'This is the story of a search for the lost white woman in the wilds of Gippsland, Victoria in 1846 - a quest in defence of virtue and "civilised" values. It is also a story of fear, history, myth and the power of the imagination.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'This is the first in-depth, broad-based study of the impact of the Australian High Court’s landmark Mabo decision of 1992 on Australian fiction. More than any other event in Australia’s legal, political and cultural history, the Mabo judgement – which recognised indigenous Australians’ customary native title to land – challenged previous ways of thinking about land and space, settlement and belonging, race and relationships, and nation and history, both historically and contemporaneously. While Mabo’s impact on history, law, politics and film has been the focus of scholarly attention, the study of its influence on literature has been sporadic and largely limited to examinations of non-Aboriginal novels.
'Now, a quarter of a century after Mabo, this book takes a closer look at nineteen contemporary novels – including works by David Malouf, Alex Miller, Kate Grenville, Thea Astley, Tim Winton, Michelle de Kretser, Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright and Kim Scott – in order to define and describe Australia’s literary imaginary as it reflects and articulates post-Mabo discourse today. Indeed, literature’s substantial engagement with Mabo’s cultural legacy – the acknowledgement of indigenous people’s presence in the land, in history, and in public affairs, as opposed to their absence – demands a re-writing of literary history to account for a “Mabo turn” in Australian fiction. ' (Publication summary)
In 1962, Douglas Pike, the Professor of History at the Australian National University, published a book called Australia: The Quiet Continent. As the title indicates, Pike describes a land only awakened from its historical slumber by the arrival of Europeans at the end of the eighteenth century. Aboriginal participation in the nation’s story is quieted in Pike’s work. Aboriginal people are barely mentioned in 233 pages of text, other than being referred to as “native people [held] in stone-age bondage” (1) or as “primitive food-gatherers [who] were no match for the white invader” (36). Passages stating that “the Australian communities took shape as peaceful outposts of British civilization” (3), ignore or suppress any suggestion that the land was taken from Aboriginal people by force. This was entirely in keeping with the fashion of Australian historical narrative for the time.' (Introduction)
‘A fire hydrant on a street corner in Carlton, in inner-city Melbourne, carries an ephemeral stencilled graffito : ‘terror nullius.’ The graffito is a pun on the legal doctrine of terra nullius, Latin for ‘nobody’s land,’ which dictated that any territory found by a colonizing power could be occupied and claimed if it was deemed not to be inhabited by prior occupants. Typically it was deployed by the British, for example, in a number of rulings in the mid- to late – nineteenth century, (Reynolds, 'Frontier History' 4) to legitimize their colonial conquests around the so-called New World, in particular in Australia. Its hegemony as a legal fiction was ended by the Australian High Court’s historic Mabo ruling of 1992, which deemed that so-called native title, that is, Indigenous possession of Australia, had existed before and after British occupation and the declaration of sovereignty in 1788 (Butt, Eagleson, and Lane).’ (Introduction)