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Mapping Indigenous Australia

Frances Morphy, General Editor (with Bill Arthur), Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, Center for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University

Wednesday 9 October at 5.30 pm

The Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, published in 2005, was the first atlas of its kind, anywhere. It won two prizes in the 2006 Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing – the Scholarly Reference (wholly Australian) section, and the overall prize for best educational book of the year. Bill Arthur first had the idea for such an atlas, inspired by two iconic maps. These were NB Tindale’s ‘Tribal Boundaries in Aboriginal Australia’ (1974) and the ‘Rowley line’ on CD Rowley’s map of ‘remote’ and settled’ Australia (1971). What he needed to get the project off the ground was a text editor (me – a fellow Scot in Australia, which proves that culture matters, or at least helps in organising a complex project).

In this 2nd edition, published in September this year, much has changed but much also stays the same. The major focus remains the national picture, and the charting of the heterogeneity of the ‘Indigenous population’ through space and time. The atlas makes accessible to a general audience – most importantly to Indigenous people themselves, and to secondary school and tertiary students – information that is normally locked away in government and agency reports and academic writing. As with the first edition, Atlas 2 is divided into three parts: the socio-cultural space, the socio-economic space and the socio-political space. There are 21 chapters, with more than 30 authors (one-third themselves Indigenous), that map everything from the first human occupation of the continent to issues of social justice in the present.  Most of the authors are academics – anthropologists, demographers, historians, archaeologists, political scientists – but there are also voices from Indigenous organisations and from the worlds of the arts and letters.

I will focus on the following questions:
Why publish such an atlas in the first place?
Why produce a second edition, now, and what is different about it? (This is essentially a political question, on many levels.)
What has changed for Indigenous Australians in the interval between the two editions, and what has not?

I will reflect on the ways in which this new edition indexes change. Indigenous Australians have colonised (I use the word both advisedly and deliberately) both academia and politics in significant ways since the publication of the 1st edition. This 2nd edition responds to those developments. In our introduction Bill and I express the hope that, if there is a 3rd edition, it will be driven by Indigenous academics. It will be up to them to judge whether a 3rd edition is either necessary or desirable (and besides, we will both be far too old to undertake the task again).

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://mappingindigenousaustralia.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom