts in written form. For representations may lead to distortion. To go beyond this
example, Rose (1992:40) maintains that in her research in potentially distorting mirror of self-representation it is neces-
the Northern Territory: sary to cross-check statements across a range of viewpoints,
Yarralin people have put considerable effort into to create a larger system of meaning, without which 'we can-
teaching me because they hope the written word not foretell what its participants are treating concretely in their
will become a vehicle for their oral testimony. activity, linguistic or otherwise' (Myers 1986b:444). The view
Whether it is possible, however, to provide a written account of culture generated by this process may be quite different,
without detracting significantly from the original character of however, to the way subjects choose to represent themselves.
the oral perspective remains doubtful.
Barwick (198 1) recognises the importance of oral accounts Self-representation and Aboriginal communities
which come direct from participants, but acknowledges the The North ern Territory and remote Australia
difficulties involved in their conversion to written form. Many The Northern Territory comprises a unique set of circum-
of the values and conventions associated with oral accounts stances which influence the contexts in which archaeology
are culturally defrned and, as a consequence, are unable to be operates. The relative autonomy and physical isolation of re-
reproduced in written accounts (Hudson 1980). Invariably, mote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory has
meaning is lost during the transcription of oral accounts and enabled residents to exercise their own systems of value in
in the process the written words come to take on more of the a range of cultural choices.
editor's own assumptions and interests. For groups who have The following discussion draws largely on my own experi-
distinctive oral traditions, it may be important to retain these ences in central Australia between 1986-l996 (which includes

Australian Archaeology, Number 43, 1996


Thorley

four years permanent residence in a remote community). In remote Aboriginal communities remains strong. Language lies
doing archaeological research and talking about archaeology at the core of personal autonomy and is the means of trans-
I have found that Aboriginal people are often varied in their mission of culture and identity. In much of the Northern
responses and yet many of the same themes and assumptions Territory, Aborigines choose to speak their own traditional
seem to underlie the interaction. From these experiences I language or Kriol rather than English. In most remote com-
attempt to provide an understanding of the complexity of munities, few adults have fluency in English and many have
Aboriginal representation in archaeology rather than a set of achieved little more than basic literacy either in English or
prescriptive answers, while acknowledging that archaeologists the vernacular.
working elsewhere in the Northern Territory and in other states This creates difficulties for communication with non-
may approach these issues from a different perspective. Aboriginal people both within the community and in the wider
One of the features of many remote Aboriginal commu- world. As a result, Aboriginal communities often remain
nities throughout Australia is their maintenance of cultural heavily reliant on outsiders to provide an interface with main-
autonomy (Rowse 1992). This has been facilitated in the stream society, with its attendant problems of exploitation and
Northern Territory by legislation, particularly the Land Rights misappropriation (e.g. Rose 1992; von Stunner 1982). Yet
(Nv Act 1976. In communities away from major population while poor English and literacy attainment impedes Aborigi-
centres, in the Kirnberleys and Western Desert and in remote nal control on the one hand, it is also an expression of cul-
parts of the Cape York peninsula, a similar set of circum- tural choice; many Aboriginal people do not rely on literacy
stances may prevail. Rowse (1992) has explored this in some to achieve that which they value.
detail in the monograph titled Remote Possibilities. In spite In exercising language choice, Aboriginal people have
of their similarities, it must be conceded that there are sig- been able to maintain control over knowledge within their own
nificant cultural differences amongst Aboriginal groups both domain. At Doomadgee in northwest Queensland, Trigger
within the Northern Territory and outside it. (1986: 116) comments that this kind of autonomy
is predicated on exclusion of whites from physical
Aboriginal language and cultural choice space, styles of behaviour and modes of thought (and
A glance at the linguistic situation in the Northern Terri- communication) rather than on the capacity to wrest
tory (Fig. 1) shows that use of traditional language among economic or political power h m the wider society.
In most remote Aboriginal communities, responsibility for the
BURARRA 6 transmission of valued Aboriginal knowledge rests with senior
men and women who are typically the least literate group.
These observations impIy that ariy attempts to impose arch-
aeology as a fonn of representation, based as it is on funda-
mentally different understandings of the world and language
conventions, may work against the very distinctive ways in
REYBIRRNGA which knowledge is transmitted and validated in the Abori-
ginal domain.

