Global Indigenous History Centre




First Nations Languages in NSW Parliament

The 2019 Year of Indigenous Languages bought sobering news to the attention of the world; 40% of languages are endangered and a large proportion of these are Indigenous languages.

Dr Raymond Kelly is a passionate advocate of the teaching and learning of Aboriginal languages.Ray Kelly profile image

He works tirelessly on boards, councils and advisory committees advocating for the preservation of all Australian Indigenous languages.

As a playwright, actor and singer he performs in his own language, Thangatti, on stage.

He teaches it in schools and libraries and has, more recently, travelled to Hawaii gleaning insights into First Peoples teaching practices and curriculum development to implement in Australian institutions. His ultimate aim? To strengthen the development of Australian Indigenous languages in schools and communities.

His work has been instrumental in forming the first legislation in Australia to acknowledge the significance of First Nations languages, the NSW Aboriginal Languages Act 2017.

In October 2019 the Senate changed its standing orders so that where evidence to committees is given in Indigenous languages, a transcript will also be generated, in that language, accompanied by an English translation.

As part of the 2019 NSW Senate Occasional Lecture Series, Dr Kelly explores the notion of using First Nations language on the floor of Parliament.

What are some of the obvious impediments and challenges, and what are the potential benefits of this cross cultural dialogue for the nation?

Historic travel of Indigenous Australians

Little is known about the travels of Aboriginal people to Britain from the late 18th century through to the 21st century.

In the 2019 Annual History Lecture, Professor John Maynard asks: What memories and understandings did these travellers bring back to their homelands?

Using 25 years of transnational studies and comparatives Professor Maynard's lecture provides incisive insights into how these experiences assisted Aboriginal people to adjust to their rapidly changing world.

Hear the lecture as recorded by the ABC on Larrissa Berhendt’s program, ‘Speaking Out’

Alternatively, you can hear the same lecture on ABC's 'Big Ideas'

Hear Professor Maynard being interviewed by GLAMcity’s Chelsea Barnett

Kicking Goals for Aboriginal SoccerImage of John Maynard and his novel Aboriginal Soccer Tribe

The second edition of John Maynard’s, ‘The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe’ was launched at Glee Books on 13 September, 2019 by Professor Larissa Behrendt, Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning.

Since its original publication, over nine years ago, this edition features more stories and material about the present crop of talented Aboriginal sportsmen and women and the journey ahead.

Commended in the 2012 Walkley Award and a finalist in the Deadly Award’s Outstanding Achievement in Literature, Maynard ingeniously interweaves personal narrative with history to create an untold story of Aboriginal involvement with the world game. Books are available from Fair Play Publishing.

Intimacy, nostalgia, and the visual iconography of the Indian nursemaid, from the 1760s to the 20th century

Professor Victoria Haskins presented a seminar at the University of Wollongong's Provocations Seminar Series 2019.

Her interest in the history of colonialism and domestic labour informs a broader interest in cross-cultural relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women in settler colonial histories.

The seminar is based on an Australian Research Council Discovery project, ‘Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945', awarded $191,43 for research 2020-2022.

Professor Haskins will be working with co-investigator Dr Claire Lowrie from University of Wollongong (UOW) and partner investigator, Professor Swapna Banerjee from Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

Ayahs and Amahs investigates female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia and elsewhere during the period of British colonialism.

Accompanying colonial families along circuits of empire between Australia, Asia, and the UK over two centuries, these were extraordinarily mobile women.

By exploring the historical experiences and cultural memories of these earliest global domestic workers, the project aims to illuminate a broader transcolonial history of domestic work.

Expected outcomes include a number of publications and a website as well as offering social and cultural benefits gained by advancing our historical understanding of the forgotten cross-cultural relationships that have shaped our world today.

Counter Currents – Aboriginal Men and Women at the Heart of Empire

Professor John Maynard presented an annual lecture at the History Council of New South Wales as part of NSW 2019 History Week. The lecture engaged and educated the community about the vitality, diversity and meaning of history and its practice

Solidarity and Subversion in Wartime South Africa

During the Second World War, more than six million servicemen and more than 300,000 civilians spent time in South Africa, a transport hub for Allied operations and a base for military training.

Providing often lavish hospitality for the troops became a way to demonstrate support for the war effort and the empire against a background of Afrikaner nationalist opposition to South African participation in the war.

In this context, hosting troops from Britain and the Dominions could serve to reinforce imperial as well as racial solidarity.

Wartime mobility, however, also led to other trans-imperial encounters which created the opportunity for anti-colonial solidarity.

In her Ausgust seminar, hosted by Purai Global Indigenous History Centre in in conjunction with The War Experience History & Ancient History Seminar Series, Jean Smith examined the experiences of the Maori battalion in South Africa and particularly, their interactions with the so-called Cape Coloured community in Cape Town.

