Gugu Badhun: people of the Valley of Lagoons

Cadet-James, Yvonne, James, Robert Andrew, McGinty, Sue, and McGregor, Russell (2017) Gugu Badhun: people of the Valley of Lagoons. Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

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Abstract

This is a story of achievement in the face of adversity. It is the story of the Gugu Badhun people from the upper Burdekin River in North Queensland: an Aboriginal group which, like others, experienced the anguish of invasion, dispossession and discrimination but still maintained their solidarity, identity and connectedness to country. In the aftermath of colonisation, they successfully negotiated new roles for themselves and established new niches in a radically transformed social order. Theirs is a story shot through with tragedy, though with a stronger theme of triumph; a story of hardships and injustices met with resilience, courage and determination.

The Gugu Badhun were among the first Aboriginal groups in inland northern Australia to encounter European intruders, specifically Ludwig Leichhardt’s exploratory party in 1845. After the pastoral invasion hit in the 1860s, the Gugu Badhun were among the Aboriginal groups that held out longest against the squatters, the rough and fissured character of their country facilitating a lengthy resistance. Following their incorporation into the pastoral economy, the Gugu Badhun continued to assert their autonomy, and members of the group were among the first Aboriginal people in the district to leave the pastoral stations to seek employment and opportunity in local towns. A Gugu Badhun man, Dick Hoolihan, became one of the most outspoken Aboriginal political leaders in North Queensland in the 1950s and 1960s. Those traditions – of autonomy and activism – are still cherished and maintained by Gugu Badhun people today, as this book explains.

The story we tell is multi-faceted. It lays bare the violence and oppression experienced by Gugu Badhun people, but also acknowledges the inter-racial cooperation and friendships that were equally part of their experience. It tells of a people whose options were limited by state power and popular racism; but also of a people who remained proud and undaunted, making their own decisions for their own collective and individual benefit. It conveys new understandings of Aboriginal-European interactions, and of how Aboriginal people maintained their identities and exercised agency. This is a timely book for an Australia in which notions of Indigenous autonomy and self-determination are being re-imagined and re-configured.

Research Statement

Research Background The Gugu Badhun people initiated this research to focus on their heritage as the people of the upper Burdekin River of North Queensland. The community is taking an active role in recording their history, managing their country, liaising with pastoralists and government agencies to achieve sustainable land and water management practices in the interests of all stakeholders.
Research Contribution This book lays bare the violence and oppression experienced by Gugu Badhun people, but also acknowledges the inter-racial cooperation and friendships that were equally part of their experience. It tells of a people whose options were limited by state power and popular racism; but also of a people who remained proud and undaunted, making their own decisions for their own collective and individual benefit. It conveys new understandings of Aboriginal-European interactions, and of how Aboriginal people maintained their identities and exercised agency. This is a timely book for an Australia in which notions of Indigenous autonomy and self-determination are being re-imagined and re-configured.
Research Significance The Gugu Badhun story has never been publicly told before. It is told here with the full cooperation and participation of the Gugu Badhun people themselves. Much of the narrative has been taken from interviews with Gugu Badhun people, interspersed with commentary and analysis by the four co-authors. This is an innovative and collaborative enterprise, bridging the worlds of historical scholarship and Aboriginal oral tradition through personal relationships, tribal affiliations and collegial connections.
Item ID: 49419
Item Type: Book (Research - A1)
Keywords: Gugu Badhun; Aboriginal history; Aboriginal life narratives; Aboriginal identity; North Queensland
ISBN: 978-1-922102-64-5
Funders: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage Project LP0562411 - 2004 - Gugu Badhun History project, AIATSIS Grant No G2004/6943 - 2005 - Gugu Badhun Digital History Project
Research Data: http://plone.jcu.edu.au/gugu
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2017 05:30
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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