Cultural difference and accountability


The cultural autonomy coupled with relative dependency
which prevails in remote parts of the Northern Territory pro-
vides a situation which most outsiders find challenging if not
confronting. Carrying out archaeological research in these
conditions immediately raises questions of Aboriginal involve-
ment and representation, and communication of the findings
back to the community. In many Aboriginal communities,
however, low English and literacy competence will make it
difficult to meaningfully convey archaeological accounts and,
as a consequence, the presentation of research in this way may
contribute little to community control and evaluation in real
ALYAWARRA terms. The quality of the delivery is critical to the process, but
as archaeologists rarely have the sophisticated level of fluency
in local languages, effective communication of the findings
is difficult to achieve in practice. What typically happens is
that the archaeologist presents their own description of the
fmdings to the individuals with whom the research was carried
out, or to representatives of the community, who then pass
what is assumed to be 'community' judgement. To commu-
nicate the research in this way may achieve little, both because
of the differing goals of the researchers and participants and
Figure l Northern Tenitory languages (dialects in italics) with over 100 the nebulous nature of the term 'community', an issue which
speakers (Black 1983). will be discussed later in this paper.

Australian Archaeology, Number 43, 1996


SeiJ-represetlturronand Aboriginal communrties ~nthe Sorthern Terrrtor),. Implications for archaeologicul resrarcll