Based on her paper, "The Local population took us over, the Coloured population": Solidarity and Subversion in Wartime South Africa, Smith contends that wartime hospitality worked in many different registers and could have a wide range of meanings with varying degrees of intimacy and inclusion.

Though often simply conflated with generosity and welcome, it could also work to disguise uneven relations of power informed by and influencing hierarchies of class and race in both predictable and unexpected ways.

Jean SmithJean Smith is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellow at King's College, London, and is currently working on Empire in Motion, a social history of migration and travel around the British Empire-Commonwealth during the Second World War.

She was previously a research fellow at the University of Leeds and her first book, Settlers at the End of Empire: Race and the Politics of Migration in South Africa, Rhodesia and the United Kingdom, 1939-1994 is under contract with Manchester University Press.

Her work on such topics as; race, migration and deportation in the twentieth-century British Empire has appeared in Twentieth Century British History, Women's History Review and The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.

Voice, Treaty, Truth – The Uluru Statement From The Heart

Image of people on stageProfessor John Maynard joined Sean Gordon and Jackie Huggins for a 2019 NAIDOC public forum about the meaning of calls for voice, treaty, and truth.

Chaired by local journalist and Newcastle's 2019 Citizen of the Year, Jill Emberson, the panel discussed how the Uluru Statement from the Heart can deliver reconciliation between Indigenous and other Australians.


Yuraki – 65,000 years of place and memory

As part of the 2019 NAIDOC celebrations, Professor John Maynard presented the Keynote Address in Toowoomba's magnificent Empire Church Theatre at the Australian Historical Association’s annual conference, Local Communities, Global Networks.

Dancing, Bombing and Outsourcing Corporeality: Can we love the posthuman body?

As Part of the 2019 International Research and Collaboration Scheme, Dr Devaleena Das, Assistant Professor of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, was the guest of an exceptionally positive and successful Visiting Fellowship between June and July, 2019.

Dr Devaleena Das visited the University of Newcastle (UoN) as a FEDUA Visiting Fellow under the joint sponsorship of the Purai Global Indigenous History and 21st Century Humanities centres. Dr Das contacted Professor Victoria Haskins to enquire about spending portion of her sabbatical at UON and working alongside her so the new FEDUA scheme was very timely.

Her four week visit was highly productive. During her time, Dr Das met regularly with staff and HDR students connected with the two centres. Some meetings were held off campus in Newcastle and in Sydney but always involved hosts from UON.Image of Devaleena Das at her masterclass

On 24 June, Dr Das gave a public talk at New Space titled “Dancing, Bombing and Outsourcing Corporeality: Can we love the posthuman body?”. Interviews and sections of the talk were recorded and have been uploaded to the C21CH website as a video promoting the innovative interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarship supported by UoN.

Her youtube video has furthermore been widely shared on social media bringing positive international exposure for the UoNs research in the humanities. The full talk is available as a podcast.

On 9 July, Dr Das conducted a masterclass on gender studies for HDR students and academic staff attended by thirteen people including an international Purai visitor from Birkbeck, University of London. The workshop, ‘Research as an Act of Betrayal: A Transnational Feminist Interrogation of Research Methodologies Across Discipline’, was a highly stimulating seminar class with Dr Das pre-circulating a set of readings and, afterwards, providing powerpoint slides to all attendees.

With advice and input from Professor Haskins, Dr Das also worked on a chapter of her forthcoming publication concerning Indigenous women, art, and performance. The final publication is due to be submitted to the publisher at the end of this year. This will not be a co-publication but has provided a way of building a strong, working relationship.

Dr Das’s university requested that she explore possibilities for a joint Masters program between the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) and UON on ‘Medical Humanities’. To this end, Professor Haskins arranged meetings with Professor Cathy Coleborne, School of Humanities and Social Science (HASS) and Professor Brian Kelly, School of Medicine and Public Health, to discuss this idea. The ensuing discussion was very positive and subsequently Professor Haskins arranged for a meeting with Professor Kevin Hall, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global Engagements and Partnerships, who expressed strong support for such a program.

Discussions are now in train between relevant academic staff at both institutions with a working group established in HASS. UMD has a grant application under review to pursue this program and have indicated that they would like to continue discussions while UoN are looking at possibilities including delivery of online courses between the two institutions and staff/student exchanges.

Echoes of Cook: Ambitious aims and world shaping consequences

NLA Catalogue

In 2020, the Australian nation will be torn between celebration and mourning as the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s "discovery" of Australia approaches.

Although from the Aboriginal perspective, Australian Indigenous people were never lost.

In 2018, the National Library of Australia began commemorating Cook’s first voyage to Australia with an exhibition.

As part of the exhibition’s catalogue, Professor John Maynard’s essay, "I’m Captain Cooked": Aboriginal Perspectives on James Cook provides a constructive and informative means of navigating this space as well as contributing to a multi-layered narrative of the voyage.

His address, essay and subsequent creation of digital study aids will discuss and address a wide range of perspectives on Cook, including how he was perceived at the time and how First Nations peoples continue to respond.

Watch Professor Maynard’s appearance on ABC television’s The Drum: Cook 250 (29 Apr 2019) where Presenter, Ellen Fanning was joined by a panel of Indigenous Australians, Amy Thunig, Rory O'Connor and Tanya Hosch.

2018 - 2017

Living with the Locals: Early Europeans’ Experience of Indigenous Life

Living with the Locals book cover

The New South Books publication, Living with the Locals, by John Maynard and Victoria Haskins, tells the the stories of 13 white men, boys and women who were taken in by the Indigenous people of the Torres Strait islands and of eastern Australia and who lived in their communities between the 1790s and the 1870s, from a few months to over 30 years.

The white people had been shipwrecked or had escaped the confines of penal servitude and survived only through the Indigenous people’s generosity. Many of them were given Indigenous names—Bunboé, Murrangurk, Duramboi, Waki, Giom, Anco.

They assimilated to varying degrees into an Indigenous way of life—several marrying and learning the language—and, for the most part, both parties mourned the white people’s return to European life.

These stories provide a glimpse into Indigenous life at the point of early contact between Indigenous people and British colonists.

It was a time when negative attitudes towards Indigenous people gave rise to misinterpretation of events and sensationalised versions of the stories.

However, many of the white survivors spoke up against the appalling treatment of the Indigenous people, and advocated for conciliation and land rights. They also were unwilling to reveal Indigenous beliefs and customs to unsympathetic colonists.

Watch six extraordinary animated first contact stories of friendship and survival produced by ABC Radio National; James Morrill, William Buckley, Narcisse Pelletier, Barbara Thomson, John Wilson and James Davis.

Prof Victoria Haskins - Roundtable discussion on "Regulating domestic service in colonial societies"

Professor Haskins attended the European Social Science History Conference 2018 and was a panel member on this important roundtable discussion.


Raymond Kelly - Aboriginal Languages Bill

Dr Kelly, Purai Academic, was given special permission to address the members of the Upper House in parliament time on 11 October 2017 and spoke on the importance of language to Aboriginal people in NSW and the significance of the proposed Bill.


Prof John Maynard – The Political Influence of Garveyism on Aboriginal Australia

Purai Co-Director Professor John Maynard speaking at the Birckbeck Institute for the Humanities at the University of London on October 3, 2017.


Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association Logo Fred Maynard: Aboriginal Patriot

In 1927, one of main founders of the Aboriginal Progressive Society, Fred Maynard delivered a defiant and powerful message to the NSW government and the then Aboriginies Protection/Welfare Board.

It was a response to the state government's dismissal of the society’s appeal, through petition, fighting for Aboriginal basic rights relating to their land, children, families and governance.

“We accept no condition of inferiority as compared to the European people.  Quite the contrary is the case. We called no man master and we had no king,” he wrote.

His message is still as strong as it was ninety years ago and the documentary, Fight of Liberty and Freedom: The original Australian Aboriginal Activism produced by Jumbunna, the Indigenous House of Learning at Sydney’s University of Technology, has captured this little-known history.

Written and directed by Larissa Behrendt, presented by Professor John Maynard, this documentary captures the determination, inspiration and resilience of a force to be reckoned with.

One that paved the way for Aboriginal rights today.

Watch Fight of Liberty and Freedom: the original Australian Aboriginal Activism.

National Indigenous Radio Service 98.9FM

Tiga Bayles and Amy McQuire speak with Professor John Maynard about his life and his research (54mins)

'Welfare' And 'Protection' Boards Removed Aboriginal Children. Now Their True Histories Will Be Revealed

Read the article by Professor John Maynard on the New Matilda website

2014 and beyond

Domestic Workers, Social Security and Gender Politics in India

On Monday 27 October 2014, Purai  in association with the UoN Politics Discipline hosted a seminar with Professor Rajeshwari Deshpande on two key and overlapping themes of contemporary Indian politics and their implications for politics-policy interface: social security and women's empowerment. Through the case study of domestic workers in two Indian states, Professor Deshpande explored the sudden visibility assigned to the marginal sections of the urban informal sector workers in the policy discourse of the Indian state and its implications for the collective political action of the poor in India.

Rajeshwari Deshpande is professor of politics at the University of Pune and currently is a visiting professor, Rajiv Gandhi chair in contemporary Indian studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her research interests are in areas such as politics of the urban poor, urban caste-class realities, women's politics, comparative state politics and intellectual traditions of Maharashtra. Rajeshwari is a member of the editorial management team of the newly launched Lokniti/Sage journal 'Studies in Indian Politics.'

