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  • An Inspirational Leader: Mary June “Tookie” (Kelly) Pappin, Mutthi Mutthi elder, 21-6-1950 – 21-1-2022

    2nd March, 2022

    Mary Pappin was a woman who inspired so many people. This Director’s Blog provides a chance to honour her contributions. For me personally, Mary Pappin shaped so many years of my life and work. I find it hard to believe she's gone from this present world. So much energy, fire and drive. A figure of authority and wisdom. The first time I met Mary was on an archaeological dig that she was supervising in the Willandra Lakes region. It was 2006, and she was wary – no doubt of another white academic certain to cause strife. She was even more sceptical of the camera crew that I brought with me, warning us off in no uncertain terms, saying she didn’t want another negative news story about her people. Once introduced by someone Mary trusted, however, she quickly switched into teaching mode, patiently sharing her knowledge and time. Nonetheless, when academics interested in her people’s deep past infuriated her, she’d express this with furious theatricality. She objected to people referring to her ancestors as ‘the bones’, as ‘evidence’ or objects. And she became angry when the academics bickered with each other over dates. Yet she also made all visitors to her ancestral Country feel at home. That we were welcome on her Country. She was warm, kind and affectionate to so many researchers, treating them like part of her extended family. On my third visit to Willandra Lakes, Mary expressed great satisfaction that I’d brought along my teenage daughter. When I added that she was mainly just sleeping in my car, she said it didn’t matter, for she would be imbued with the significance of her Country and she would know something of how very important this place is. ‘Even if she only gets a little bit now, it will stay with her as she grows older and she can share the message.’ Mary saw herself as part of a quick-changing line of successive generations – one that was indeed of short duration in the context of her own people’s long history of tens of thousands of years in this place. She saw her presence and actions on behalf of Country as primarily about passing on knowledge to the coming generations. Mary sought education and job opportunities for the younger generation, and she welcomed opportunities to share her knowledge with the wider public. She participated in many interviews for libraries and websites. Articulate, smart, she always had something punchy and memorable to say. In the documentary Message from Mungo, Mary’s words provided a crystal clear message. She was political, fierce, canny, highly intelligent and eloquent. A powerful orator. She made her opinions felt and insisted on being heard. In recent months, she spoke out against plans to rebury the ancient Mungo remains in anonymous secret sites. Mary renewed her long efforts for a Keeping Place for which she and the Mutthi Mutthi, Ngaampa and Barkintji elders had lobbied so hard over for decades. Mary was a visionary, carrying on the determined work of her revered mother Alice Kelly, plus of so many impressive generations past. She epitomized courage. Mary continued the Mungo/Willandra Lakes story - one of powerful women leaders, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, including that of her mother Alice Kelly and archaeologist Isabel McBryde. Mary Pappin’s children have also made their mark - as National Parks managers and researchers, as cultural knowledge holders and custodians. The last time I saw Mary was in early 2021. We met up in an old woolshed at the Buronga Botanical gardens, in order to show her the results of the Mungo map that we had all been working on with Kim Mahood and our Research Centre. ![Mary_Pappin_2.jpg](/uploads/Mary_Pappin_2_08c58b5861.jpg) ###### L-R Daniel Kelly, Mary Pappin and Ann McGrath, Magenta Wool Shed, Australian Inland Botanic Gardens, Buronga, 5 March 2021 Take a look at that photo. Mary understood visuals; she commanded the camera. Willandra Lakes, burial place of Lady Mungo, who she so admired and wished to protect, is in clear view. Mary’s hand connects with the map of Country. It gestures towards Balranald, a special place for the Kelly family. And the place where she was to pass away. A generation is starting to leave us, but the young ones have been well taught. They are coming through. And thanks for the courage and strength of women like Mary Pappin, they have a wonderful legacy to work with. ** We offer our sincere condolences to her husband Darryl (Joe) and her children Darryl, Jason, Gary, Bernadette, Verna, Mary and Douglas. *A funeral was held at St Dympnas Catholic Church Swan Hill and a burial was held on Tuesday, February 1st 2022 at the Balranald Aboriginal Cemetery, where her mother Alice is also buried.*
  • Director's Blog - Mid Year Reflections

    12th July, 2021

