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Reading Robinson: Companion Essays to George Robinson’s Friendly Mission


WENDY AITKEN belongs to a Flinders ‘Islander’ family with lineage tracing back to Elizabeth Maynard, a Boonerwrung woman of Port Nepean in Victoria and to Mannalagenna, of the North East clans of Tasmania. She holds a combined Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree and is currently a PhD candidate and associate lecturer at the University of Tasmania.

IAN ANDERSON is the foundation Chair in Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne where he is also the Director of the Centre for Health and Society & the Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit. Professor Anderson is the Research Director for the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health. He has research interests which include Aboriginal health policy, Aboriginal health and human rights, and issues related to Aboriginal culture, identity and representation. Before becoming an academic in 1998 he worked in a number of clinical/health care and administrative/policy roles in Aboriginal health.

PATRICK BRANTLINGER is James Rudy Professor (Emeritus) of English and Cultural Studies at Indiana University. Among his books are Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1988) and Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930 (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 2003). He edited Victorian Studies between 1980 and 1990, and for that journal wrote a review essay on the genocide controversy in Australia, ‘“Black Armband” versus “White Blindfold” History,’ (46: 4, Summer 2004, pp. 655-74).

JOHN CONNOR is a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. He is the author of The Australian Frontier Wars, 1788-1838 (Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2002) and is currently writing The Official History of Australian Peacekeeping and Post-Cold War Operations.

SHARON DENNIS started her nursing career in Hobart as an Enrolled Nurse. After completion she returned to Burnie, staying in aged care. She had a break and was a delivery postal officer in Wynyard. After a year of experiencing all the weather cycles on a motorbike she returned to nursing in the Burnie General Hospital. She later nursed in Rosebery and was also a Volunteer First Response Ambulance Officer for two years. When she returned to Burnie she worked in the hospital’s operating theatre. She enrolled for a Bachelor of Nursing, and in her first year her son Jacob was born. In her second year she and her partner purchased the Gawler General Store and Post Office. She continued studying and completed her postgraduate nursing degree, after which she went on to do a course at TAFE, completing a Diploma in Frontline Management. She is currently employed at the University of Tasmania with the University Department of Rural Health and Riawunna, and she also operates a business with her partner. She is a member of the Mersey Leven Aboriginal Corporation and volunteers time there when she can.

RODNEY DILLON, NAIDOC person of the year in 2005, is an Aboriginal Tasmanian (Palawa), a former ATSIC Commissioner for Tasmania (elected three times) and now the Indigenous Campaigner for Amnesty International Australia. Another of Rodney’s more prominent roles in recent times has been the repatriation of Indigenous remains from overseas. He is currently the Chair of the national reference group for Repatriation of Australian Indigenous Remains. Rodney was involved in consultations with the British Government and was instrumental in changes to British repatriation policies. He successfully negotiated with the British Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Surgeons, Horniman Museum and Cambridge University to return remains to Australia. Those negotiations led to the return of many remains of Indigenous Australian people to their country. Rodney has also been involved on a national basis with the review of fishing rights. In Tasmania he has been involved with many court cases fighting for Aboriginal Tasmanians to maintain their culture and he has been successful in maintaining cultural fishing rights. He has a strong commitment to the Aboriginal community, helping those in need or down on their luck. Rodney Dillon regularly visits Aboriginal inmates, especially those who do not have regular visitors and those who are ill in hospital. Among his favourite achievements is his involvement with the purchase of a sheep station on Bruny Island for the Aboriginal People of Tasmania.

ELIZABETH ELBOURNE is an Associate Professor in the Department of History, McGill University, Montreal. Her publications include Blood Ground: Colonialism, Missions and the Contest for Christianity in Britain and the Eastern Cape, 1799-1853 (Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queens University Press, 2002). She is currently working on a history of struggles over the status of indigenous peoples in white settler colonies in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with particular attention to the so-called ‘friends of the aborigine’ in Britain and the colonies, the transimperial networks they fostered, and their ambivalently-located indigenous interlocutors.

