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Image: Strutt, William (1864). Black Thursday, February 6th. 1851. State Library of Victoria.
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Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Food and Flood

According to researchers from Federation University, hundreds of colonists in 19th century Victoria were rescued from bushfires, flooded rivers or from being lost in the bush by Aboriginal people. A new project commenced at Federation University to document the stories of Aboriginal heroes in shaping Victoria’s history between 1800 and 1930. 
 

Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Food and Flood website

Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Food and Flood website

 

Background

Leading the ‘Aboriginal Heroes of Fire, Food and Flood’ project are Associate Professor Fred Cahir and Dr Dan Tout, historians from the School of Arts. Through this project the researchers will consult and collaborate with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, historians and historical societies to create the first comprehensive map to highlight Aboriginal acts of heroism.

Already the project has uncovered over 100 reports of Aboriginal people saving non-Aboriginal people from bushfire, drowning and the tracking of lost people and their livestock in the period 1800 - 1930. Examples of Aboriginal rescue efforts include Aboriginal people saving the lives and homes of people in Rutherglen in Victoria’s north-east, by warning them about large and devastating bush fires engulfing the region during the 1870s.

Outcomes

The project will bring together stories in an accessible format using digital maps. Staff from CeRDI are collaborating on the project to support the technical requirements by mapping Aboriginal heroism and the retelling of stories. Documentary film-makers Wind and Sky Productions will produce a documentary film for the project and a book will also be written.

The outputs from the research, which have multiple uses, will be broadly available. They will be used for curriculum development in schools, and to promote cultural heritage tourism. The resources will also be available publicly to engender broader community knowledge about Victoria’s shared history and acts of heroism.

In commenting on the project, Associate Professor Cahir identified the important and unique cultural perspectives that will be explored and shared: “The significant contribution of Aboriginal people to Victoria’s history isn’t well known within the broader Victorian community and we are confident this project will change that.” The project will expand the current limited narratives that have prevailed through a history which have been largely retold from a colonial-settler perspective. According to Assoc Prof Cahir the project will “assist in rewriting the dominant narratives and understandings of Australian history, revealing and celebrating a shared history that reflects stories that are culturally sensitive and important.”

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