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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Forgotten legacy of Aboriginal stockwomen becomes subject of PhD research | ABC Online - Indigenous - Just In

"After so many men were killed in the frontier wars, a burgeoning Australian pastoral industry turned to Aboriginal stockwomen" reports Nathan Morris, the features reporter at ABC Goldfields-Esperance in Western Australia.

Photo: Nancy Watson was a stockwoman in north Queensland in the early 1900s.
Supplied: Tauri Simone

Pushing 60, Maudie Moore was still chasing scrub bulls on horseback — a testament to her reputation as one of the best 'stockmen' you could find around the 1950s in Western Australia.

Ms Moore is just one of the women whose stories feature in a thesis by PhD candidate Tauri Simone about the role Aboriginal stockwomen played in the Australian pastoral industry.

Advice: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains names and images people who have died.

"There's a whole lack of and gap about the Indigenous participation and especially women," Ms Simone said.

As a Koa woman from central western Queensland, and also a stockwoman in charge of 1 million acres (more than 4,000 square kilometres) at Barwidgee Station in the Western Australian Goldfields, it was work Ms Simone seemed destined to do.

While the contribution of Aboriginal people to the pastoral industry has long been acknowledged, Ms Simone sensed a gap in the historical record.

"In the 1930s, you actually find lots of information about Aboriginal stockmen and their participation in the industry starts coming out," she said.

"I thought 'Well hang on, I know that the frontier started long before that', so I went back to the 1860s and that's when I found where the women were."

Frontier wars left women to do work 
After many men were killed in the ongoing frontier wars — multiple conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal people — a burgeoning Australian pastoral industry turned to Aboriginal stockwomen.
"Men were decimated by the war [so] there were only women and old people left on the station, so they had to be the ones doing the work," Ms Simone said.
To build her research, Ms Simone said she had to dig through old government policy documentation, doing a lot of research and "reading between the lines".

Law prohibited hiring of women 
During her research, Ms Simone found she had to account for the social and legal realities of the time.

She said any information related to Aboriginal stockmen could have actually been about women in the industry.

"They could have been [talking about] women because you weren't allowed to hire women as stockwomen at that time, with the policies in place," she said.

Reading through old drovers' diaries and using published work from historians such as Henry Reynolds and Dr Anne McGrath as a starting point, Ms Simone was able to work her way back.

In the process, she came across the stories of a number of head stockwomen and one of them was Maudie Moore, a renowned horsewoman on Durham River Station in the Kimberley...

Contributors, not participants 
During her research, Ms Simone created a method she called a "multi-relational narrative framework" where information was respectfully recorded in a marriage of academia and Aboriginal yarning.

The women involved were not merely participants, they were contributors to the work.

"I don't see myself as owning it, I'm just that instrument for them to be able to contribute to this lack of knowledge that we have in Australian history so their voices can be heard," Ms Simone said of the women's stories.

"Aboriginal women are under-recognised and under-acknowledged for the participation that they've had, especially in the culture that has manifested today between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people within Australia."

Source: ABC Online