Very hard, that day
: the moral sub-text Aboriginal oral history from the Western Victoria River region, Northern Territory

  • Cameron Murray Raynes

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    The Aboriginal people (ngumpin) of the western Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia have a one hundred and fifteen year history of interaction with non-Aboriginal Australians (kartiya), as a result of their incorporation into the northern pastoral industry since the early 1880s. It is a history that is characterised in large part by work-based oppression and exploitation.

    In this thesis the transcribed texts resulting from thirty-five oral history interviews with elderly ngumpin who worked in the pastoral industry are presented and analysed. The majority of these interviews, which were conducted between November 1992 and September 1995, took place at Amanbidji and Mistake Creek Stations.

    The aim of this work is to reveal and describe the moral sub-text-an evaluative and critical seam of material-which is present within at least some of the oral texts. The analysis revolves around a consideration of the presence and character of six features of these texts: explicit evaluation, simile, historical contrast, thesis, questions of the interviewer by the interviewee, and the patterned use of pronoun.

    This moral sub-text is not considered in isolation. Ngumpin understand the present economic and social disparities that characterise their relationship with kartiya as the continuation and the product of decades of unequal exchange. Historical, statistical and ethnographic material is presented and analysed in order to show how the sub-text is related to general and specific circumstances-the context--of the production of ngumpin oral history. It will be demonstrated that ngumpin notions of reciprocity, of' ‘coming up[to]' and 'working alongside' kartiya provide some of the keys to understanding the character of the moral sub-text.

    The effect of the presence of the kartiya researcher on ngumpin oral history material will also be discussed. The interpersonal dynamic of such research is considered part of the context of ngumpin oral history.
    Date of AwardApr 2000
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPatrick McConvell (Supervisor)

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