Biography project set to rewrite history

A team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander scholars is working on the first Indigenous volume of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The major undertaking will see about 100 biographies of prominent Indigenous Australians added to the online resource.

Currently only 211 of the 13,000 prominent people in the ADB are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

Later this year, the lives of 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will be added to the ADB, ahead of the special volume.

The women will be included in celebration of NAIDOC Week in July, which this year has a theme of ‘Because of her, we can’.

William ‘Tracker” Robinson, a Bundjalung man born in 1896 who worked as a horse trainer, boxer, police tracker and artist before his death at the age of 98, is a recent inclusion in the ADB.

Dr Malcolm Allbrook, managing editor of ADB at the National Centre for Biography at the Australian National University, said Indigenous Australians had been under-recognised in the record in the past.

The ADB began as a print volume in 1957. It now publishes online as well.

“At the time when articles were first written, there was very little recognition of the kind of contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had made to the Australian nation,” Dr Allbrook said.

“We’ve put out, since 1966, 18 volumes of the ADB and in some of them there isn’t even a single Indigenous person in them.

“It’s partly because the people at that time didn’t even think about Aboriginal contributions, which is one of the big problems in the way history has been written.

“It’s really only in the last 20 years or so that historians have started to understand the kinds of contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made.”

The ADB can be found here.


2 Comments on Biography project set to rewrite history

  1. My mum didnt get an education, but made damn sure i did. These forgotten eras that our mothers before us arent given a chance to have their recognition to our history. My mum is poor and unable to get around now. But i will remember her for the love she showed for fighting for our rights on this land. Shes my rock and all our quiet achiever. I just wanna say because of her i feel strong/black and empowered. Because of her i can ✊👣💛❤💪 My MUM (Aunty Yvonne Chapman) Eidsvold Senior Elder (Nanna Wakka Wakka)

    • We would love to recognise your mum in the Australian Women’s Register! Would you like to write something for us? We would be very happy to publish a biography and story about Aunty Yvonne Chapman online.

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