Publication Details

Gill, N., Paterson, A. and Kennedy, M., 'Murphy, do you want to delete this?' Hidden histories and hidden landscapes in the Murchison and Davenport ranges, Northern Territory, Australia, in Ward, G. and Muckel, A. (eds), The Power of Knowledge, the Resonance of Tradition, Proceedings of the AIATSIS Indigenous Studies Conference, September 2001, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2005, 125-137.


[Extract] During Easter in 2000 we (AP and NG) were in Central Australia during heavy rainfalls and flooding. Roads were cut and we were stuck in Tennant Creek. We decided to review documents held by the local museum. This included material used in the late 1970s to compile a general history of Tennant Creek, the only such work of which we are aware. It was interesting to note that in one case the author had written to a pastoralist they had recently visited, and included a section describing the role of Aboriginal people at their station. In brackets after this section the author asked the pastoralist: 'do you want to delete this?' The final published version indicates the pastoralist chose to exercise their power of veto. In Central Australia, there is a small and growing collection of such local histories. They are often celebratory of pioneer settlement and driven by a concern that the ‘pioneer’ past of the Northern Territory needs to be documented before it is lost (Gill Forthcoming). These local histories constitute a significant means by which the past and its attendant social and political arrangements and relations are revalidated. To a contemporary audience they reaffirm the actions and values of non-indigenous people in the Northern Territory’s past. In so doing they ‘transcend nostalgia’ (Lowenthal 1985) and form a body of public history in which the values of the dominant ‘whitefella culture’ are reaffirmed and made available as history. Through these public histories, local events and national narratives of history and identity intersect (Rose & Lewis 1992).

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AIATSIS Indigenous Studies Conference

Murchison_ranges_region.jpg (231 kB)
Figure one