Walking, Frontier and Nation: Re/tracing the Songlines in Central Australian Literature

Glenn Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Central Australia is widely characterised as a frontier, a familiar trope in literary constructions of Australian identity that divides black from white, ancient from modern. However, recent anthropological and literary evidence from the Red Centre defies such a clear-cut representation, suggesting more nuanced ‘lifeworlds’ than a frontier binary can afford may better represent the region. Using walking narratives to mark a meeting point between Aboriginal and settler Australian practices of placemaking, this paper summarises and updates literary research by the author (2011–2015), which reads six recounted walks of the region for representations of frontier and home. Methods of textual analyses are described and results appraised for changes to the storied representation of Central Australia from the precolonial era onward. The research speaks to a ‘porosity’ of intercultural boundaries, explores literary instances of intercultural exchange; nuances settler Australian terms for place, including home, Nature and wilderness; and argues for new place metaphors to supersede ‘frontier’. Further, it suggests a recent surge in the recognition of Aboriginal songlines may be reshaping the nation’s key stories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-140
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


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