Written accountability remains foremost among academic the insertion of Aborigines into power and deci-
values, indeed, it is the basis on which research in archae- sion making apparati of the State under policies of
ology is ultimately assessed. Although written representations 'self management' [where] the individual is sup-
may be critical fiom an archaeological point of view, Abori- posed to function as the representative of his people
ginal perceptions are likely to reflect other priorities. Research just as surely as Bungaree was supposed to h c t i o n
creates opportunities to develop what are potentially valued as the King of the Sydney Aborigines (1987: 138).
relationships, beyond which the details of the research and the In terms of decision-making, a community may be a geo-
written form it takes may generate little interest among Abori- graphic entity but little more. The reality for those who work
ginal participants and audiences. In some situations, the value in these situations is often that their affiliations lie with parti-
placed on relationships may actually make it more difficult for cular individuals or family groups (Myers 1986b; Rowse 1992).
Aborigines to overtly challenge what the researcher says. Their work cements the relationship and they become. in a
Interest in the relationship could be misinterpreted as approval sense, 'owned' (von Stunner 1982). Folds (pers. comm.) de-
of the researcher's fmdings while fiom an Aboriginal point of scribed how one woman from a central Australian commu-
view the content of the research may be seen as unimportant. nity claimed exclusive rights to work with a group of biolo-
Different values are assigned by each side. As a society with- gists fiom the Conservation Commission of the Northern Ter-
out a Western tradition of impersonal academic debate there ritory (CCNT), on the basis of having worked with them in the
is little incentive to argue with the researcher and risk the past and through connections with relatives in other nearby
relationship, in fact there may be a tendency to defend the communities where the CCNT researchers had worked.
researcher in order to preserve the relationship, no matter how Archaeological research frequently offers economic in-
misguided the representation. centives (payment for involvement in fieldwork, access to
vehicles, etc.) and it does not take long for groups within the
Self-representation and community research community to discover the kind of ififormation most likely
A related issue facing archaeologists in remote parts of the to encourage their own participation. Research which meets
Northern Territory is to ensure 'community' consensus in gain- the perceived needs of people is then apt to become the focus
ing approval for research. The term 'community' has served of competing groups within the community, all of which are
for some time as a convenient, though in many cases mis- attempting to satisfy the researcher's agenda, while research
leading, point of reference for discussion of Aboriginal in- which does not offer anything of value is likely to languish
volvement in archaeological research (e.g. Creamer 1983). through lack of interest.
There is considerable ethnographic literature which deals with Although 'community' representation may be desirable in
the problems of the term 'community' and its usage in refer- archaeology, in many situations it will be difficult to realise.
ring to contemporary Aboriginal polities in remote Australia As a general rule, research proceeds through relationships
(Myers l986b, 1988; Hamilton 1987; Rowse 1992; Trigger with individuals, and archaeologists who acquire information
1992). Without going into too much detail here, the ethno- in this way do not 'learn' ffom a community nor do their under-
graphic critique has revolved around the difficulty of incor- standing~necessarily represent the views of the majority of
porating smaller, kin-based social units which characterise people who happen to reside in a particular locality. A firther
Aboriginal society within larger, more encompassing social unintentional consequence of 'community' research is that it
structures which the wider society views as 'communities'. may draw Aboriginal people into a structure whose traditions
In archaeology, this defmitional problem has implications lie well outside their society, placing stress on existing values
for who or what is represented in 'community' research. Is it and decision-making structures (see Folds 1993 for a discus-
the local community, a community organisation or specific sion of the impact of well-meaning though culturally-biased
individuals? These are not simply issues of semantics but are concepts on Aboriginal societies in central Australia).
relevant to the way that researchers construct and interact with
the groups with whom the research takes place. Implicit in Exchange relationships
the notion of 'community' representation is the assumption Carrying out research in Aboriginal communities involves
that the views held by members of a particular community expectations of benefits on both sides. Community members
are internally consistent or that certain individuals are able have their own agendas and naturally expect to gain some-
to 'speak for' the interests of the people as a whole. thing of value to themselves for taking part in the research
In many Aboriginal communities, the issue of leadership is project, as do their researchers. In situations where Abori-
often a volatile one. Decisions affecting daily lives of its mem- ginal groups are to some extent dependent economically on
bers are generally made by elected representatives of com- 'outsiders', there is far more at stake than the outcomes of
munity councils. However, gaining consensus which binds all the research or the accuracy of the representation.
community members is often difficult to achieve in practice In contemporary Western Desert communities, expecta-
because of social practices that divide communities along indi- tions placed on researchers are in some respects similar to
vidual, gender or kin-based lines (Rowse 1992). A similar those placed on kin. Relationships are sustained by the ex-
observation has been made by Hamilton (1987) who points change of resources and services and demands are propor-
out that the concept of community (based on a 'village' model) tional to the importance or 'closeness' of the relationship
is more the result of bureaucratic convenience than any ac- (Myers l986b; Tonkinson 1991). The distribution of resources
curate conception of contemporary or traditional arrangements among relatives is typically the basis of such exchanges rather
in the Western Desert. This perception, she argues, has led than any attempt to service the broader goals of the commu-
to nity (Myers 1986b; Rowse 1992). For example, access to

