The University of Newcastle, Australia

National Reconciliation Week

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Australia's foremost Indigenous historian, Professor John Maynard of the University of Newcastle, will sit amongst other visionaries from the community on an inspiring panel that revisits one of the early encounters between Aboriginal people and European explorers.

The panel, Artists in Conversation, is a special National Reconciliation Week event and a feature of the opening day of the new, innovative exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum, East Coast Encounter – re-imagining the 1770 encounter.

Professor Maynard, one of the world's most prolific and respected voices on Indigenous history and a member of the Worimi clan, said the panel conversation would be a vehicle for reconciliation, gathering experts from the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community to explore the contact between two worldviews.

"I believe that if Australia is to ever reach a stage of maturity and genuine reconciliation it must first deal with its past and that includes the Aboriginal collision with the British that began in 1770 and with the arrival of James Cook," Professor Maynard said.

"Over my professional journey my areas of research have been diverse and varied; but at the heart of my work has always been a driving desire to play a part in the process of revealing previously missing important chapters in Aboriginal history.

"This event will offer insight into the past of this nation and its people, and highlights the equal part that the views from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people play in the story of the birth of modern Australia."

In addition to participating in the panel, Professor Maynard has contributed a chapter to the exhibition book for the event, titled 'Captain Cook came very cheeky you know'.

"James Cook has become a time-traveling bogeyman to Aboriginal Australia. Cook transcends time and space to wreak havoc across the continent upon the Aboriginal inhabitants over the course of the past 243 years," Professor Maynard said.

"In this manifestation he represents white Australia in all of its guises, including invasion, occupation, dispossession and the conducting of a symphony of violence. Does Cook deserve this label as the Navy grim reaper? It is timely to examine James Cook in all of his contradictions from an Aboriginal perspective."

Professor Maynard is a Director of the University's Aboriginal education centre, The Wollotuka Institute, through which he has made significant contributions to Australian historiography.

His research focuses on the intersections of Aboriginal political and social history, and race relations, and he has been accredited for unearthing the links between early African-American and Aboriginal politics.

The Artists in Conversation panel will take place at the Australian National Maritime Museum from 2-4pm on Saturday 31 May. National Reconciliation Week occurs from 27 May to 3 June.

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