    Reaching July and the middle of our calendar year reminds me that this month's name honoured Julius Caesar. Fascinating though it is, I’m taken aback by the chronologically recent nature of the ‘ancient history’ of Rome compared with the deep history of the peoples of the Australian continent. This mid-year blog provides some moments to focus upon the active roles of our **Research Centre’s** [Collaborating Scholars (CS)]( as well as other activities. This year we launched **Cross-campus Interdisciplinary Lunch Gatherings**. The inaugural one in March centred on the theme of *Water* with **CS Quentin Grafton** and team. The second was an extensive conversation with **CS Azure Hermes** of the *National Centre for Indigenous Genomics*. The most recent one concentrated on the *Rock Art* theme with **CS Robert Wellington, CS Duncan Wright, CS Catherine Frieman** and a number of impressive and helpful *art and archaeology* experts from across the ANU and the University of Canberra. **CS Brenda Croft** will be playing a key role in the next lunch gathering, to coincide with her coming exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery – we will keep you posted on that. **CS Annie Clarke** and **CS Bruce Buchan** joined us last year as **official RSSS visitors**. Although their stays were COVID19-interrupted, Annie was able to return and we are hoping that Bruce can do so later this year. Another **CS, Charlotte Feakins**, who now works with GML Heritage, partnered with us to convene the *First Nations Speaker Series* with Laureate Postdoctoral Fellow **Ben Silverstein**. [CS Leah Lui Chivizhe]( was featured as the first speaker. With only one COVID19 postponement, **Laura Rademaker** managed [a rock art trip]( to the Northern Territory with **CS Sally May**, with a forthcoming publication ‘Quilp’s Horse: Rock art and the artist life-biography in Western Arnhem Land, Australia’ by Sally K. May, Joakim Goldhahn, Laura Rademaker, Graham Badari and Paul S. C. Taçon appearing soon. **CS Mary Anne Jebb** has joined us as a Consultant to work with communities in Western Australia, including the Mowanjum people who have recently opened a new [Aboriginal Art and Culture centre]( in Derby. Several other Collaborating Scholars are working with us on various publication projects, including **CS Daniel Smail, Linda Barwick and Sarah Yu**. **Shauna Bostock-Smith**, who completed her PhD with flying colours, was to have her degree officially conferred at a Graduation Ceremony in July. We are terribly disappointed that COVID19 has led to the cancellation of the ANU’s July Graduation ceremony. Such an outstanding achievement, and I was looking forward to celebrating her thesis and meeting her family at this special event. On the upside, however, Shauna has joined us as a Collaborating Scholar and we will be seeing her at the Peter Read Event and our Early Career Workshops between the 8-10 September. ## The Mungo Map In March, I drove out to Mildura and Balranald, to meet up with families involved in the Lake Mungo/Willandra Lakes region and its deep history. I joined **CS Kim Mahood**, who has worked as a cultural mapping consultant with community members over several years. ![local_elders_annmcgrath_mildura.jpg](/uploads/local_elders_annmcgrath_mildura_4ed03a9a4b.jpg) ###### Eunice Hudson, Michael Young, Priscilla Briggs, Ann McGrath, Patricia Johnson at Magenta Woolshed, Mildura. Photo by Kim Mahood. Kim has painted and drawn the map on a large canvas that now tells the story of the Mutthi Mutthi, Barkintji and Ngyaampa peoples. All content has been supplied by the family members, including the Kellys, the Kennedys, the Johnsons, the Mitchells and others. ![cultural_map_consultation_mildura.jpg](/uploads/cultural_map_consultation_mildura_e58642ed19.jpg) ###### Kim Mahood confirming the map information with members of the Mitchell family at the Magenta Woolshed, Inland Botanical Gardens, Mildura We held meetings with local elders and families at their homes, in community spaces, and at the big woolshed located at the Inland Botanical Gardens. These were to check that all participants were happy with everything they had entered on the map. New material was also added. [ANU’s press release]( sparked a lot of media interest. Whether displayed on a footpath, in an old woolshed or in the rose garden of the Mildura Grand, the map attracted attention everywhere it was exhibited. With the initial contact made by **CS Shirleene Robinson**, a large team from the National Library of Australia visited us to assess the map for digitalization and conservation. We will keep you posted on developments. ![mungo_map1.JPEG](/uploads/mungo_map1_1b2adcd8b2.JPEG) ###### National Library experts visited our Centre to assess the Mungo map for scanning and digitalization in June. We aim to organise a regional launch and possibly a travelling **exhibition**. Led by Laureate Postdoctoral Fellow **Mike Jones**, with Web Developer and Designer **Tabs Fakier**, we will also be working to ensure that the map will spread far and wide via a digital life. Participants are keen to supply family photos, videos and additional information for the digital version. ![mungo_map2.JPEG](/uploads/mungo_map2_c1b2892e4a.JPEG) ###### National Library experts visited our Centre to assess the Mungo map for scanning and digitalization in June. From the perspective of myself as a historian, this map speaks back to all the maps we saw on our classroom walls: the ones that featured only European explorers and navigators. It presents a different kind of history – of Country and strong family connection; one that pinpoints the precise locations where people lived and worked - key family moments, beloved ancestors, their marriages, births, deaths. It shows the upheaval of forcible removal to missions and the removal of children. It also demonstrates the importance of Aboriginal workers to the pastoral industry, to railways and infrastructure. Travel restrictions continue to impede our **fieldwork** plans. I was supposed to be heading to Broome and Derby right now with **CS Mary Anne Jebb** to be part of the launch of the [Mowanjum Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre]( but Western Australia has imposed a hard border on just about everywhere, and a harder one on remote Aboriginal communities. We look forward to working with Mary Anne on the **Marking Country Digital Atlas project**. Fortunately, Postdoctoral Fellows **Mike Jones** and **Ben Silverstein** managed to travel to Broome for their Thangoo Station Project in north Western Australia, part of ANU’s Grand Challenges scheme, led by **CS Maria Nugent** and **CS Lawrence Bamblett**, and assisted by **CS Sarah Yu** and one of the ECRs we have helped mentor, **Naomi Appleby**. Yawuru people recorded accounts of their histories of connection. We thank Partner organisation [Nyamba Buru Yawuru]( for their generosity in agreeing to partner with us. We also thank our **CS Peter Veth** for providing helpful advice during their stopover in Perth. **Mike Jones** and I have been meeting up with staff of the Queensland Museum, talking with curators, including **CS Britt Asmussen** and colleagues. In June, Mike and I also travelled to Cape York, North Queensland with astrophysicist and fellow Laureate **Lisa Kewley**, to join Johnny Murison of [Jarramali Rock Art Tours]( for an introduction to the art and culture of Quinkan Country. More on this soon. And finally, thanks to the sage advice of the **Centre’s Indigenous Advisory Committee** and to Professors **Lynette Russell** and **Jaky Troy** and **Dr Lorina Barker** for their collaboration in publishing ventures and conference panels. ![Mike, Ann, et al.jpg](/uploads/Mike_Ann_et_al_f35f2d34d0.jpg) ###### L-R Mike Jones, Ann McGrath, Lisa Kewley and Johnny Murison at Jarramali Camp. Photo by the team. ## Esteemed Honorary Professor It has been a great pleasure to welcome Honorary Professor **Jackie Huggins** to the Australian National University as a highly esteemed colleague. Thanks to Jackie, we recently had a wonderful book-launch by Queensland Minister Leeanne Enoch for the re-release of our co-edited volume with Emeritus Professor Kay Saunders, Aboriginal Workers. An accomplished historian and distinguished Indigenous leader, Jackie is playing a key role in leading the Queensland Treaty process. Jackie has agreed to serve as the Senior Advisor on our Marking Country Digital Atlas project.
  • Director's Blog - Shamrock Aborigines, NAIDOC, and beyond

    17th November, 2020

    On 10th November, I had the pleasure of attending a NAIDOC event hosted at the Irish Embassy in Canberra by the Ambassador of Ireland, HE Breandán Ó Caollaí and Ms Carmel Callan. This has become an annual event, with an invited gathering of leading representatives from the Canberra Aboriginal Community and a special recognition of the Ngunnawal people and key ACT Aboriginal representative organisations, including Indigenous educational bodies and businesses. John Paul Janke, the Co-Chair of the NAIDOC Committee 2020, spoke about NAIDOC. Beforehand, John Paul and I had the chance to discuss the importance of songlines and deep history stories, which he noted was a fundamental theme to this year’s NAIDOC week, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’. He explained that this had been selected as particularly pertinent given that 2020 is the anniversary of James Cook’s Landing. We agreed that deep Indigenous histories, once more widely understood, will transform the dominant discovery narratives of Australia. The event centred around a screening of the award-winning film - [*An Dubh ina Gheal-Assimilation*]( to which I’d had the honour to contribute. I was invited to provide a short talk in response. The film was a beautiful, albeit harrowing experience, as it told the truth about Aboriginal history in Australia. Echoing some of the themes explored in my article “[Shamrock Aborigines](”, it explored Aboriginal-Irish relationships, the myths and realities. But it went far beyond that, with quality research and interviews conducted in Melbourne, western Victoria and the Northern Territory. Throughout the film, which featured excellent archival footage, historians and activists including Gary Foley, Kev Carmody, and Henry Reynolds shared their views. One of the most moving aspects of the film was hearing about the intimate relationships between the Byrnes family of Tipperary station; tragically, under Commonwealth of Australia policy, children of mixed descent (renamed as Brock after child removal) were [torn away from their mothers and placed in institutions run by Catholics](, including many Irish Catholic nuns. The children suffered, being brought up without their mother’s love, and enduring punishments for speaking in their own languages. It brought back memories of my research for my Doctoral thesis, which in fact featured several discussions about the [Byrnes’ recognition of Indigenous ownership of the land that they occupied]( An Dubh ina Gheal- Assimilation also celebrated Indigenous rights struggles. As you’ve no doubt gathered, it did not romanticise the relationship between the Irish and the Aborigines in any way – quite the opposite - the Irish were colonists too, and the film-makers embraced their own responsibility as colonizers, and how they benefited as such. At the same time, there was a sense of a profound connection between the Irish and the Aboriginal people, both having been oppressed and dispossessed at the hands of the English, and still suffering historical legacies, including the