Tag Archives: Macleay Press

Where will I find authentic and reliable information about Tasmania’s aborigines prior to 1803?

This question has been asked because I am not concerned with researching European settlement or its impact on Tasmania’s indigenous population.

It seems that three categories of information sources might be used for my study:

  1. the written/printed word,
  2. material anthropology, and
  3. oral histories. Such histories might exist in association with the continuance of authentic movements such as dance and sound making.

As stated in an earlier post, the original settlers in Van Diemen’s Land, the descendants of non-indigenous peoples, and other non-indigenous people have left historical written/printed documentation. In addition, exploring visitors to this island before European settlement made written records. Each of these writers will have their own perspective, and so my challenge will be to remember what they write is not necessarily a fact. This means I will need supporting and corroborating evidence of other kinds; material artefacts and/or oral histories.  I do not expect to find any early 19th century documentation written by Tasmanian aborigines – but I would be very excited to read such records if I should find them.

James Joyce, in his essay “Fantasy Island” (Manne, 2003, Whitewash Black Inc. Agenda, Melbourne) refuted the evidence of Keith Windshuttle’s book (2002, Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One, Van Diemen’s Land 1803-1847 Macleay Press, Sydney) when he declared ‘Windshuttle can impose his contemporary conclusions on Van Diemen’s Land history only by limiting the selection of sources …’.  Joyce’s position reminds me to stay focused and to explore broadly.

At the moment, I have started working through a mountain of freely available reference material seeking clues as to what I might need to follow up with careful research.  As yet, I have found very little that pertains to the Derwent River. These are early days during which I will come to an understanding of the limitations and challenges of my project.