Date of Submission
Foucault (1996) argued that modern Western history was an invention of nineteenth century Europe and based on linearity, teleology and historicity. Hence the written history and culture of Aboriginal people in Australian has largely been seen through a similar principle as detailed in Chakrabarty’s (2007) ‘provincialising Europe,’ which is through master narratives. My dissertation addresses the question of who the Woppaburra of the Central Queensland region were culturally and historically. The pre-existing Western narrative tells a story of a submissive people studied, described and analysed with a strong colonial discursive approach. In contrast, I have used the ‘counter-narrative’ that Freeman (2004) considered to be the “culturally rooted aspects of one’s history” that are yet to be uncovered (p.298). The lens through which I viewed the counter narrative was through Indigenous research methodology considered part of Indigenous Standpoint Theory (IST).
The history and culture of the Woppaburra have been exhumed through the data collected as described in Yins (2009) case study method. I have used Yin’s (2009) multiple data sources as evidence for this study. These data are Western documentation and archival records alongside the voices of Elders in interviews, direct observation at ‘on-country’ meetings and festivals, and physical artefacts which show a cultural representation of totems. A significant artefact is a length of plaited Woppaburra hair which is a biological remnant of the people under study. The Woppaburra believe it holds the memories of ancestors, story lines and healing properties. These data sources have shown that the Western text does not indicate personal stories of traditional practices, attachment to country and the centrality of totems to the Woppaburra. These data have been collectively analysed and findings presented through photographs, artwork and text.
The findings from a plethora of documents demonstrate that in government archival records, public newspapers and anthropological photographs, the Woppaburra were used as items of interest, targets of punitive shooting parties, objects of slave labour and a people to be relocated at the whim of protectors. Interviews with Elders and limited anthropological papers give an alternate perspective of a people strongly connected to their natural homelands. The conclusions indicated that although the Woppaburra have been treated harshly, dispossessed of their homeland and denigrated culturally, they retained strong connections with their traditional homeland. In one sense they continue caring for their homeland through partnerships with local, state and national agencies set up by the surrounding culture but in a deeper sense, today they maintain their dreamings and cycle of life through stories and cultural traditions. The connection to country across time for the Woppaburra is that, traditionally and today, they see their world through totems, ancestors and intergenerational narratives.
School of Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Education and Arts
Van Issum, H. J. (2016). Woppaburra: Past and present (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from http://researchbank.acu.edu.au/theses/662