University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Reading Friendly Mission in the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction

posted on 2023-05-22, 14:03 authored by Johnston, A, Rolls, M

Friendly Mission generates intense reactions in its readers. Responding with fascination or revulsion, readers repeatedly invoke the experience of reading it. Several of the authors in this volume narrate their first engagement with Friendly Mission with the resonant glow of a foundational moment. Writing independently of each other, these authors attest to Friendly Mission’s status as an artefact, a multivalent icon of colonial and postcolonial culture, a meeting place between indigenous and non-indigenous people. Like other colonial artefacts forged in conditions characterised by intense curiosity and unequal power relations, Friendly Mission represents an ambiguous and often uncomfortable meeting place. Somewhat akin to local translations of the Bible in colonial contexts, Friendly Mission means much to a range of constituencies, but its meanings are neither singular, stable nor entirely predictable.

Reading Robinson explores how we might read Friendly Mission in the twenty-first century. In doing so, the essays in this volume are symptomatic – but not conclusively representative – of the multiple readers, readings and interpretations that this textual artefact can generate. Narratives of colonial encounter – explorers’ journals, ethnographies, letters, paintings – survive to be fathomed by later generations and, particularly in the former settler colonies (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada), such accounts of early contact between indigenous and invading cultures are crucial to understandings of nations and their politics. Like the contributions to Reading Robinson, interpretations of texts such as Friendly Mission originate from differing sites within regional, national and international contexts, from various private, public or community readings, as much as from scholarly analyses. Friendly Mission is a text which draws together these diverse readers and their interpretations into a community of engagement with the colonial past and its aftermath.


Publication title

Reading Robinson: Companion Essays to friendly Mission




A Johnston and M Rolls






School of Humanities


Monash University Publishing

Place of publication




Rights statement

Copyright 2012 Monash University Publishing

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania