Law Text Culture


From the earliest point of the white invasion of Australia the process of colonisation has been inextricably interwoven with an attempt to deny or erase any signs of Indigenous2 presence in the landscape. This article examines the manner in which the meanings accorded to space and place in post-colonial Australia are constructed. As Ashcroft et al (1997: 353) put it: ‘Place and displacement are crucial features of the postcolonial discourse.’ Importantly they emphasise the fact that the term place is not merely synonymous with landscape. There are a host of meanings that can be attributed to the writing of the stories of place in Australia. From the outset it should be noted that the experience of the settler societies can be distinguished from other colonial nations such as India or Jamaica, in that the colonisers have remained, there has been no return to the metropolitan centre. A consequence of the enduring presence of the colonisers is the fact that there remains disquietude, a tension between those who have been displaced and those who have replaced them. In seeking to explain how non-Indigenous Australians have sought to reconcile the erasure of Indigenous Australians from the Australian landscape and history W E Stanner, the eminent anthropologist, reflected that it is: … a view from a window which has been carefully placed to exclude a whole quadrant of the landscape. What may well have begun as a simple forgetting of other possible views turned under habit and over time into something like a cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale. We have been able for so long to disremember the aborigines that we are now hard put to keep them in mind even when we most want to do so (1972: 25).