Tag Archives: Ngadjuri

‘Love songs and dedications’

As my directed study is almost finished, I thought it worth my while, and of course yours, to publicly acknowledge the people who help and influenced my major project.

Beginning of course with The Ngadjuri Walpa Juri Land and Heritage Association, whom, without their support, I would never have been able to undertake such an interesting project. Vincent Branson, chairperson of Ngadjuri heritage, who has encouraged me throughout and who has had to put up with an endless series of emails, signatures, meetings, fact checking, phone calls, reassurance, etc during the course of the project. My supervisor Emily Jateff, who has shown an enormous amount of patience, and Dr Amy Roberts for her initial help and input. All the people who assisted me with collections, Helen Hopper and Ali Abdullah-Highfold of the South Australian Museum Archive, Suzy Russell at the State Library of South Australia, Mountford-Sheard collection, Laura Winslow at the State Records Office Aboriginal Access Team and Lyn Coad at the native title services of South Australia. Of course Rob Williams who offered supervision whilst I was searching the archives and my uncle Wayne Rosser for the use of his computer and editorial help. All the people who commented on my posts, it gave my posts so much purpose and was incredibly rewarding.

Furthermore, I think these acknowledgments of thanks should also be extended to the old man himself, Barney Warrior, whose past actions have profoundly influenced the lives of the present Ngadjuri people, and indeed many others…..

More than just an autograph

One of the most time-consuming aspects of my directed study has been the endless need for letters signed by my industry partner, both supporting my research and authorising my access to archival material. Whilst this process is time-consuming for both myself and undoubtedly for my industry partner alike, it is inherently important and part and parcel of any research, such as mine. So far these letters have granted me permission to view and survey material that has been stored in such places as, the Tindale collection in the South Australian Museum Archives, The Mountford – Sheard Collection housed in the State Library and Collections held in The State Archives and Native Title Services. The reasons for permissions and support lie in the nature of material I have been consulting with and the subject matter I am being exposed to. Continue reading

Looking for Barney Warrior

As mentioned in my first blog, my directed study is focusing on the life of the Ngadjuri man Barney Warrior and investigating what influence he had regarding anthropological and archaeological knowledge.

Barney Warrior’s knowledge is mostly couched within the written accounts and data made by anthropologists during the 1930s and 40s, a time when anthropology in South Australia was a burgeoning field of study. Warrior would be the primary source regarding Ngadjuri culture for some of the most prominent professionals and amateurs of the day, these included AP Elkin, who was working from the anthropology department at the University of Sydney (the country’s only “professional” anthropology department), Norman Tindale, South Australian Museum ethnographer and field worker with the University of Adelaide’s Board of Anthropological Research, Charles Mountford, honorary assistant in ethnology at the South Australian Museum and future foundation professor of anthropology at the University of Western Australia, Ronald Berndt.

So far my investigations have led me on a trail of trying to locate articles and field notes where Barney Warrior is visible in the text, and then to interpret how he is presented and how this knowledge has been publicised and used. What I have discovered is that Warrior is often referenced as the source of knowledge regarding the Ngadjuri, yet this is often an oblique reference, frequently only using one of his many traditional names in acknowledgement and in some instances only cited as a nameless “Ngadjuri informant”.

Obviously, it seems somewhat speculative to assume that a nameless Ngadjuri informant would be Barney Warrior, the paucity of information regarding the Ngadjuri and his prominence in interviews tends to imply this conclusion.

Despite the limited amount of information available, it is anticipated that this report will present Barney Warrior as more than just an “informant” but a key performer in these encounters, who engaged with anthropologists as a resource to record aspects of his culture that was rapidly changing and also supplying a commentary on the prejudiced society he lived through and was then living in.

So it begins, ends, and starts again

When initially beginning my directed study the thought of starting a research project sounded simple and straightforward. The project began with a discussion between myself and my industry partner Vincent Branson, chairperson of Ngadjuri heritage, and sounded something like this:

ME: Vincent, I am enrolling in a directed study, would Ngadjuri be interested in being my industry partner and support me to do a small research project that I could present to Ngadjuri as a written report.

VINCENT: Yeah, Yeah.

ME: Cool, umm, what sort of project would you recommend.

VINCENT: Ngadjuri are really interested in things related to the Barossa region, you know what I mean, and there is not enough information within this region.

Easy as that, or so I thought. The methodology for me tackling this project was “simple”, research the area using ethno-history, find the ethno-history in archives, interpret the history, end of project – and all in one semester.

The first clue that perhaps this was not going to be as easy as all that, came two weeks into my project when most of my time was being consumed, not by research but by talking and consulting with archivists and others which returned little interest and even less information in regards to my research. Furthermore, after meeting with Dr Amy Roberts it became obvious that the scope of the research was becoming much broader then I had anticipated.

Currently Dr Amy Roberts holds a lecturing position at the Flinders University. Prior to this Dr Roberts was a ‘senior professional officer with South Australian Native Title Services’. Vincent suggested that I speak with Dr Roberts due to her experience working with Ngadjuri in the past and any advice she offered would be both in Ngadjuri’s best interests and mine.

After consulting with Dr Roberts it became quite clear that this research, while meaning well, was too complex for a direct study. For example, from her own experience, analysing ethno-historical information for a project like this is a process that doesn’t take a day or a week but could take months – and I didn’t have months to do this.

A later issue that I also had to grapple with was the complexities of group compositions in the Barossa. The South Australian Museum ethnographer Norman Tindale, for example, had interpreted this area as being historically a locus of three groups: Kaurna, Ngadjuri and Peramangk. My research in this area could potentially have consequences for other groups as well as Ngadjuri. With this in mind and the support of Vincent Branson I abandoned this project. Nevertheless, not all was lost and a more discreet project was negotiated, one that I think is far more manageable and now sees me researching the life of Vincent Branson’s great grand father, Barney Warrior (Waria) who had worked with some of Adelaide’s ethnographic elite such as Tindale, Mountford and Berndt during the late 1930s.

I wont go in-depth about this new project at the moment but I think that the experience I had organising my first directed study demonstrates that a good project is not one that just sounds exciting and interesting but one that is manageable and achievable within the time given and it was better that I recognised this when I did rather than trying to achieve what was most likely not possible and realising this at the 11th hour and failing completely.

Good luck everyone.


Oh, and big thanks to Vincent Branson and Dr Amy Roberts for their contributions to this blogpost, and Wayne for the use of his computer.