Love Against the Law: The autobiographies of Tex and Nelly Camfoo

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, Social Science on 2013-01-14 17:41Z by Steven

Love Against the Law: The autobiographies of Tex and Nelly Camfoo

Aboriginal Studies Press
120 pages
240×170 mm
ISBN 9780855753481

Tex Camfoo

Nelly Camfoo

Edited by:

Gillian Cowlishaw

During his life, Tex Camfoo has been classified as Aboriginal, half-caste and European. As a half-caste he could not legally associate with or marry an Aboriginal woman. As an Aboriginal, he was not allowed to visit the pub with his European work mates.

Nelly Camfoo was always considered Aboriginal. From childhood she has taken part in ceremonial life. She finds white people both frustrating and foolish – ‘they can’t understand because they can’t listen’.

The stories of Tex and Nelly Camfoo intermingle to highlight the ambiguous social position of Aboriginals living in the Northern Territory during this century. They provide insight into race relations, the contradictory attitudes of missionaries and police, they reflect morality and religion as well as recent political developments.

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Being Black: Aboriginal Cultures in ‘settled’ Australia

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-01-14 04:42Z by Steven

Being Black: Aboriginal Cultures in ‘settled’ Australia

Aboriginal Studies Press
1988; Reprinted 1991
288 pages
240×170 mm
ISBN: 9780855751852

Edited by:

Ian Keen, Visiting Fellow
School of Archaeology and Anthropology
College of Arts and Social Sciences
The Australian National University

This volume brings together results of research by anthropologists on the social life of people who used to be labelled ‘part-Aborigines’ or ‘urban Aborigines’.

Issues discussed include bases of identity, ties of family, structure of community, ways of speaking, beliefs and feelings about country, and attitudes to the past.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword by Marie Reay
  • Contributors
  • 1. Ian Keen / Introduction
  • 2. Diane Barwick / Aborigines of Victoria
  • 3. Barry Morris / Dhan-gadi resistance to assimilation
  • 4. Julie Carter / Am I too black to go with you?’
  • 5. Jerry Schwab / Ambiguity, style and kinship in Adelaide Aboriginal identity
  • 6. Diana Eades / They don’t speak an Aboriginal language, or do they?
  • 7. Jeremy R. Beckett / Kinship, mobility and community in rural New South Wales
  • 8. Chris Blrdsall / All one family
  • 9. Basil Sansom / A grammar of exchange
  • 10. Gaynor Macdonald / A Wiradjuri fight story
  • 11. Marcia Langton / Medicine Square
  • 12. Patricia Baines / A litany for land
  • 13. Peter Sutton / Myth as history, history as myth
  • Index

1. Ian Keen Introduction

According to the perceptions of many people including anthropologists and other researchers, Aboriginal people of mixed descent classified in earlier decades as ‘part-Aborigines’, have no distinctive culture (eg Bell 1964,64; Barwick 1964; Beckett 1964; Rowley 1971; Hausfield 1977, 267; RM Berndt 1979, 87; and see Read 1980, 112). Fink (1957, 110), for example, has judged that the Aborigines of a New South Wales town simply possessed a common group identity as ‘black’ and an opposition to white people. In Eckermann’s view (1977), the Aboriginal people of a southeast Queensland town have been assimilated and integrated, having a mode of life typical of working class culture (see also Smith and Biddle 1972, xi), To the Berndts (1951, 275-76; Berndt 1962, 88), the Europeanisation of so small a minority has seemed inevitable.

In contrast, others (and sometimes the same authors writing at different times) have detected a distinctive, even unique, culture or way of life, with its own folkways, mores and beliefs (Calley 1956; Bell 1961, 436-37; Smith and Biddle 1972,124; Howard 1979, 98; Crick 1981). Langton (1982, 18) has remarked that ‘loss of culture’ should not be a matter of faith, but of investigation. Indeed, much of the substance of the publications cited above, as well as the results of current research, show that many features of the social life of these people are distinctive, and also display marked similarities to aspects of the cultures of Aboriginal peoples whose social lives have been changed to a lesser degree by the process of colonisation. Calley (1956, 213) wrote that the people of mixed Aboriginal descent possessed a society ‘leaning heavily on the logic and outlook on life of the indigenous traditions’ yet quite well adapted to the white community that surrounds it.