destruction of their languages. The film is enhanced by the poetry of Louis de Paor, who is also the film’s presenter. In searing lines, in a poem entitled Didjeridu, he explores how the Irish, as white Australians, were also brutal colonizers. It was [read by Carmel Callan in both Irish and English]( ![Irish Embassy NAIDOC week event](/uploads/Irish_NAIDOC_19b11ae797.jpg) ###### Responding to the Film at Irish Embassy NAIDOC week event, 10 November 2020. Last week I also attended the Annual Symposium of the [CABAH group](, with whom I’m an Associate Investigator. Updates about the latest scientific research and findings of their regional Flagships were most informative. Finally, I participated in a video for a Conference being held in Brazil, convened by Juliana S. Machado and her graduate students and professors Gonzalez Marcelo and Roseline Mezacasa. It was the second Global History Symposium: Voices from the South. We have so much in common with these history scholars who are undertaking important collaborative work with a number of Indigenous peoples across Brazil. At Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina I learnt that the Indigenous cohort is quite significant, and like us, they are working to expand the idea of what history might be beyond the text, and in their case, the larger story of Indigenous people’s histories including those that took place prior to the fifteenth century.
  • Director's Blog - The reverberations of deep time

    28th September, 2020

    One day in May, the earth shuddered. It was the year we call 2020, in the Pilbara, a remote part of Western Australia (WA), now rendered even more remote by the locked-down borders of this Pandemic year. The caves of Juukan Gorge, these special dwelling places, have stood in situ for millennia. In a matter of seconds, they crashed in on themselves and became rubble. The massive explosion was a means of making it easier for the giant machines of the mining company Rio Tinto to extract ore to and send off to other continents. In 2013, the company estimated that it used 200,000 tonnes of [explosives each year in The Pilbara region alone]( Vibration controls were supposed to prevent any nearby ‘sensitive sites’ that might be affected by blasts. This sensitive site was nonetheless targeted. ![Hamersley Range, Western Australia](/uploads/hamersley_ranger_e7b1c9cd06.jpg) ![](/uploads/hamersley_ranger.jpg) ###### Hamersley Range, Western Australia. Photo by NASA Hubble Space Telescope, Creative Commons. ![Juukan Gorge is in the vicinity of the Hamersley Range; the Tom Price mine is shown here](/uploads/juukan_gorge_c1d7518190.jpeg) ###### Juukan Gorge is in the vicinity of the Hamersley Range; the Tom Price mine is shown here. Photo by Anna Del Rio, Creative Commons. The reverberations of that explosion continue. Last week, and we are now nearing the end of September, I was contacted by a talented reporter from NPR, the American public radio station. She had heard about the destruction of Juukan Gorge, and about Australia’s deep and tangible human history. For the moment at least, the time difference between GMT Time-4 on the Atlantic east coast and Australian Eastern Standard Time has defeated us. 46,000 years of Aboriginal occupation is not, however, a historical time span to defeat Australia’s Indigenous nations. Though at Juukan, they left their traces behind –pertaining to those expansive years of human ingenuity, people could observe tangible indicators of sustainable lifestyles across tens of thousands of generations. The Gorge’s richness as a site of Aboriginal occupation potentially served to document the deep historical past. Before the blast, some objects had already been removed somewhere nearby. It is vague as to exactly where the salvaged items are, how well documented they are, or the justification as to why they were removed in the first place. But we know they included a rare plaited hair belt dating back about 4000 years, several specially crafted stone knives 10,000 years old, plus a kangaroo bone tool dating back 28,000 years. [Several of these were the earliest known examples of their kind]( When the [Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples heard news of the explosion](, they were devastated. For those intricately associated with this site and its associated epic stories, its destruction represented nothing less than a personal and collective tragedy. ![The Pilbara contains many deeply storied landscapes. This photograph shows Pyramid Hill, Gurrgara - and nearby Yindjibarndi and Ngarluma lands](/uploads/DSC_02475_2_1_182d643daa.jpeg) ###### The Pilbara contains many deeply storied landscapes. This photograph shows Pyramid Hill, Gurrgara - and nearby Yindjibarndi and Ngarluma lands. Photo by Neil Brougham. What lay beneath those surface objects, in the context of their time-telling stratigraphies, we will never know. In the remnants of their once stable cave-homes, the layers of deep time are now jumbled up, caved in. Before the explosions, Michael Slack, one of our project’s collaborating scholars and my former student, had been engaged to write the archaeological report. He assessed the site as of the highest archaeological significance. Only weeks later, in mid June 2020, a cordon of armed New South Wales police stood around the statue of ‘Captain’ James Cook, lauded in its plaque as the great ‘discoverer’ of Australia in 1770. It was an anniversary year for him. In Sydney’s Hyde Park, the centre of a metropolis that saw