Australian Archaeology, Number 43, 1996


Thorley

vehicles may provide opportunities to visit country or relatives, many Aboriginal groups have distinct language conventions
or to obtain fbrther resources (such as game through hunting) and ways of transmitting information about the past. Arch-
which may then be shared among relatives. Researchers aeology is a culture-specific method of transmitting informa-
working in these situations may find themselves reluctant tion, which relies to some extent on 'insider' knowledge passed
to meet requests which fall beyond the main objective of on through a particular Western cultural tradition. The form
their work. Nonetheless, it is their performance in these in which human cultures choose to represent themselves and
areas, primarily through their relationships with particular the means by which knowledge and information are validated,
individuals, that influences the standing of researchers within are highly specific. Aborigines are unlikely to dump their
a community, rather than through claims to have repre- own traditions to embrace archaeology as a form of self-
sented Aboriginal views in written form through the research, representation any more than archaeologists are likely to throw
claims which at any rate could not be validated in Aborigi- out their own research questions, although there may be some
nal terms. borrowing between the respective cultures.
It is fanciful to think, for example, that Aboriginal elders While the differences between the cultures can be a prob-
will be content with teaching non-Aborigines about them- lem for self-representation in this context, they do not provide
selves in order that some far-distant and anonymous popu- an irreconcilable barrier between residents of remote cornmu-
lation will gain insights into their culture, and will expect to nities and archaeologists. A more realistic view of the process
gain, in return, nothing more than the written reports produced of interaction between archaeologists and Aborigines living
by the research. As a minority group heavily dependent on in remote and relatively autonomous regions is one based on
outsiders Aboriginal people have an investment in how they exchange. From an Aboriginal perspective the relationship
represent themselves. When economic benefits are to be with the researcher is likely to be more important than the
gained, however, it may be more in their interests to be actual research. These relationships may be of value to arch-
acceptable rather than accurate. Archaeologists who have aeological research, but they do not necessarily provide the
worked in the Northern Territory have long had an interest validation or checking of the research across the community
in remnant hunter-gather populations. Aborigines living in that the researcher might believe to be the case. Archaeolo-
what are perceived as 'traditional' contexts are often well aware gists and Aborigines may have different interests in the arch-
of this selective interest and curiosity with the traditional aeological record; to a large extent the development of work-
aspects of their culture. In 10 years of working with Abori- able relationships depends on recognition of the other. These
ginal people in central Australia I have found that they are relationships and the exchanges they generate provide the
extremely astute at assessing the assumptions of archaeolo- potential for research which produces something of value
gists and others with an interest in their traditional culture to both sides.
and past, and will frequently reproduce these assumptions in
order to cement the relationship which will in turn improve Acknowledgements
access to services or resources. I thank Ralph Folds and Chris Schwarz for their com-
ments on drafts of this paper. I also thank Wenten Rubun-
Implications for archaeological research tja, Syd Coulthard, Rarney Campbell and Pinta Pinta Tjapa-
Claims to provide 'self-representation' are growing in arch- nangka for helping me to appreciate some of the contradic-
aeology following trends in anthropology and the social sci- tions their and mine.
ences generally. Because of the promise they hold for greater
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In defence of Arnhem Land rock art research

Darrell ~ e w i s ' ~ ~

In 1992 two papers dealing with Arnhem Land rock art His other paper examines the claim made by Chaloupka
were published by Ivan Haskovec. Both contain previously (1977, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1985) that large paintings of animals
unpublished illustrations of rock paintings and increase the and human figures in naturalistic style occur near the begin-
range of published material available for scholarly analysis. ning of the Arnhem Land art sequence (Haskovec 1992b).
One paper examines a particular style of human figure found This paper may be considered to have two parts. The first
between Oenpelli and Magela Creek, which Haskovec has label- is primarily a reappraisal of Chaloupka's written and illus-
led 'Northern Running Figures' or 'NW' (Haskovec l992a). trative evidence, and an in-the-field reappraisal of the over-
He begins his examination with an assessment of the existing lay sequences at two 'key' sites at Mount Gilruth - the sites
Arnhem Land rock art sequences. Then he moves on to dis- upon which Chaloupka based his original claim. Haskovec
cuss the spatial and temporal distribution of the figures, and to concludes that evidence for the chronological position claimed
describe the style and its content. Finally, he suggests absolute by Chaloupka does not exist.
dates for the period during which the figures were produced. In the second part Haskovec reinterprets Chaloupka's
evidence and claims the discovery of new overlay sequences
which necessitate a rearranging of the sequence of art styles.
1 40 Tiwi Gardens Road, Tiwi, NT 0810, Australia. He then goes on to suggest absolute dates for this new se-
2 Ms. received December 1993. Accepted February 1996. Eds note that quence and to offer hypotheses to account for some of the
the delay in accepting this ms. arose out of prolonged correspondence changes in the art.
between Eds and author over necessary editorial changes.

Australian Archaeology, Number 43, 1996