It was my familiarity with some ongoing anthropological research into the social life of Aboriginal people of southeast Queensland, New South Wales and the southwest of Western Australia, that led me to invite contributions to a volume on continuities in the culture of Aboriginal people living in what Rowley (1971, vii) called ‘settled’ Australia. The closely settled regions, by contrast with what Rowley termed colonial’ Australia, dominated by pastoral production, are those which have been most radically transformed by people of European origin. They lie mainly in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the continent, extending on the east coast north to Cairns, and north to Carnarvon on the west coast, The category should also include Darwin, the major European and Asian settlement of the north.

This volume (Being Black), brings together some of the results of a continuing interest among anthropologists in the social life of people who used to be labelled ‘part-Aborigines’ or ‘urban Aborigines’, Studies burgeoned during the post-war decades when ‘acculturation’ was a major anthropological interest, although research dwindled somewhat through the 1970s, Meanwhile research by geographers and economists has greatly extended our knowledge of the social and economic conditions of Aborigines of these regions, and the new Aboriginal history has revolutionised our perceptions of Australian history, Aborigines themselves are increasingly writing (and making films and videos) about their own lives (eg Bropho 1980; Clare 1978; Davis and Hodge 1985; McLeod 1982; Miller 1985; Mum Shirl 1981; Pepper 1980; Perkins 1975; Rosser 1978; Simon 1978)…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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Born a Half-Caste

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, Women on 2012-09-01 17:10Z by Steven

Born a Half-Caste

Aboriginal Studies Press
1990 (revised edition)
78 pages
210 x1 50mm, b/w illus
Paperback ISBN: 9780855751609

Margaret (Marnie) Kennedy (1919–1985)

Marnie Kennedy was born in 1919 ‘on the bank of Coppermine Creek’. Her story takes us from her birthplace in Western Queensland, to Palm Island where she grew up ‘under the Act’, and back to western Queensland where she spent all of her hard-working life on cattle stations. It is a story of quiet courage and determination, dedicated ‘to my mother, my children and grandchildren, and my people’.

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Indifferent Inclusion: Aboriginal people and the Australian Nation

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2012-09-01 02:37Z by Steven

Indifferent Inclusion: Aboriginal people and the Australian Nation

Aboriginal Studies Press
September 2011
288 pages
230 x 152mm; b/w Illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 9780855757793

Russell McGregor, Associate Professor of History
James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

McGregor offers a holistic interpretation of the complex relationship between Indigenous and settler Australians during the middle four decades of the twentieth century. Combining the perspectives of political, social and cultural history in a coherent narrative, he provides a cogent analysis of how the relationship changed, and the impediments to change.

McGregor’s focus is on the quest for Aboriginal inclusion in the Australia nation; a task which dominated the Aboriginal agenda at the time. McGregor challenges existing scholarship and assumptions, particularly around assimilation. In doing so he provides an understanding of why assimilation once held the approval of many reformers, including Indigenous activists.

He reveals that the inclusion of Aboriginal people in the Australian nation was not a function of political lobbying and parliamentary decision making. Rather, it depended at least as much on Aboriginal people’s public profile, and the way their demonstrated abilities partially wore down the apathy and indifference of settler Australians.

Russell McGregor is Associate Professor of History at James Cook University in Townsville. He has published extensively on the history of settler Australian attitudes toward Aboriginal people, including the award-winning book Imagined Destinies. His other research interests are in Australian nationalism and environmental history.