first European occupation of the Australian continent, a Black Lives Matter (#BLM) march had Cook’s monument in their sights. Made of bronze and standing above other humans on a very high plinth, he fared okay. ![Police surround the James Cook monument in Sydney’s Hyde Park](/uploads/james_cook_elly_baxter_e0e55a163f.jpeg) ###### Police surround the James Cook monument in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Photo by Elly Baxter. When the world first heard about the death of George Floyd and the uprisings in the United States, Aboriginal Australians quickly reminded the public of how they continued to suffer discrimination, violence and even death at the hands of police. Despite their courage, at the time, I felt only despair. I recalled how, in the 1980s, Aboriginal people had marched, protested and cried out in heartfelt appeals. In the early 1990s the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was established in response. So many tragic stories came out - unnecessarily lost lives, often way too young. Despite its hundreds of recommendations, however, the Aboriginal deaths continued into 2020. Imprisonment rates have increased. Taking up the position of Co-ordinator of the History Project for that extensive enquiry in 1992, I had envisaged my role was to get a team together who would provide the Commissioners and the general public with a well-informed historical understanding of what Indigenous people faced when they saw a police officer. It didn’t take much scratching below the surface to find that police forces in the Australian colonies had been initially established to ensure that white colonizers would be protected from Aboriginal Australians – from those fighting for their own lands or for mere sustenance. Native police forces, often a coerced or forced labour, were established to divide and conquer competing Indigenous nations under colonizing assaults. When the far-reaching recommendations of the [Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody]( were released in 1991, I had felt hopeful, like something of real social value had been achieved. But it was an optimism unrealized, as the shameful rate of deaths has continued. So, that’s why, when I first heard of #BLM, I felt so disheartened. I thought people might struggle hard for a time, enquiries might follow, but then it would go away. I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t. BLM has energised people across the world, including young Indigenous and many other young Australians. It’s rocked the academy too, with far more scholars suddenly sitting up and paying attention to its endemic racism. Which takes me to the [recent passing of Lorna Cubillo]( Along with Peter Gunner, Lorna had the courage to take on the Australian Commonwealth in a test case arguing for compensation for the damage it did to her due to her removal from family and country. She was taken from the place she was lived and loved, known as Banka Banka cattle station. Hers was a story that became familiar to a wider audience after the release of the [1997 Bringing them Home Report]( which recounted the policies that had damaged the lives of so many of the people now known as the stolen generations. For much of the twentieth century, uniformed police, patrol and ‘welfare’ officers took away thousands of Aboriginal children from their families. In the Northern Territory, under the Commonwealth of Australia, they picked out the lighter skinned ones. Reading Lorna’s story in 2020 brought back memories of the court case more than twenty years ago, and the cruel way that Lorna was treated by a brutal legal team questioning the veracity of her tragic story. The judgement relied upon the western legal notion of written consent – in this case the proof of an ‘X’ by Gunner’s mother to his removal, who could neither read nor write. Neither the crying and wailing of beloved kin, the family’s action in desperately chasing the trucks that took the children away, nor their long treks following the children were taken into account, let alone the [wider power relations of a violent colonizing frontier]( It appears that western courts of law still rule with a logic that defies the knowledge that historians have gleaned from researching the colonial archive. At the same time as Lorna was grabbed for a second removal, so too was a baby who was under one year old and still being suckled by its mother. Her lighter skin meant that little Queenie was taken away. [Lorna’s relatives gave her the responsibility of caring for that baby and Lorna said she never left her side]( The state argued that they had good intentions, but as I argued during the case and before, in an aspiring white Australia, removing light-skinned children served as a cover-up for white men’s sexual relations with Aboriginal women. Lorna’s family had put charcoal on her skin to disguise her lighter colouring. She lived in fear of white patrol officers, and had ran away to hide, but was captured anyway. At least one patrol officer tasked with taking the children away was troubled by the inhumanity of this policy. In a heart-rending letter, he wrote to higher authorities pleading against it, pointing out how much the parents and children loved each other and how much they suffered, outlining the consequent pain and trauma for everyone. His name was Ted Evans. He was not alone. Around Australia, white women activists, newspaper journalists, and ordinary suburban mothers protested Aboriginal child removal policies, arguing