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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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These words mark my fifth year living in the countries of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I therefore want to pay my respects to all their elders past, present and emerging, who at different moments throughout these years welcomed me to their homeland. Most importantly, I want to acknowledge the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people’s ongoing and uninterrupted sovereignty and connection with their countries.

First and foremost, I wish to thank my colleagues and mentors at Monash University for their support and encouragement. Special thanks in particular to Therese Davis and Belinda Smaill who have offered their guidance and support from the very early days of this project, when we first met in Prato (Italy) during a conference, to its final completion. Their extensive feedback on many drafts and all the insightful discussions we had over the past years were crucial not just to push this book into unexpected and challenging directions, but for my personal growth as a scholar. My profoundest thanks to them both.

I also need to thank the Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural producers and sovereign artists who agreed to be interviewed for this project: Mitch Torres, Kelrick Martin, Sally Riley, Steve Hawke and Grant Leigh Saunders. This book owes a big debt not only to their time and helpfulness, but to their courageous works and to the opportunities they gave me to expand my thinking and reshape my sense of self in relation to the...

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