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Jackson’s Track Revisited: History, Remembrance and Reconciliation


Barbara Caine

In 1999, as the co-author of Jackson’s Track: Memoir of a Dreamtime Place, Carolyn Landon helped to produce the riveting and moving story of Daryl Tonkin’s life amidst the Aboriginal community that settled around his Gippsland timber works. After spending a great deal of time talking to Tonkin, Landon wrote up his story, representing as closely as possible his point of view in his own voice. Inevitably she shaped the story, but she saw herself essentially as listener and facilitator, enabling Tonkin to tell the story of his early family life; his marriage to Euphemia Hood Mullett, a woman of the Brabralung Clan of the Kurnai Tribe; and his life with their children and the Aboriginal community that settled around his timber works and worked with him. Jackson’s Track also told of the tragic demise and destruction of this community after Euphemia’s death. The acclaim that Jackson’s Track received on its publication showed not only how important this story was, but also how prescient Landon had been in bringing it to light in the memoir form, which gave it authenticity and pathos.

In the years since the publication of Jackson’s Track, through her growing knowledge of the local area and community and her interest and involvement in the reconciliation movement, Landon has come to see that Tonkin’s story was not the only possible version. The stories of others involved raised questions that Tonkin never addressed, as well as offering very different accounts of the players and their communities. In one way then Jackson’s Track Revisited brings to the fore these other recollections and memories, enabling one to see clearly the many different interests, concerns and experiences that make up the whole story of Jackson’s Track throughout the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. But Landon also revisits Tonkin’s own memories and her own approach to his story, reflecting on her assumptions about the nature of history and biography.

Jackson’s Track Revisited offers wonderful insights into the differences between memory and the formal historical record, the history that is found in documents used to formulate policy and record the official version of events. Landon’s depiction of the difficulties involved in bringing together these two forms of history is not only fascinating, but also raises many questions about how accurately the lives of indigenous peoples can be known or understood if one relies only on the written record.

The stories in this new work are every bit as compelling as was that of Daryl Tonkin. They are augmented by the powerful voice of Landon herself, reflecting on and explaining how she came to record, analyse and understand anew the history of Jackson’s Track.

Barbara Caine, School of Historical Studies, Monash University, May 2006

Jackson’s Track Revisited: History, Remembrance and Reconciliation

   by Carolyn Landon