Remembering Tin Town: identifying and valuing Aboriginal reserve sites of New South wales

Rutherford, William (2019) Remembering Tin Town: identifying and valuing Aboriginal reserve sites of New South wales. Coursework Masters thesis, University of Southern Queensland. (Unpublished)

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  • Contains Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research
  • Contains images, voices and/or names of deceased persons


Researchers of Indigenous places in Australia have written extensively about many missions, reserves and stations. Their discoveries have provided solid foundations for further studies of other forgotten places, similar to Tin Town, Coonamble, New South Wales, the focus of this study and the primary location of my research.

The project engages on a personal level: it uses autoethnography to explore my sense of identity, connection to Country, experience of racism and cultural pride through truth telling. There is a mistaken belief that the church, government and land holders who directed missions, reserves and stations had done so in a method that was acceptable to Indigenous people.

The project has located sources of information that give an alternate version of Indigenous missions, reserves and stations by concentrating on one forgotten place, Tin Town. I am very thankful for its existence because its story is central to this historical dialogue of truth telling. Other known and forgotten places relevant to this autoethnography are identified and described. Recognition bestows on them an unprejudiced place in Indigenous history.

After identifying Tin Town and surveying the field of available resources, I uncover the untold, and sometimes hidden, truths behind what forced Indigenous people to the segregated areas. Missions, reserves and stations became the final refuge for our people, where communities and families endured poverty, racism and neglect. They suffered in third world living conditions - makeshift dwellings put together with scraps of materials to form a home for themselves, their old people and their children. My research shows that not all segregated areas were safe havens; mistreatment of Indigenous people was, in most cases, no different whether they were placed on missions, reserves or stations.

There are no residual signs showing the presence of most sites, so it is important to acknowledge them, for they are markers on our story line. Most have been destroyed in the attempt to erase any evidence of their existence and to counter claims of their existence of Country ownership. At present, governmental records only acknowledge Indigenous placement areas that still show the structures of buildings, built by previous governments, churches and pastoralists, rather than Aboriginal people’s ongoing use of and connection to the land.

At the heart of my thesis is the chapter in which I truth tell parts of my family’s story of resilience and survival. I validate Indigenous families who have suffered loss of Country, but still fight to rebuild their culture. My personal journey has unearthed historical writings about my ancestry and my connection to Country.

Apart from self-discovery, my hope is that other Indigenous people will find themselves in what I have researched and written, so I also explore similar places to Tin Town where those who were marginalised, like my family, survived and rebuilt community. I hope a broader audience, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will walk the walk through Country that I have experienced.

The dissertation applies historical methodology as the clearest method to identify and value Aboriginal reserve sites of New South Wales. They are investigated by probing into their historical past and searching for what little evidence there is for these known and unknown places (except in the memories and stories of the local people). Autoethnography allows a voice to personal experiences with the aim of increasing sociological interpretation. I explore the relationship between both methodologies and show that bringing these styles together has established greater insight.

I am writing from an Indigenous perspective, not from a Western cultural viewpoint. However, I hope to achieve understanding, balance and acceptance in both cultures to heal, forgive and grow. The exploration of one forgotten area and similar ones will contribute to recognition and respect for Indigenous placement areas not currently accounted for.

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Item Type: Thesis (Non-Research) (Coursework Masters)
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Supervisors: Connors, Libby; Gibney, Kathryn
Qualification: Master of Arts (Humanities and Communication)
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2020 05:37
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2024 04:27
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aboriginal reserve sites; New South Wales; Tin Town
Fields of Research (2008): 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
Fields of Research (2020): 45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450107 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history

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