An 1800s style painting showing a small boat on a river, with a tree burial on the right river bank. There is a lot of vegetation on the river banks in the backgrounds.

Join Professor Paul Turnbull as he presents his 2022 National Library Fellowship research on First Nations-settler relations through the lens of mortality in colonial Australia.

As is well known, colonial dispossession of this continent’s traditional owners rested on the lie that they neither used land for cultivation of any kind, nor dwelt in particular places. And yet, from the early years of European invasion, explorers, pastoralists and bush workers knew well that the peoples whose lands they occupied used particular places to lay their dead to rest.

In this talk, Professor Paul Turnbull shares some of his findings on investigating the National Library’s rich and largely unexamined visual and documentary records of settler encounters with, and reactions to, First Nation burial places. Among other things, he has sought to explore how relations between First Nations and settler communities in rural and remote colonial Australia were influenced, not just by the presence of the Indigenous dead, but also, as time passed, by settlers’ experiences of death and burial.  

Entry is free to this event but bookings are essential. 

For those unable to make it to Canberra for the event, it will be livestreamed online via the Library's Facebook page. No bookings are required to watch the online stream.

Professor Paul Turnbull is a 2022 National Library of Australia Fellow supported by the Stokes Family.

Image: Graham Gore, Burial Reach, Flinders River, Queensland, c.1841, nla.obj-134323016

About Professor Paul Turnbull

Professor Paul Turnbull is an emeritus professor at the University of Tasmania and holds an honorary professorial appointment with the Centre for Critical Heritage and Museum Studies of the Australian National University. He is known internationally for his research and writing on the theft, scientific uses, and repatriation of the ancestral bodily remains of Australian First Nations and other indigenous peoples. His 2017 book, Science, Museums and Collecting the Indigenous Dead in Colonial Australia, has won acclaim for demonstrating that no effort at deciding on the present and future of museum collections of human remains can ignore serious historical research. Since the early 1990s, Paul has served as a consultant researcher for Indigenous Australian representative organizations, Australian and overseas museums, and recently the Australian Government’s International Repatriation Program. 

Type Fellowship presentation