ANNA JOHNSTON is Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in the School of English, Journalism and European Languages, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Colonialism and Its Aftermath at the University of Tasmania. She is the author of Missionary Writing and Empire, 1800-1860 (Cambridge UP 2003) and coeditor, with Helen Gilbert, of In Transit: Travel, Text, Empire (Peter Lang 2002); she has also published widely on nineteenth-century missionary writing and on travel writing. Her current research examines travel writing about Australia in the nineteenth century. She is also currently working on the Australian magazine Walkabout (published between 1934-74), with Mitchell Rolls.

ALAN LESTER is Professor of Historical Geography at the University of Sussex, UK. He has written on the historical geographies of the British Empire, especially the interconnected histories of the Cape Colony, New South Wales and New Zealand. He is the author of Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth-Century South Africa and Britain (London, Routledge 2001) and co-editor with David Lambert of Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

IAN MCFARLANE graduated with honours in history and politics from Monash University before gaining a PhD in history from the University of Tasmania. He is currently working for Riawunna at the University of Tasmania’s Cradle Coast Campus. He is the author of Beyond Awakening: the Aboriginal Tribes of North West Tasmania: a History (Launceston, Fullers Bookshop, 2008).

CASSANDRA PYBUS is the author of eleven books. She won the Colin Roderick Award in 1994 for the best book about Australian life and the Adelaide Festival Award for non-fiction in 2000. She is currently an ARC Professorial Fellow at the University of Sydney. She has also been a Fulbright Professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC, and a visiting scholar at the Charles Warren Center for American Studies at Harvard, as well as Coca Cola International Fellow at the Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, Virginia and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Rockefeller Library, Virginia. She is currently visiting professor at the Institute of Historical Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Her most recent books are Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty (Boston, Beacon Press, 2006) and Black Founders: the Unknown Story of Australia’s First Black Settlers (Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2006) and (as editor with Marcus Rediker) Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration in the Making of the Modern World (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007).

HENRY REYNOLDS is currently the holder of a personal chair in Aboriginal Studies and History at the University of Tasmania. He worked for many years at James Cook University in Townsville. He is the author of many books on the history of race relations in Australia including his prize-winning Tasmanian study Fate of a Free People (rev ed., Camberwell, Penguin, 2004). His most recent book is Nowhere People (Camberwell, Penguin, 2005).

MITCHELL ROLLS is senior lecturer and co-director (Academic) in Riawunna, Centre for Aboriginal Studies, University of Tasmania, and a Deputy Director, Centre for Colonialism and Its Aftermath. His research interests include cultural identity, race and representation, and cultural appropriation. He has published widely on these issues, most recently in the journals Aboriginal History, Australian Studies, Australian Cultural History, and has a chapter—‘The Green Thumb of Appropriation’—in The Littoral Zone: Australian Contexts and their Writers (Rodopi Press, 2007). He is currently working on the Australian magazine Walkabout (published between 1934-74), with Anna Johnston.

LYNDALL RYAN’S best known book, The Aboriginal Tasmanians (St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1981; St Leonards, Allen & Unwin, 1996) established her lifelong interest in Tasmanian history. After a thirty-year academic career at Griffith, Flinders and Newcastle universities she is currently researching the incidence of massacre on the colonial frontier in Tasmania and completing a biography of her mother, Edna Ryan.

REBE TAYLOR completed her Masters of Arts in history at the University of Melbourne in 1996 and her PhD in history at the Australian National University in 2004. Her book Unearthed: The Aboriginal Tasmanians of Kangaroo Island (Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 2002) won the South Australian Premier’s Award for non-fiction in 2003 and the Victorian Premier’s Award for a First Book of History in 2004. She is an Australian Research Council Fellow at the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. Her project ‘From Race to the Genome’ explores the history of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people within the scientific imagination.

NICHOLAS THOMAS was born in Sydney in 1960. His research and writing have addressed voyages, cross-cultural encounters, colonial histories, and art in the Pacific and Australia since the eighteenth century. His books include Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1991), Colonialism’s Culture: Anthropology, Travel, and Government (Cambridge, UK, Polity Press, 1994), Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture (London, Thames & Hudson, 1999) and Discoveries: the Voyages of Captain Cook (London, Allen Lane, 2003). He is Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Reading Robinson: Companion Essays to George Robinson’s Friendly Mission

   by Anna Johnston and Mitchell Rolls