Newcastle Writers Festival - Living with the Locals

Friday, 7 April 2017, 03:00 pm — Friday, 7 April 2017, 04:00 pm

Location: Hunter Room, City Hall, Newcastle.
Living with the Locals, by Victoria Haskins and John Maynard

Professor Victoria Haskins, of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and Professor John Maynard will present a talk at this year's edition of the Newcastle Writers Festival on early European’s experience of Indigenous life. Maynard and Haskins co-authored the book Living with the Locals - Early Europeans’ Experience of Indigenous Life in 2016 and are co-directors of Purai Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre at the University of Newcastle.

Living with the Locals comprises the stories of 13 white men, boys and women who were taken in by East Australian Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and who lived in their communities between the 1790s and the 1870s, from a few months to over 30 years.

Professor Maynard and Professor Haskins have delved into the rich resources available at the National Library of Australia to recount and reinterpret the experiences of 13 individuals who lived together with the Aboriginal people with mutual respect.

Shipwrecked or convict escapees, the white people survived thanks to the generosity of the Aboriginal people who took them in. To varying degrees, they took on the Aboriginal way of life, with some marrying and learning the language.

These stories provide a fascinating insight into Aboriginal life at the time when British colonists first came to Australia. It was a time when negative attitudes towards Aboriginal people gave rise to misinterpretation of events and sensationalised versions of the stories.

As well as including a few well-known stories (such as those of convict William Buckley, and shipwreck survivor and ship captain’s wife Eliza Fraser), there are other lesser-known stories, for example, those of convict escapees James Davis and David Bracefell, shipwreck survivor Barbara Thompson and marooned French cabin boy Narcisse Pelletier.

Professor Haskins said Barbara Thompson’s story was particularly interesting given she spent a long time living the Aboriginal way of life.

“Barbara Thompson was taken in by the Kaurareg people when she was shipwrecked in 1844. She lived with them for 5 years before returning to European life. She was treated as a daughter of an elder and grew up through her teenage years relating to the indigenous people as family. She was positive and proud of them and integrated well,” Professor Haskins said.

Professor Maynard said they learnt a lot about cultural practice and protocols through writing the book.

“There were protocols about acceptance for outsiders coming into the group. The Europeans had to sit on the outside of the group before being accepted. We also saw how much praise the Europeans had for the cultural experiences they shared with the aboriginal people they lived with. To such an extent they defended the Aboriginal people when they returned to so-called civilization.”

This is a free session, hosted by UON's Ray Kelly Snr.