that it was extremely cruel and even unchristian. In 1999, however, the Commonwealth government was still pleading good intentions and arguing that the wider public thought it a good thing. They were wrong. For Aboriginal families, the loss of family love, of language and the rupture from their country of deep and long connection, was irreparable. Despite the overwhelming public push to confront and acknowledge the emotional cruelty of child removal and the child abuse suffered in an institutionalized life, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, refused to apologize to Indigenous Australians. This continued for ten years. Howard fired up ‘The History Wars’, attacking historians of Aboriginal-whiterelations as belonging to [‘the black armband school of history’]( Despite nation-wide marches and petitions, it took the installation of the [Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to offer a national apology in 2008]( This proved an inspiring moment of national unity forged out of empathy. Stolen Aboriginal lives mattered. History mattered. Eventually, people-power and the outing of suppressed historical knowledge had proved effective. Yet still the deaths continue today. Sadly, African Americans and Indigenous Australians are being arrested and imprisoned in vastly disproportionate ratios to whites. Both groups were exploited as slaves and forced labour, while their ownership of land, [enjoyment of citizenship rights and ability to keep their families together was constantly ruptured]( As historians, the best we can do is to point out the catastrophes and complexities of the colonizing and resource extractive past – including that of human flesh. In our current Deep History project, it is our privilege to honour the courage of the many people around the world who continue to hold strong to their lands, language and culture. ** **Collaborations across Time-zones** One of the positive aspects of the year has been that we have been able to keep in touch across lands and seas – at least virtually - with several of our Collaborating Scholars and past visitors. Despite the seemingly impossible time differences, in the Age of Zoom, we have enjoyed many chances to connect. I recently heard an excellent lecture on the [black pharaohs of Egypt]( which reminds us both of the excellence of some of our Harvard colleagues, and the way the discipline of history has helped create vital propaganda to support racism – and in the case of Egyptian history, to argue the continuation of slavery in the American south. Which brings me to a cheering anecdote shared by one of our Collaborating scholars, who as well as being an expert on American frontiers, is also a devoted travelling muso. He had been teaching Native American history via Zoom to international students exiled in various spots around the globe, including one student in London. Okay, I admit he tells the story better than me, but in the interests of privacy, I will keep him incognito. In one Zoom meet-up, his young student casually mentioned that his grandfather was greatly enjoying his history lectures too. They were on Native American history, with possibly some history of American music thrown in. When the said colleague responded by saying that he thought that sounded great, the grandfather’s hand popped up to wave. Then his smiling face momentarily appeared on the screen. It was Paul McCartney. Yes, that Beatles guy who wrote out beautiful lyrics on the back of café serviettes and scraps of paper now held in the British library. Grandad Paul, once the Paul of every girl’s dreams - well certainly my own… We might recall the inspiring words of Ebony and Ivory, then add his mate John Lennon’s beautiful anthem for world peace, Imagine. While we are thinking about music, there is the grand gift of black music - songs of historical pain, resistance and heaps of love, music that keeps many of us sane amidst this Pandemic. Pandemics, shattering explosives, what a world we are in. It probably hasn’t been a Year of Wonders. Yet, incongruous moments such as Cook under siege during the anniversary of his discovery year should give us pause for thought. Usurping other people’s lands was legal under the ‘law of nations’, according to the doctrine of discovery. And, when you put that alongside the state taking away your children or the multinational Rio Tinto mining company ‘legally’ blowing up Juukan gorge…. Such moments splinter time. Beyond the shockwaves, and the seismic disturbances of geology groaning beneath the earth’s surface, perhaps the world may start to better appreciate the traumatic legacies of history. #BLM is not going away. Nor is history, and this history really matters. As well as the horror we might feel watching the news, in this pandemic age of Zoom, however disjointedly, I hope that we will continue to share some time-delayed moments of historical empathy, followed by calls for justice and decisive action across the globe. Our team and our wider collaborating teams are researching and writing about what we call deep history. In order to learn from the epic story of humanity, and the music, sounds, words and voices that draw upon the strength, knowledge and enduring power of being somewhere so solid over so much time, we need to listen closely. To the landscape as well as its peoples. Despite the earth-time differences, and even the forces of law and imperial power, deep human histories are not something that can be simply blown up and destroyed in an instant.
