Publication Details

Jacklin, M, Collaboration and resistance in Indigenous life writing, Australian Canadian Studies, 20(1), 2002, p 27-45.


Collaboration is marked by indeterminacy. It is, by nature, intermediary, interposing, intervening. In Australia, collaboration between Aboriginal and invader/settler subjects in the unfolding of colonial engagement is a topic that has received limited scholarly attention. Some studies have dealt with native police and Black trackers; others have examined local negotiations of power and discourse; but the only broad survey of collaboration is Henry Reynolds's With the White People (1990). In this work Reynolds traces the varied modes of collaboration existing between the Aborigines and the European colonists of Australia from first contact and early settlement through ro the First World War. Reynolds's study of Aboriginal collaboration is intended to complement his earlier book, The Other Side of the Frontier (1981), which had focused primarily on Aboriginal resistance. He begins With the White People by acknowledging that his earlier work on resistance covered "only part of the story" (1). In Reynolds's words, "for every tribesman and woman who defied the whites there were others who worked for the interlopers assisting in the process of colonisation" (1). Reynolds charts Aboriginal assistance to European explorers, the work of the Black troopers, Aboriginal contribution to pioneering and the pastoral industries, and the complexities of frontier sexual relations. Reynolds says that scholarly attention to Aboriginal and settler Australian collaboration challenges settler histories that claim Australian nation building as an exclusively European achievement. Equally, however, he says that collaboration is a theme for which few Aboriginal activists hold any enthusiasm, collaboration being associated with either surrender to white control, or participation in frontier violence. Reynolds ends this work emphasising that "the two themes of resistance and assistance, of confrontation and collaboration, are threaded through the history of Aboriginal response to the Europeans over the last two hundred years" (233).