Amanda Nettelbeck reviews 'The Good Country: The Djadja Wurrung, the settlers and the protectors' by Bain Attwood

Amanda Nettelbeck reviews 'The Good Country: The Djadja Wurrung, the settlers and the protectors' by Bain Attwood

The Good Country: The Djadja Wurrung, the settlers and the protectors

by Bain Attwood

Monash University Publishing, $29.95 pb, 239 pp, 9781925523065

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this commentary contains images or names of people who have since passed away.

The Good Country begins in February 1840 with a cross-cultural encounter in Djadja Wurrung country, now central Victoria. Two Protectors of Aborigines, recently appointed to the burgeoning pastoral district around Port Phillip, met with an Aboriginal group camped near Mount Mitchell. At this time, the Aboriginal protectorate had been operating for little more than a year as an experiment in ‘humane’ governance. Designed less as a foil to colonisation than as a means of mitigating its impacts, the protectorate had various parallels around the British Empire in offices of protection for slaves, indentured labourers, and others perceived in need of imperial concern. As part conciliator, part magistrate, and part missionary, the Protectors’ role was to uphold Aboriginal people’s rights of redress against injury or exploitation by settlers, and convert them into Christian farmers and labourers. Present at this day’s encounter were George Augustus Robinson, Van Diemen’s Land’s famed ‘conciliator’ and now Chief Protector for the Port Phillip District, and Edward Stone Parker, come amongst the Djadja Wurrung as their advocate. The head of the Aboriginal group was Nandelowwindic. He recognised the colonial officials and invited them to sit. Identifying features of the landscape for their benefit, Nandelowwindic told them that this was ‘my country, merrygic barbarie, good country’.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Amanda Nettelbeck

Amanda Nettelbeck

Amanda Nettelbeck is a Professor in the Department of History, University of Adelaide, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has collaborated extensively with Robert Foster on the history and memory of frontier violence, colonial race relations, and the legal governance of indigenous people. Their co-authored books including Fragile Settlements: Aboriginal peoples, law and resistance in Southwest Australia and prairie Canada (2016), Out of the Silence: The history and memory of South Australia’s Frontier Wars (2012) and In the Name of the Law: William Willshire and the policing of the Australian Frontier (2007).

Published in December 2017, no. 397