Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse follows the life of the strong Nuenonne woman who lived through the dramatic upheavals of invasion and dispossession and became known around the world as the so-called ‘last Tasmanian’. But the figure at the heart of this book is George Augustus Robinson, the self-styled missionary and chronicler who was charged with ‘conciliating’ with the Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples. It is primarily through his journals that historians are able to glimpse and piece together the world fractured by European arrival.
When I was a small boy in Hobart, my mates and I would often go down to the Tasmanian Museum after school; and one of the exhibits that interested us most was what we called ‘the human skeleton’. It stood in a glass case on the stairs, and it was only when we were older that we took in the fact that these were the remains of ‘Queen’ Trucanini, last of the Tasmanian Aborigines. There was no general notion abroad then that there was anything wrong with exhibiting these bones; but I remember a vague sense of unease – of being in the presence of something shameful. Such a sense exists in all of us; but there is no god so powerful as science in persuading men to suppress it.