  • Director’s Blog - Deep History in the Time of Coronavirus

    30th April, 2020

    The crisis of COVID-19 may be a rupture in history but it is one that offers a historic portal into a new era. The impact of the pandemic is affecting the entire world in myriad ways, with enduring legacies we cannot yet know. It is a crisis of time that might open up new ways of thinking, working and being. One thing is certain - the coronavirus pathogen has become an actor in history, leading to all kinds of ramifications. As author [Arundhati Roy]( reminds us: “unlike the flow of capital, this virus seeks proliferation, not profit, and has, therefore, inadvertently, to some extent, reversed the direction of the flow.” It is highlighting inequalities, and through its global horror and tragedy, it is both separating and uniting people. For academics, we have seen endless cancellations of historical gatherings, alongside many invitations to zoom webinars and meetings. We may be looking more inwards too, reconnecting with our writerly selves. This pandemic is forcing us to see time differently – and the home differently, including our planetary home and health. Corona connects us with the commonalities of past plagues and outbreaks, where social distancing was long used as a prophylactic. Historians of deep history might also begin to think carefully about humans as hominids, as part of ‘nature’, with bodies hosting many different kinds of microbial life invisible to the naked eye. Some involve co-dependencies going back into [deep time]( Domestication of animals has often been portrayed as a key development in social evolution – if not the beginnings of the societies imagined as superior ‘civilizations’. Humans then become the ‘tamers of nature’. Yet, along with the benefits of animal domestication came powerful pathogens that have caused a range of pandemics, including smallpox and whooping cough, many of which are still with us today. The Corona crisis reminds us of how humanity cannot control death, and yet humanity has been keen to do so, and to mark people’s passing, throughout every time we know in history. Ritual burials and cremations go back at least 40,000 years in Australia alone, for example those of Lady Mungo and Mungo Man – modern homo-sapiens like us. They were also seen as ‘scientific evidence’ that our university colleagues held for far too long, returning most of those in their laboratories only in the past few years. Their extraction from their country, and their graves, impacted the mental health of Indigenous custodians, who suffered great anxiety about the fate of their ancestors. ![Elders presiding over the return of Mungo Man](/uploads/d4a5a0b0291343579657049e7a45a748.JPG) ###### Elders presiding over the return of Mungo Man, Lake Mungo NSW, 17 November 2017. Photo by Ann McGrath. Corona prompts reflection, too, about the terrible shock suffered by the Eora people of the Sydney region when they were hit by a widespread smallpox epidemic in 1789, the year after the British convicts arrived. The mass illnesses and huge number of deaths were shocking, devastating. What would they have made of this crisis, this terrible plague that wiped out babies and elders alike? What kind of psychic adjustments and realignments had to be made to cope with such a thing, which took place at the same time as the ongoing crisis caused by invading lawbreakers who took over their lands and fishing grounds? Their deeply held knowledge of medicinal herbs and techniques, and all the controls they had developed to ensure the world was a healthy place had to be readjusted in some way in order for them to survive. The physical, intellectual and spiritual challenges were enormous. Adjusted explanatory frameworks, with rich stories and songs that expressed ways of framing the past, present and future, started to evolve. This morning (at 5am, due to the time difference), I attended a webinar held by Harvard’s History Department, [‘What History Teaches us about Pandemics’](, which included the Chair of the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past (SoHP) Mike McCormick, who has long been a generous supporter of our program’s work, and one of our [Collaborating Scholars](, Joyce Chaplin. ![What History Teaches Us About Pandemics](/uploads/076ee88dd90e45ce8be719b448d675de.jpg) ###### “What History Teaches Us About Pandemics.” The Public Face of History Series of the Harvard History Department. Another participant, historian Erez Manela, reminded us of how in the 1960s, science was seen to reign supreme; after all, this was era of the moon landing - and of an internationally successful program that wiped out smallpox. He showed us a document on which the first signature was that of the wonderful Australian National University microbiologist and virologist a [Frank Fenner]( I recall how honoured I was when Professor Fenner, who led the initiative to eradicate smallpox via a vaccine, introduced himself after attending one of my very first public presentations on deep history. (Here was another example of interconnected historical worlds.) ![What History Teaches Us About Pandemics](/uploads/bec999c6452f449a992dd1e319d174d2.png) ###### Screenshot from “What History Teaches Us About Pandemics.” The Public Face of History Series of the Harvard History Department. 