Whilst there is a large volume of research written by academics on Aboriginal history, very few non-indigenous authors have ever exhibited more than the most rudimentary understanding of the many indigenous Australian cultures, customs or histories, without also offering some condescending commentary or leaps of faith that can be often entirely ungrounded. To Aboriginal people well versed in their individual cultures the fragmented views of such academics can often seem misplaced and in a number of cases diabolical to say the least.
Could Aboriginal Australia truly be such an undecipherable enigma? One might say yes, save for the fact that there are a small but growing number of non-indigenous authors who fly against convention and are able to present an insightful body of work without steam rolling over Aboriginal sensibilities and oral tradition.
One such author is Bain Attwood, whose growing list of titles includes The 1967 Referendum, or When Aborigines Didn't Get the Vote (1997), Frontier Conflict: The Australian Experience (2003) and Thinking Black: William Cooper and The Australian Aborigines' League (2004).
Each book offered by the author is a treasure trove of information and historical data from a diverse range of sources. Attwood’s 1999 effort The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, which is co-authored by Andrew Markus, is no exception. An outstanding and valuable research tool, the book presents the reader with a timeline for Aboriginal politics, ranging from the nineteenth century and into the present, with the major events and people of consequence each fleshed out with resources ranging from private letters, government records and telegrams to radio transcripts and newspaper extracts. For the inquiring mind or the serious student, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights will stand on its own and be a tool that is referenced time and time again, but for the casual reader it is perhaps best considered a source book – to be read after being introduced to Attwood’s more accessible titles, which give the novice a smoother introduction to both Aboriginal history in general and the ensuing politics.
For those studying the Aboriginal politics and history of the early to mid twentieth century then I’d recommend that The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History be read in conjunction with either, or both of:
Thinking Black: William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines' League - Bain Attwood (2004)
Vote Ferguson: Fighter for Aboriginal Freedom - Jack Horner (1974)