Silence, Violence, and Myths of Social Inclusion

A public talk for the ReOccupying the Political workshop was hosted by Purai on Friday 26 September 2014, at University House, Auckland Street, Newcastle, with the generous support of the Australian Political Studies Association, and the Faculty of Business and Law. Speakers Dr Gary Foley (Senior Lecturer, Victoria University), Dr Sara Motta (Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle), and Professor Chris Mullard (Visiting Professor at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, UK) discussed the subject of "Silence, Violence and Myths of Social Inclusion." There was a good attendance here also, and an invigorating conversation followed.

Unlocking the Chains of Oppression – is education the key?

  • Our external affiliate Associate Professor Scott Manning Stevens, Native American Studies Director, Syracuse University, New York, visited Wollotuka, 16-17 June, 2014.  http://thecollege.syr.edu/students/undergraduate/interdisciplinary/native-american-studies/index.html
  • John Maynard and Victoria Haskins presented at the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN) Postgraduate Workshop on the Gold Coast in the week 7-11 July, 2014. http://www.nirakn.edu.au
  • Lena Rodriguez presented at the 2014 World Congress of Sociology in Yokohama, in July 2014. Her paper: "Constructing Transnational Polynesian Identities: Soldiers, Sportsmen and Illegitimate Masculinities."
  • Victoria Haskins presented a plenary paper, '"They shew no signs of resistance": intimate violence and the domestic frontier,' at the 2014 Australian Historical Association annual conference in Brisbane, with Purai external affiliate Professor Lynette Russell of Monash University, and Dr Angela Wanhalla, University of Otago.

Colonization and Domestic Service: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Research Symposium

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle
16-17 July 2012

This research symposium was organised as part of Victoria Haskins' Future Fellowship (2009-2013) research project, In Her Place: state intervention and Indigenous domestic service in Australia and the United States, 1880-1945. Two colleagues, Dr Claire Lowrie, and Professor Pam Nilan, were co-organizers and co-convenors.

The aim of this symposium was to bring together scholars to share insights and to enter into a conversation about the connections between domestic service and colonization. We understand colonization to refer to the expropriation and exploitation of land and resources by one group over others, and to encompass imperial/extraction and settler modes of colonization, internal colonization and slavery, and present-day neocolonialism. This symposium provided an opportunity to workshop individual papers in a collegial environment, drawing out key themes, topics and issues across different sites and times.  A selection of the workshopped papers will be included as peer-reviewed chapters in a book published by an international academic press.

The questions explored included:

  • What is the relationship between domestic service and colonization, historically and into the present?
  • How do the experiences and patterns of domestic service connect with processes of dispossession, displacement, and invasion, and the social and cultural upheavals that such processes generate?
  • What is the relationship between colonization, and the gendering and racializing of domestic service?
  • Is there a difference between domestic service in settler and non-settler colonies? Have such differences affected contemporary domestic service patterns?
  • How has colonization impacted on domestic service not only in the places being colonized, but in the colonizing society "back home"?
  • What are the historical parallels and connections between domestic service under colonization, and the transnational nature of much domestic work today?
  • What was/is the impact of colonization on political organization, activism and resistance in domestic service?
  • How and why have colonizing regimes sought to manage domestic labour, and can we see similar or continuous developments in postcolonial states and neocolonial contexts? What are the implications for calls for government regulation of domestic work, particularly of migrant domestic work, today?

Three keynote speakers were invited to address the symposium: Professor Mary Romero of Arizona State University (who had been a mentor on the Fellowship application), Associate Professor Swapna Banerjee of Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY), and Emeritus Professor Barry Higman, of ANU.

The composition was very international, with speakers from the United States (5, including two of the three keynotes), Canada (2), New Zealand (2), the United Kingdom (2), Turkey (1), Singapore (1), South Africa (1), Papua New Guinea (1), and Australia (6, including one of the keynotes, as well as the 3 convenors and a special guest chair). Of the Australian speakers, two were from regional NSW (Armidale and the Blue Mountains), one from Sydney, one from Brisbane (Southport), one from Canberra, and one from Perth. Speakers included established scholars of international renown and emerging scholars, as well as two postgraduate students. Registered attendees also ranged from leading scholars to postgraduate students, and came from around Australia, with one attending from the UK. There was a range of disciplines represented including: history, anthropology, gender studies, geography, fine art, and law.

The symposium organizing committee decided upon five panels, which collectively reflected both the original aims of the conference and the submissions received. These were: Resistance; Intimacies and Anxieties; the State and Domestic Service; Settler Colonialism and Domestic Service; and Comparisons and Legacies.

Keynote speakers were Professor Mary Romero (Arizona State University), Professor Barry Higman (ANU), and Associate Professor Swapna Banerjee (Brooklyn College of CUNY).

For further information contact:

Associate Professor Victoria Haskins Victoria.Haskins@newcastle.edu.au