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Sydney University Press

The cover of Judith Godden’s biography of Lucy Osburn, the founder of modern nursing in Australia, is dominated by a ghostly white statuette of Florence Nightingale. Lucy herself appears in a bottom corner, photographed with a book in hand, an insignificant figure dressed in black silk, with a white cap over a severe hairstyle. At times, it seems as if Nightingale is going to overshadow the book, too. But despite her largely unsuccessful attempts to carry out the wishes of the ‘lady with the lamp’ in New South Wales, Osburn did succeed in creating conditions whereby scientific practices could be introduced into nursing in Australia, though she failed to convince the medical establishment that women could be trusted with medical knowledge or were capable of managing hospitals.

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Oxford University Press has begun a welcome series called Australian Writers. Two further titles, Imre Salusinszky on Gerald Murnane and Ivor Indyk on David Malouf, will appear in March 1993, and eleven more books are in preparation. Though I find the first three uneven in quality, they make a very promising start to a series. In some ways they resemble Oliver and Boyd’s excellent series, Writers and Critics, even being of about the same length. However this new series is less elementary, more demanding of the reader. It is, predictably, far sparser in critical evaluation, concentrating on hermeneutics, and biographical information is as rare as a wombat waltz.

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Mining and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia edited by J. Connell and R. Howitt & Aborigines and Diamond Mining edited by R.A. Dixon and M.C. Dillon

September 1992, no. 144

If John Hewson leads the next Australian government, we are likely to see a reversal of the current government ban on mining at Coronation Hill and the lifting of other impediments to mining. Should the fight to preserve an indigenous right to negotiate other’s access to mineralised lands have to be renewed, these two books will make invaluable background reading. They document the awesome political responsibilities on nation-states wishing to encourage economic development but trying also to satisfy the legitimate and changing claims of the traditional owners of mineralised lands. National leader’s political commitment to indigenous rights is only one of the issues highlighted here. Of equal importance is the complex and changing attitudes of the landowners themselves.

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