Masaryk University Faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies



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1 There are two groups of Indigenous peoples in Australia: Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. However, some scholars use the terms “Aboriginal” and “Indigenous” interchangeably (see Chesterman) and so does this thesis. The division of Indigenous people to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is made only when the cited sources do so.

2 This number has been confirmed by a group of palaeontologists who, in 2003, thoroughly analysed the oldest human remains found in the area of Lake Mungo in south eastern Australia in 1974. This analysis ended the debates over the actual length of the presence of the Aboriginal peoples on the Australian continent. Some former estimates claimed the Aboriginal people had been in Australia for more than 60,000 years. For more information, see Young, New Scientist.

3 Throughout the thesis I use the terms ‘white population’, ‘white people’ or ‘the whites’ to denote the people of the Anglo-Celtic origin, who were the biggest group of people to colonise Australia since 1788 and today form the majority of Australian society. I have taken my lead from Mike Donaldson who, while writing ‘The End of Time? Aboriginal Temporality and the British Invasion of Australia’ uses even the term ‘white invasion’ for labelling this colonisation. The term ‘white’ is also fundamental in constituting the White Australia policy, where it means people of European descent, as opposed to ‘non-European’ population (see Palfreeman). Many of the Aboriginal authors cited in this thesis use the term ‘white people’ in their works to denote ‘non-Aboriginal’ population in Australia.

4 The thesis also uses the common term ‘black’ to describe the Indigenous people. I have taken my lead from Ernie Blackmore, who uses the term in his PhD thesis, or Adam Shoemaker who uses it to talk about Aboriginal drama as ‘Black drama’.

5 For detailed study on the White Australia policy see Palfreeman; Macintyre; or Robertson, Hohmann and Stewart.

6 By the term “whitening”, it is meant a systematic attempt at lowering the numbers of non-white population, i.e. people of non-European origin, either immigrants or the Aboriginal people.

7 The play was written by Scott Rankin and Leah Purcell, the order of the names is according to the title on the cover of the book. Rankin is a non-Aboriginal playwright who put down on paper the story of Purcell’s life as she told him. However, being the main protagonist, the only actor in the play and the person on whose life the play is based, I often refer only to Purcell as the author when discussing the interconnectedness of the story of the play with her life.

8 The term “breed out” was officially used during the politics of assimilation in Australia, as evidenced in the works of the Chief Protector of Aborigines A. O. Neville in Western Australia or Dr. Cecil Bryan who addressed the Moseley Royal Commission in 1933 with a speech about the steps to be taken for “breeding the Aborigines out” (qtd. in Manne 233).


9 Orientalism is a theory based on the assumption that colonisers can represent colonised peoples more accurately than indigenous people themselves can self-represent; it is based upon the inherent belief in cultural superiority–the profound certainty that colonisers bring to any colonial invasion–that their language, their literatures, modes of representation are more valid, more ‘true’ and more ‘representational’ of reality than those produced by colonised people themselves (Definition as given by Ernie Blackmore in a course “ABST202 Indigenous Self-Representation in Contemporary Texts” at the University of Wollongong, Autumn 2008).

10 Historian Peter Read presented a conflation to illustrate the inconsistencies in this legislation at the Aboriginal Citizenship Conference at the ANU in February 1996: In 1935 a fair-skinned Australian of part-indigenous descent was ejected from a hotel for being an Aboriginal. He returned to his home on the mission station to find himself refused entry because he was not an Aboriginal. He tried to remove his children but was told he could not because they were Aboriginal. He walked to the next town where he was arrested for being an Aboriginal vagrant and placed on the local reserve. During the Second World War he tried to enlist but was told he could not because he was Aboriginal. He went interstate and joined up as a non-Aboriginal. After the war he could not acquire a passport without permission because he was Aboriginal. He received exemption from the Aborigines Protection Act-and was told that he could no longer visit his relations on the reserve because he was not an Aboriginal. He was denied permission to enter the Returned Servicemen's Club because he was. (qtd. in Gardiner-Garden 3)

11 Section 127 of the Constitution denied the Aboriginal inhabitants the right to be included in the national census.

12 See page 18.

13 In 1980s, Charles Perkins was Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He was “the first Aboriginal Australian to attain such a position in the bureaucracy” (“Charles Perkins”).

14 It is necessary to add that this comment from Narogin is from 1989, a year after the first production of Barungin. However, according to Australian Institute of Criminology, the number of Indigenous deaths in police custody between 1990 and 2005 ranged between 10 and 20 deaths a year which adds 245 Indigenous people who died either in police custody or directly in prison between the years 1990 and 2005.

15 Here, Shoemaker is very specific and leaving no space for arguments claiming that ‘all playwrights have used humour’, ‘none of the plays could be termed a comedy’ and ‘all the plays written so far describe misery, poverty, discrimination and even death, but none of them is unrelievedly sombre in tone’. He might have known all the Aboriginal plays written by the publication of these thoughts but it must be considered that the world of Aboriginal drama has expanded during last decades and years and such limiting statements might be easily challenged. For the purpose of this thesis, however, the statements are considered true, as all the plays studied fit into the limits of the description

16 The original song is in Aboriginal language (Davis 109). However, for the purposes of this analysis, the English translation is more important than the original. The translation of the song is provided in the section Translation of the Songs (110).

17 The exact year when the events of the play take place is not given, only the implicit ‘the time is the present’ is stated at the beginning of the script. However, with the use of the information given in the introduction to the subsequent play Barungin (Smell the Wind), an approximate time can be guessed. Meena is fourteen years old in The Dreamers. In Barungin (Smell the Wind), set in 1988, she is a mother of a fourteen-year-old son and a twelve-year-old daughter. Considering the age of 18-22 the most probable for having the first child, this assumption would set The Dreamers somewhere around the years 1966-1970.

18 According to Davidson, the Aboriginal unemployment rate stood somewhere between 45 and 80 percent.

19 The absolute numbers cannot be compared, because there is a disproportion between the number of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens. However, when the rate per 100,000 people is taken into account, there were 13,994 Indigenous offenders and only 1,490 non-Indigenous offenders. So the number of Indigenous offenders per 100,000 people is about nine times higher.

20 All citations from Blackmore are from his PhD dissertation “Speakin’ out Blak, an Examination of the ‘Urban’ Indigenous ‘Voice’ Through Contemporary Theatre” (2007). The script of the play Waiting for Ships is included as Chapter 7 of this thesis. The play was first performed in 2004.

21 Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies



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