Memory, Place and Aboriginal-Settler History

Memory, Place and Aboriginal-Settler History

Understanding Australians’ Consciousness of the Colonial Past

By Skye Krichauff

Anthem Studies in Australian History

Taking the absence of Aboriginal people in South Australian settler descendants’ historical consciousness as a starting point, ‘Memory, Place and Settler‒Aboriginal History’ combines the methodologies and theories of historical enquiry, anthropology and memory studies to investigate the multitudinous and intertwined ways the colonial past is known, represented and understood by current generations.

Hardback, 264 Pages


September 2017

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

The written histories, built memorials and spoken narratives of settler descendants often reveal an absence of Aboriginal people in Australian settlers’ historical consciousness and a lack of empathy for those whose lands were taken over. This absence reflects an intellectual and emotional disconnect from Aboriginal people’s experiences and from recent national debates about reconciling contested pasts. The aim of ‘Memory, Place and Settler‒Aboriginal History’ is to understand the evolution and endurance of this disconnect. Drawing on archival research, interviews and fieldwork, Skye Krichauff fuses the methodologies and theories of historical enquiry, anthropology and memory studies to investigate the multifaceted processes through which current generations of rural settler descendants come to know the colonial era. Primarily focussing on analysing and comparing the historical consciousness of a specific group of settler descendants – namely those who have grown up on land in the mid-north of South Australia that was occupied by their forebears in the nineteenth century – this book is additionally informed by interviews and fieldwork conducted with Aboriginal descendants. In addition, as a fifth-generation settler descendant herself, Krichauff utilises her insider status to provide personal insights and reflections with her analysis.

Within spoken narratives and during site visits, settler descendants demonstrate that their consciousness of the colonial past has been formed by growing up in places surrounded by people and objects that provide continuous reminders and physical evidence of the lives of previous generations. This book argues that the primary and most powerful way through which this group knows the colonial past is through lived experience. A recognition that (and how) previous generations’ experiences transfer through the generations is crucial to any investigation into the past known and understood through lived experience. As such, this monograph investigates and contextualises the timing, speed and intensity with which rural districts were occupied, Aboriginal people were dispossessed, and the extent and nature of previous generations’ relations with Aboriginal people.

Included in this monograph is an analysis of public histories (local written histories and plaques, monuments and information boards) which demonstrates a settler-colonial historical epistemology that frames the way mid-northern settler descendants make sense of the past. Memories of personal lived experiences are remembered, understood and articulated – are composed and constructed – using the public language and the meanings available in the wider culture in which individuals live. Krichauff provides concrete examples which demonstrate how, amongst many settler descendants, the memories, family stories and lived experiences of Aboriginal presence and positive settler‒Aboriginal interaction (stories which fall outside the dominant epistemology) are ignored or neglected. While knowledge about the past learned through external sources (books, films, documentaries) can, to varying degrees, shape and inform settler descendants’ consiousness of the colonial era, Krichauff argues that it is the degree of connection with experience that is crucial to understanding the extent to which external knowledge is absorbed and remembered. By connecting Aboriginal people (past and present) with people and places known through everyday life, settler descendants are more likely to intellectually and emotionally connect their own histories with those of the victims of colonialism. This book concludes by demonstrating how it is possible to unsettle settler descendants’ consciousness of the colonial past in ways that enable a tentative connection with Aboriginal people and their experiences.


“In this thought-provoking book Skye Krichauff has introduced us to a particular kind of person. Her important analysis and theory will have wider application.”
—Paula Jane Byrne, “Memory, place and aboriginal-settler history: Understanding Australians' consciousness of the colonial past” [Book Review] [online]. Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 20, Jul 2018: [179]–181

‘“It didn’t happen here.” What do people forget? Why do they forget? Can memory and history meet? This beautifully written book explores these and similar questions, especially around early settler treatment of Aborigines. A book for all Australia.’ —Bill Gammage, Emeritus Professor, Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

‘This fine new work on the communal memory of rural Australians explores how settler narratives of belonging are made, and how they obscure, mitigate or intersect with histories of indigenous dispossession. It shows us more than ever that, in addition to nation-wide political campaigns and legislative reform, processes of reconciliation demand a deeper engagement with intimate histories of place. This is a book that offers all settler nations a powerful reminder of our shared responsibility to unsettle the colonial past.’ —Amanda Nettelbeck, Professor in Department of History, School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, Australia

‘Skye Krichauff delves into the historical consciousness of Australian settler-colonialism and explores the contested memories of places and pasts. In doing so, she shows us that history-making is as much about forgetting as remembering, and that these “silences” are critical to understanding how we think about our history and ourselves.’ —Anna Clark, ARC Future Fellow, Co-director, Australian Centre for Public History, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Author Information

Skye Krichauff is visiting research fellow in the Department of History, School of Humanities, University of Adelaide, Australia. An ethno-historian and anthropologist, she draws upon archival material, oral histories, fi eldwork, site visits and personal experience to research how the historical injustice of Aboriginal dispossession is known, understood and represented by current generations of Australians. She is the author of 'Nharangga Wargunni Bugi-Buggillu: A Journey through Narungga History' (2011).


Anthem Studies in Australian History

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