Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines
Miegunyah Press, $44.95 hb, 232 pp
Most of us are familiar with an image of David Unaipon, clean-shaven, neatly dressed, gazing steadily beyond the spatial dimensions of our $50 note. He wears a tie, and the collar of his shirt is evenly turned. Over his right shoulder is the little church at Raukkan; floating over his left are three of his inventions, including the shearing handpiece that no one would lend him the money to patent. And there is his signature, underneath the words: ‘As a full-blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first – but I hope, not the last – to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imaginings.’
This statement, written in 1924 or 1925, when Unaipon was in his early fifties, appears in the preface of Unaipon’s Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, edited by Stephen Muecke and Adam Shoemaker. The Tales have already sold widely since 1930, in many editions, in Australia and overseas. However, the latest, very handsome and sensitively edited Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines is the first to appear under the name of David Unaipon, rather than that of William Ramsay Smith (Sir), anthropologist and Chief Medical Officer of South Australia (who died in 1937).