A shared history forgotten: Aboriginal miners and prospectors of tropical Queensland, from pre-contact times - c.1970

Ellwood, Galiina W. (2019) A shared history forgotten: Aboriginal miners and prospectors of tropical Queensland, from pre-contact times - c.1970. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The story of Aboriginal miners and prospectors in north Queensland history has been underestimated, ignored, forgotten and written out of history. Complex traditional mining which predates similar European mining technology by thousands of years has been under-researched and under-estimated as 'quarrying' by archaeologists, and signs that pre-contact mining continued into modern times, either for its original purposes or adapted to the White economy, have rarely received attention. Aboriginal prospectors made important discoveries, of both new mining fields and new ore bodies, and Aboriginal mining was far more extensive than indicated in the literature, whether this literature is popular history or academic history. So far only a few of these important figures in the north's history have been noticed by academic historians and even for these, little research has been done. This thesis reinstates the essential roles of Aborigines in prospecting, mining and ancillary work on north Queensland mining fields. It reveals the importance of using an Aboriginal research paradigm, one which involves knowing Aboriginal family story to find post-contact Aborigines in the historical records.

This thesis has found that Aboriginal involvement in the mining industry was most extensive, and long-lasting, on those fields which Whites found difficult to access or were remote, and which had alluvial or eluvial resources suited to miners with limited capital, sometimes using Aboriginal mining methods. It found that on those fields, mining could give Aboriginal people a way of escaping White control, particularly under the Protection Acts. It also found that the miners and prospectors were often valued by their White communities, who tried to prevent their removal under the Act. It found that official records of removals were inaccurate, which has implications for Native Title cases.

Item ID: 62339
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aboriginal mining; Aboriginal miners; Aboriginal prospectors; pre-contact mining; North Queensland; Chillagoe; Cape York Peninsula; mining fields; forgotten history; stories; Native title
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Galiina W. Ellwood.
Additional Information:

For this thesis, Galiina Ellwood received the Graduate Research School Medal of Excellence.

Electronic copy permanently embargoed. The front pages up to and including Chapter 1 have been uploaded as an extended abstract in lieu of the whole thesis. Print copies are available to view at Cairns and Townsville campus Libraries.

Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2020 04:41
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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