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Legacies of Indigenous Resistance

Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan in Australian Indigenous Film, Theatre and Literature


Matteo Dutto

This book explores the ways in which Australian Indigenous filmmakers, performers and writers work within their Indigenous communities to tell the stories of early Indigenous resistance leaders who fought against British invaders and settlers, thus keeping their legacies alive and connected to community in the present. It offers the first comprehensive and trans-disciplinary analysis of how the stories of Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan (Bidjigal, Bunuba and Noongar freedom fighters, respectively) have been retold in the past forty years across different media. Combining textual and historical analysis with original interviews with Indigenous cultural producers, it foregrounds the multimodal nature of Indigenous storytelling and the dynamic relationship of these stories to reclamations of sovereignty in the present. It adds a significant new chapter to the study of Indigenous history-making as political action, while modelling a new approach to stories of frontier resistance leaders and providing a greater understanding of how the decolonizing power of Indigenous screen, stage and text production connects past, present and future acts of resistance.

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Chapter 2 Legacies of resistance in Rachel Perkins’ First Australians and Grant Leigh Saunders’ Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws


Chapter 2

Legacies of resistance in Rachel Perkins’ First Australians and Grant Leigh Saunders’ Pemulwuy: A War of Two Laws

On 15 January 2010, a delegation of Eora elders and community representatives met Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and second in line for the British throne, in Gadigal Country in the Block, an iconic block of housing that represents the Sydney suburb of Redfern’s political heart. This was a historical moment in the long campaign for the repatriation of Pemulwuy’s remains to Bidjigal Country and to the Eora nation. During this brief visit, Mick Mundine, the head of the Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company and one of the main forces behind the controversial Pemulwuy redevelopment project, handed Prince William a petition asking for the return of Pemulwuy’s head to his people. As Holly Randell-Moon notes in her analysis of this historical diplomatic encounter, mainstream media portrayed the visit “through a colonial lens that obfuscated the Redfern community elders’ position as sovereign subjects” and framed the Block as a “space of dysfunction” (85). Yet, the meeting had a different meaning for the people of Redfern. Set in motion by local elders and community leaders, the visit, Randell-Moon argues, was a “way of appealing directly to the Crown on native title issues and for the return of ancestral remains” (85) and thus reclaim the continuity of Gadigal sovereignty over Gadigal Country by addressing one of the highest representatives of Crown sovereignty.

Retelling Pemulwuy’s story played a...

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