Dreams and Nightmares of a White Australia

Representing Aboriginal Assimilation in the Mid-twentieth Century

by Catriona Elder (Author)
©2009 Monographs 260 Pages


By the mid-twentieth century the various Australian states began changing their approaches to Aboriginal peoples from one of exclusion to assimilation. These policy changes meant that Aboriginal people, particularly those identified as being of mixed heritage, were to be encouraged to become part of the dominant non-Aboriginal community – the Australian nation.
This book explores this significant policy change from a cultural perspective, considering the ways in which assimilation was imagined in literary fiction of the 1950s and 1960s. Drawing on novels from a range of genres – the Gothic, historical romance, the western and family melodrama – it analyses how these texts tell their assimilation stories.
Taking insights from critical whiteness studies the author highlights both the pleasures and anxieties that the idea of Aboriginal assimilation raised in the non-Aboriginal community. There are elements of these assimilation stories – maternal love, stolen children, violence and land ownership – that still have an impact in the unsettled present of many post-colonial nations. By exploring the history of assimilation the author suggests ideas for a different future.


ISBN (Softcover)
General Cultural History Art Cultural Sociology Australasian Language White Australia Mixed-race relations Aboriginal assimilation
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. 260 pp., 3 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Catriona Elder (Author)

The Author: Catriona Elder is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sydney in Australia. She is the author of Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity (2007) and has published extensively on Australian race relations and immigration history. Her current interests are focused on researching representations of colonialism in Australian television and cinema.


Title: Dreams and Nightmares of a White Australia