Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills: Forgotten Narratives

Reveals for the first time Aboriginal associations with the Burke and Wills Expedition
Aboriginal oral histories are presented and analysed
Generously illustrated with historical photographs and line drawings

By: Ian D Clark (Author), Fred Cahir (Author), Peter Thorne (Foreword By)

336 pages, photos, illustrations


Hardback | Jul 2013 | #210610 | ISBN-13: 9780643108080
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £51.95 $64/€58 approx

About this book

The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills is the first major study of Aboriginal associations with the Burke and Wills expedition of 1860–61. A main theme of the book is the contrast between the skills, perceptions and knowledge of the Indigenous people and those of the new arrivals, and the extent to which this affected the outcome of the expedition.

The book offers a reinterpretation of the literature surrounding Burke and Wills, using official correspondence, expedition journals and diaries, visual art, and archaeological and linguistic research – and then complements this with references to Aboriginal oral histories and social memory. It highlights the interaction of expedition members with Aboriginal people and their subsequent contribution to Aboriginal studies. The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills also considers contemporary and multi-disciplinary critiques that the expedition members were, on the whole, deficient in bush craft, especially in light of the expedition's failure to use Aboriginal guides in any systematic way.

Generously illustrated with historical photographs and line drawings, The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills is an important resource for Indigenous people, Burke and Wills history enthusiasts and the wider community.

"There is so much detail in the Aboriginal contributions to the Burke and Wills journey that we can't ignore it any more."
- Rob Harris, 'A bullet for Burke?', The Weekly Times, pp. 17-18, 21 Aug 2013


Peter Thorne

List of contributors


Introduction: a Yandruwandha perspective
Aaron Paterson

Responding to Yandruwandha: a contemporary Howitt’s experience
Richie Howitt

Chapter 1: The Aboriginal legacy of the Burke and Wills Expedition: an introduction
Ian D. Clark and Fred Cahir

Chapter 2: The members of the Victorian Exploring Expedition and their prior experience of Aboriginal peoples
Ian D. Clark

Chapter 3: 'Exploring is a killing game only to those who do not know anything about it': William Lockhart Morton and other contemporary views about the Victorian Exploring Expedition and its fate
Ian D. Clark

Chapter 4: The use and abuse of Aboriginal ecological knowledge
Philip A. Clarke

Chapter 5: The Aboriginal contribution to the expedition, observed through Germanic eyes
David Dodd

Appendix 5.1: Extracts from the 1861 Anniversary Address of the Royal Society of Victoria delivered by the President, His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly KCB on 8 April 1861

Appendix 5.2: English translation of Beckler H (1867) Corroberri: Ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Musik bei den australischen Ureinwohnern Globus 13, 82–84

Chapter 6: Language notes connected to the journey of the expedition as far as the Cooper
Luise Hercus

Chapter 7: Burke and Wills and the Aboriginal people of the Corner Country
Harry Allen

Chapter 8: 'Devil been walk about tonight – not devil belonging to blackfellow, but white man devil. Methink Burke and Wills cry out tonight "What for whitefellow not send horses and grub?"' An examination of Aboriginal oral traditions of colonial explorers
Fred Cahir

Chapter 9: How did Burke die?
Darrell Lewis

Chapter 10: Telling and retelling national narratives
Deirdre Slattery

Chapter 11: The influence of Aboriginal country on artist and naturalist Ludwig Becker of the Victorian Exploring Expedition: Mootwingee, 1860–61
Peta Jeffries

Chapter 12: If I belong here... how did that come to be?
Paul Lambeth

Chapter 13: Alfred Howitt and the erasure of Aboriginal history
Leigh Boucher

Chapter 14: Remembering Edwin J. Welch: surveyor to Howitt’s Contingent Exploration Party
Frank Leahy

Chapter 15: 'We have received news from the blacks': Aboriginal messengers and their reports of the Burke relief expedition (1861–62) led by John McKinlay
Fred Cahir

Chapter 16: William Landsborough’s expedition of 1862 from Carpentaria to Victoria in search of Burke and Wills: exploration with native police troopers and Aboriginal guides
Peta Jeffries

Chapter 17: 'I suppose this will end in our having to live like the blacks for a few months': reinterpreting the history of Burke and Wills
Ian D. Clark and Fred Cahir


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Ian D. Clark is Professor of Tourism in the Business School of the University of Ballarat. He has a PhD in Aboriginal historical geography from Monash University. His areas of interest include Victorian Aboriginal history, cultural heritage management, attractions management, Indigenous tourism, the history of tourism, and Victorian toponyms.

Fred Cahir is a Senior Lecturer of Indigenous Studies in the School of Education and Arts at the University of Ballarat. He completed his PhD on the role of Aboriginal people on the Victorian goldfields at the University of Ballarat with Sovereign Hill Museums Association as his Industry Partner. His areas of interest include contact history, goldfields history, Indigenous tourism, and toponyms.

Harry Allen, Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland
Leigh Boucher, School of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University
Philip A. Clarke, Senior Research Fellow, Griffith University
David Dodd, Business School, University of Ballarat
Luise Hercus, School of Language Studies, Australian National University
Richie Howitt, Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University
Peta Jeffries, Business School, University of Ballarat
Paul Lambeth, School of Education and Arts, University of Ballarat
Frank Leahy, School of Engineering, University of Melbourne
Darrell Lewis, Centre for Historical Research, National Museum of Australia
Aaron Paterson, Yandruwandha descendant and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd
Deirdre Slattery, Faculty of Education – Outdoor and Environmental Education, La Trobe University
Peter Thorne, The Royal Society of Victoria

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