21 April 2020. In her presentation, historian [Joyce Chaplin]( characterized Europeans themselves as the ‘pestilence’. They brought terrible diseases to the Americas, to Australia and New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific - measles, colds, cholera, smallpox and venereal diseases to name only several. These European pestilences, intentional weaponizing of disease or historical accidents, they devastated Indigenous nations. She reminded us that, nonetheless, they were fundamental to the foundation of the United States, aiding and abetting the takeover of native lands. The same was true of other New World nations like Australia. It is impossible to imagine the challenge that this huge tragedy, this terrible imperial assault on their people, posed for the Eora. Large numbers of outsiders had taken over their lands and their fishing areas without invitation or permission, and were now preventing them from accessing their food supplies and their pharmacopoeia. Aboriginal people at Sydney Cove had long established knowledges, informed by land-based ontologies of health and disease. We do not know if their experiences through their deep past had necessitated the development of isolation practices to prevent contagion. More research is needed on this topic, and [Neil Brougham](, one of the program’s PhD students, is researching the deep history of smallpox as we speak. Some of my earlier research provided an intimate glimpse into the last days of one of the many individuals who died in this pandemic. In 1789, when an elderly Eora man and a child were brought up to Sydney Cove very ill with smallpox, Arabanoo, who then resided at Governor Phillip’s house, looked after them. Arabanoo nursed the ill children and the old man with dedication and tenderness. Known as Manly to the British due to his impressive masculine physique and demeanour, Arabanoo was one of the people kidnapped by Governor Arthur Phillip’s party. He now remained at his residence, unshackled, perhaps because he was motivated to learn about the newcomers’ culture and to conduct intelligence and diplomacy for his people. Many more seriously ill Eora people soon arrived seeking help around Sydney Cove and the Governor’s house. Nearly everyone else who arrived soon after died. However, the children attended by Arabanoo recovered. Tragically, Arabanoo caught the virus, and within six days, he died from it. Arthur Phillip arranged for Arabanoo to be buried in his private garden at the Governor’s residence. It was akin to a state funeral in the sense that it was presided over by the Governor. Arabanoo had taught the British that Aboriginal people were humane and caring of old and young; they were not the ‘savages’ that Europeans liked to think. As John Hunter, second in charge of the First Fleet, [commented]( ‘Every person in the settlement was concerned for the loss of this man.’ The Europeans mourned him, and perhaps people of the present day should do so too. Novelists and historians alike help us reflect upon how humans respond in times of crisis. Geraldine Brooks’ novel [Year of Wonders]( A Novel of the Plague propels the reader into another kind of historical moment - one with different belief systems, with a world of different sizes, becoming smaller, but still connected with outside visitors, including traders that bring in materials from distant lands. I recommend this wonderful novel of humanity, motherhood, and conflicts of religious and medical belief. In 2020, the time of Corona, Arundhati Roy [reminds us]( that: > Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it. Coronavirus has been a wake-up call about the value of science in a ‘post-truth’ world, and it also highlights humanity’s ever-encroaching impacts upon animals and the wider living world around us and inside us. If Corona is to provide a portal, we might hope that it is one through which we might refresh our approaches to modernity’s long impact on the environment and to climate change. Finally, two of our good colleagues have this to say about history and pandemics: Gunlog Fur, scholar of the Delaware, US, and the Saami, Scandanavia Linnaeus University, Sweden: > In my own work on indigenous history, epidemics have been an ever-present and unavoidable theme, and one that has challenged communities fundamentally and recurringly to rethink relationships, leadership, ceremonies and material practices. Manuela Picq, Amherst University and University of Equador: > The pandemic has brought a deep transformation in meaning and it will likely be a different world and humanity once we re-emerge on the other side of it. It will be what it will be, when it will be. The timeframes of the past are gone. Forever I hope. For historians, this pandemic will raise many new questions about how we might address the deep past. I sincerely hope that this global crisis gives us insight into the best paths for the future, informed by fruitful directions for unravelling humanity’s deep past. And I do hope that you may join us on this journey. Indeed, we need some hope right now.