University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

If land was a head: a critique of country

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 04:37 authored by Rolls, M
This paper considers specific cultural practices and beliefs and contemplates the western rejection of exotica (head-hunting) in one instance, and the exotifying of land (increasingly referred to as country) in the other. The paper will argue that while the precise meaning of head-hunting remains elusive to aliens (even other head-hunters from different cultures), just as the full meaning of land or “country” to Aborigines remains elusive to aliens (including Aborigines from different regions), there are contiguities between Indigenous understandings of heads and Indigenous understandings of country. Contrary to the taking of heads the paper then argues that notions of land and country are readily sentimentalised along the lines of “the earth is my mother”, and that such sentiments contribute to broad support for Aboriginal land rights. Such sentiments also provide a ready means for Aborigines who have never lived on country to nevertheless explain its significance to them. A broad sweep of contemporary interests – concern for the environment for example – intersect with customary beliefs relating to country and are reified in local communities, which in turn influences how specific cultures are understood and which aspects of culture should be conserved.


Publication title

Zeitschrift für Australienstudien




105 - 117




School of Humanities


Association for Australian Studies

Place of publication


Rights statement

© All rights reserved 2019

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other culture and society not elsewhere classified; Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture