Global Indigenous History Centre



Aboriginal boxer, Dave Sand's, commemorative plaqueRING KINGS: A History of Aboriginal People and Boxing

The Australian Boxing community has been mourning the recent death of the great Hector Thompson.

He fought two world titles and, in 2005, was inducted into the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame.

His career in similar to that of many other Aboriginal men who have tried their hand at the sport, from Dave Sands and Lionel Rose to Tony Mundine.

Listen to Professor John Maynard talk about the unique long standing relationship between Aboriginal people and boxing.

Human Experience Podcast: The history of domestic service

Logo for Our Human Experience podcast

This episode of the HASS School podcast features Professsor Victoria Haskins who shares an intriguing family history discovery that sparked her wonderful academic journey.

In this episode, Belinda Galbraithe asks Professor Haskins what the historical experiences and cultural memories of the earliest global domestic workers tell us about the history of home, domesticity and cross-cultural relationships.

We also learn about Victoria's latest project which reveal the stories of women known as the Ayahs and Amahs – female domestic care workers who travelled to Australian and Britain during the period of British colonialism.
These stories of incredibly mobile women helped shaped our world today.

What can the historical experiences and cultural memories of the earliest global domestic workers tell us about the history of home, domesticity and cross-cultural relationships?

Victoria also reveals the intriguing family history find that sparked her academic journey.

The Human Experiences podcast can be found on Anchor FM which means you can stream it on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker and Radio Public.


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.

A History of the NSW Aborigines Protection/Welfare Board (1883-1969)

Chief Investigators meet to discuss Board project

L-R Prof Haskins, Dr Kelly, Prof Troy, Dr Barker, Prof Maynard

A digital map, touring exhibition, inclusion of research material in the Australian National University's Indigenous Studies major and the painstaking copying, by hand, of minutes from archives are just some of the many outcomes produced by researchers involved in the Aboriginal Protection/Welfare Board (AP/WB) project.

According to lead Chief Investigators, Professors Victoria Haskins and John Maynard, engaging Indigenous communities directly in the research process is the future for historical studies involving Australia’s First Nations people.

It will also contribute to reconciling Australia’s past history and move the nation forward to a shared and just future. (Professor Maynard)

Chief Investigators looking at the digital mapAs part of the Time Layered Cultural Map project, a digital map, put together by systems architect, Bill Pascoe, shows how, over a period of 86 years, AP/WB reserves, stations and missions were acquired and later revoked, leased or sold off forcing many Aboriginal families to move.

Five Chief Investigators from four universities and an Indigenous PhD student have collaborated with organisations like; the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA), state and national libraries, collections and museums and regional historical societies in cities, regional towns and communities stretching the length and breadth of the state.

Professor Jakelin Troy plans to hold a meeting at Thredbo with her Ngarigo mountain community interviewing people about the experience of being “off the mish [mission]” later in the year.

Dr Lorina Barker’s two year creative response to the project has culminated in the publication of Wii Thirra: Campfire Songs with musician, Simon Mellor, the scripting of the play, Trucked off  and the exhibition, Looking through Windows which has already toured to Redfern, Armidale, Brewarrina.
L-R Dr Barker, Dr Kelly, Prof Maynard

"A giving back or sharing” with her community of research participants is an important aspect of Dr Barker’s work which acknowledges the pain and possible healing that comes with remembering a traumatic past.

PhD scholar, Ashlen Francisco, is on track to submit her thesis mid 2020 about the history of the transition from Protection to Welfare in NSW between 1939 to 1940.

One significant outcome of the project was instigated by Dr Lawrence Bamblett who has included his research in an Indigenous Studies major at ANU.

Dr Bamblett says the response from students and impact on them is immediate.

“The students, many who already work in health, legal, government and educational sectors, have indicated that the material has had a significant impact on the ways they view and think about Aboriginal history,” he says.

One of his students wrote, “This course has taught me about a significant part of Indigenous history that I have never learned before. Among other things, I was completely unaware of the political activity that was undertaken by Aboriginal people.”

“I learned that the creativity which is so often expressed through the arts was used to establish some of Australia's most memorable rights protests. Before doing this course, I viewed the Day of Mourning protest as a reminder that European settlement was detrimental to the first Australians, but I had no idea about its long and rich political history,” she said.

I now view the Day of Mourning as a mark of the resilience and power of Indigenous people, and think of it as a reminder of everything that was accomplished by the rights activists who participated in the lead up and subsequent rights campaigns ... As an extension to this new understanding, I have started asking new questions, which is a significant change to my way of thinking.

An indirect but welcome spin-off from the Aboriginal Protection/Welfare Board investigations is the incorporation of interviews and unearthed material in the Kinchela Boy’s Home Mobile Education Centre.

The centre aims to provide a deeper understanding about the power and authority of the AP/WB and how it operated by forcibly removing Aboriginal children, first from their families and sending them to institutions, foster care or placing them in domestic service, on farms and other apprenticeships.

CEO of Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, Tiffany McComsey, said one of the ways to support intergenerational healing is to showcase the stories of survivors and the stories of their own journeys are leading this work.

The centre’s purpose is not to create guilt but to help advance understanding about the impacts of intergenerational trauma. (Tiffany McComsey)

Future plans for the project include a week’s trip to Walgett by Dr Ray Kelly and Professor John Maynard to conduct further interviews and research.

During the meeting, it was also resolved to bring the Dr Lorina’s Looking through Windows exhibition to Newcastle’s Art Gallery.

The project will culminate in a two-volume book written by Professor John Maynard and co-authored by Professor Victoria Haskins and include a general history of the board as well as chapters based on four case studies by the Chief Investigators.

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.
  • 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