  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Notes on Terminology
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • Prologue: The Crimson Thread of Whiteness
  • Chapter 1: Preserving the National Complexion
    • Managing miscegenation
    • Hiding heredity
    • Opponents
    • Continuities and discontinuities
  • Chapter 2: Primitive Possibilities
    • Reappraising the primitive
    • Refiguring the federation
    • Humanitarians and activists
    • A new deal
  • Chapter 3: Aboriginal Activists Demand Acceptance
    • Conditional citizenship
    • Virile, capable and black
    • Representation and rights
    • Citizen soldiers
  • Chapter 4: Restricted Reconstruction
    • Postwar world order
    • Challenging white Australia
    • An anthropologist discovers citizenship
    • Appreciating the Aboriginal
  • Chapter 5: To Live as We Do
    • Stranded individuals
    • Avoiding ‘Aborigines’
    • Mobilising civil society
    • Attenuated identities
  • Chapter 6: Assimilation and Integration
    • Assimilation through tradition
    • An expedient slogan
    • Definitions and redefinitions
  • Chapter 7: Enriching the Nation
    • Respect and redemption
    • Sporting heroes
    • Indigenous wisdom
    • Appreciation and appropriation
  • Chapter 8: Fellow Australians
    • Voting rights
    • Drinking rites
    • Right wrongs, write yes
    • Special assistance or minority rights?
  • Chapter 9: After the Referendum
    • Dream time in Canberra
    • Land rights
    • An Aboriginal nation
  • Epilogue: Unfinished Business
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index

Chapter 1: Preserving the National Complexion

After the First World War, Australians began to notice a new trend among the Aboriginal population. Within their own enclaves, people of mixed descent were reproducing faster than white Australians. Remarking on this trend, demographer Jens Lyng observed in 1927 that ‘the idea of the White Australia ideal eventually being shattered from within cannot be dismissed as altogether absurd’.1 Lyng’s wording was guarded, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Australian public was alarmed by half-caste reproduction rates or fearful that it posed a threat to the national ideal. Some administrators of Aboriginal affairs were alarmed and fearful, however — or at least their statements on the issue were alarmist and fear-provoking. Two administrators in particular — Western Australia’s Chief Protector of Aborigines (later Commissioner of Native Affairs), AO Neville, and the Northern Territory’s Chief Protector of Aborigines, Cecil Cook — elevated the ‘half-caste menace’ to their highest priority.

Neville’s and Cook’s solution to the half-caste problem was biological absorption, colloquially called ‘breeding out the colour’. This entailed directing persons of mixed descent into marital unions with white people, so that after several generations of interbreeding all outward signs of Aboriginal ancestry would disappear. It held an incongruent array of aims and means. Absorption promised to resolve the supposed problems resulting from racial intermixture by encouraging still more intermixing. It aimed to uphold the ideal of white Australia but flew in the face of popular notions of white Australia as a doctrine of racial purity. While racist in many ways, absorption simultaneously defied prevalent racist assumptions of hybrid inferiority. It parallelled eugenicism in certain respects, but also clashed with eugenic principles. It was inspired partly by humanitarian welfarism, but evinced profound disdain for the subjects of its welfare interventions.

Despite these myriad inspirations and aspirations, absorption’s primary objective was accurately stated in its colloquial designation. It aimed to ‘breed out the colour’ — to physically transform persons of Aboriginal ancestry into white Australians and thereby bleach out the as yet small coloured stain in the national fabric. Half-castes must become white since whiteness was the essential qualification for national membership. Breeding the colour out of persons of Aboriginal descent was equally a program of breeding them into the community of the nation. This chapter argues that biological absorption in the interwar years should be understood in the context of a strongly ethnic conception of Australian nationhood, whereby myths of blood kinship provided the core of national cohesion. It also argues that while absorption was a variant of assimilation, it was in crucial respects different to the social assimilation which some critics were beginning to advocate in the 1930s, and which came to the fore after the Second World War

Read the entire chapter here.

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