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June 22nd 2009 print

Michael Connor

Inventing White Aborigines

By changing the text of her PhD thesis for her best-selling book on the Tasmanian Aborigines Lyndall Ryan turned modern "part-Aborigines" into "Tasmanian Aborigines".

First published in Quadrant Online as Culture Catcher: 4

 

ITEM #1 Inventing white Aborigines (emphasis added):

PhD thesis by Lyndall Ryan, 1975:

… this thesis argues that expropriation of Aboriginal Tasmanian lands resulted not only in the institutionalisation of Aborigines, but also the development of a part-Aboriginal society.

Book by Lyndall Ryan, 1981 and 1996:

The Tasmanian Aborigines have survived.

ITEM #2 Inventing white Aborigines (emphasis added):

PhD thesis by Lyndall Ryan, 1975:

Tas Brown and Harry Penrith first opened my eyes to the part-Aboriginal population and then gave me their confidence and trust to write about them …

Book by Lyndall Ryan, 1981 and 1996:

In Tasmania, Tas Brown and Harry Penrith first opened my eyes to the Aboriginal population and then gave me encouragement to write about them.

ITEM #3 History as useful political fictions. From Lyndall Ryan’s  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee phase in the mid-1970s, to the land rights politics of the early 1980s:

PhD thesis by Lyndall Ryan, 1975:

The fact that the ranges remained unoccupied however allowed these Aborigines to conduct a guerilla war with the settlers for control of the ‘settled districts’. When [the Aborigines] began their raids on stock and settlers’ huts at the end of 1823, they were partly seeking provisions and partly searching for lost prestige.

Book by Lyndall Ryan, 1981 and 1996:

When they began to spear stock and raid stock-keepers’ huts, the Aborigines were partly seeking provisions in payment for unauthorized occupation and partly seeking lost prestige. While the Aborigines were prepared to accept ‘outsiders’ into their system of mutual reciprocity, the stock-keepers and settlers had no system for accepting the Aborigines as previous or rightful occupants of the land. 

ITEM #4  Sleeping PhD examiners:

Source cited by Lyndall Ryan (Hobart Town Gazette):

At the farm of G.W. EVANS. Esq, Deputy Surveyor General, at Abyssinia, a party of Natives appear to have presented themselves last week; and we are sorry to add, that one of the stock-keepers was killed by them, and Mr. Evans’s hut burnt.

PhD thesis by Lyndall Ryan, 1975:

In January 1824 however, when a stockkeeper at Abyssinia between the Jordan and Clyde Rivers, attempted to take an Aboriginal woman from the Big River people without any remuneration, he was promptly speared to death and his hut burnt.

Book by Lyndall Ryan, 1981 and 1996:

But in January 1824, when a stock-keeper at Abyssinia, between the Jordon and Clyde rivers, attempted to take an Aboriginal woman from the Big River people without any remuneration, they promptly speared him and burnt his hut. 

References:

Lyndall Ryan, The Aborigines in Tasmania, 1800-1974, and their problems with the Europeans, PhD thesis, submitted December 1975, Macquarie University

Lyndall Ryan, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, Allen and Unwin, 1981 and 1996

Hobart Town Gazette, 23 January 1824