University of Tasmania

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Tasmanian Aboriginal oral histories from the early twentieth to early twenty-first centuries

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 21:39 authored by Katherine Darian-SmithKatherine Darian-Smith, Zoe RimmerZoe Rimmer, Rebe TaylorRebe Taylor

In 1908, English gentleman Ernest Westlake sailed to Tasmania and removed over 13,000 Indigenous stone artefacts. As he collected, Westlake interviewed over 100 Tasmanians, many of them Indigenous, creating the richest archival source of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and language dating from the early twentieth century. Non-Indigenous scholars dismissed Westlake’s interviewees as inauthentic subjects. In 2017 book Into the Heart of Tasmania, Rebe Taylor re-presented Westlake’s interviews as evidence of an enduring of Tasmanian Aboriginal (Pakana) Community.

In 2019, Pakana woman, Zoe Rimmer embarked on a higher research degree at the University of Tasmania. Zoe’s thesis investigates why European collectors removed Tasmanian Aboriginal material culture and human remains and transported them to museums. Using oral history interviews, Zoe will create the first comprehensive history of her Community’s campaign to ensure the safe return of Ancestors’ remains and cultural artefacts to Country.

In this panel session, historian Professor Kate Darian-Smith, an expert in museum, heritage and memory studies, leads a discussion with Zoe Rimmer and Rebe Taylor on the changes in recording Tasmanian Aboriginal oral histories since the early twentieth century. These changes include methodological approaches; technological advances, and the increasing consideration of ethics and protocols for creating of oral history interviews with Aboriginal community members and for depositing and accessing those records in archives.


Publication title

The 2021 OHA Biennial Panel Session




1 piece- abstract


College Office - College of Arts, Law and Education


Oral History Australia

Place of publication


Event title

OHA Biennial Panel Session

Event Venue

Launceston, Tasmania

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tradition

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