Doctor of Philosophy
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry
The Bundian Way Project is an initiative of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) who are revitalising an Aboriginal pathway that stretches from Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach), south of Eden on the New South Wales far south coast to Targangal (Mount Kosciousko), in the Australian high country. The project seeks to celebrate and highlight a deep Aboriginal past, as well as recuperate Aboriginal cultural practices and knowledge systems that helped to sustain people and place for several millennia. Aboriginal Elders and activists engaged with the project hope to share histories that communicate the shared Aboriginal use of the pathway and how postinvasion Aboriginal people guided settler peoples along their ancestral trails. As a ‘shared history’ pathway, the Bundian Way has been viewed as a mechanism for reconciliation and as a way of building more productive cross-cultural relations. This thesis is an exploration of Aboriginal history-making undertaken by Elders and activists engaged with the project. In particular, this thesis seeks to understand how a small group of non-Aboriginal people are responding to this history-making and what these responses might mean to the process of ‘reconciliation’ on the far south coast.
This thesis employs qualitative interviews and ethnographic research to consider the many ways that the contemporary Aboriginal past is thought about and utilised via engagements with the Bundian Way project. Elders and activists engaged with the project are drawing on embodied and emplaced practices, and their lived experience as Aboriginal people in settler Australia to (re)imagine histories that can evoke more hopeful futures. Drawing on their words, I argue that their history-making is present-centred and future-orientated and is helping them and their community to build better lives in settler Australia. Non-Indigenous people are thinking about the histories communicated to them by Aboriginal people in various ways; through the body, material and emplaced practices and through specific affects. I argue that these ways of knowing (re)produce particular understandings of Aboriginal and settler pasts. I also argue that these understandings are often informed by settler emotions, which can impact on the development of productive cross-cultural relations through the project.
Through the Bundian Way ‘shared history’ pathway, Aboriginal Elders and activists are telling more honest histories of the far south coast that foreground the deep Aboriginal past and assert the fundamental difference of Indigenous sovereignty. This process of history-making is challenging some non-Indigenous people to think differently about Aboriginal and settler pasts. This thesis examines how this unfolding process, initiated by Elders and activists on the far south coast, is received, interpreted and utilised by some non-Aboriginal people in the place they call home.
Stewart, Jodie, Pathways into History: Experiencing the Contemporary Aboriginal past on the Bundian Way, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong, 2019. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/852
Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.