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Telling someone else's story: the life history of Alexander Donald (Pwerle) Ross (1915-1999)

Whitebeach, Terry (2006). Telling someone else's story: the life history of Alexander Donald (Pwerle) Ross (1915-1999). PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Whitebeach, Terry
Title Telling someone else's story: the life history of Alexander Donald (Pwerle) Ross (1915-1999)
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2006
Thesis Type PhD
Supervisor Carment, David S.
Subjects 2103 - Historical Studies
Abstract This thesis is focused on the life history of Alexander Donald Ross, a Kaytetye senior man, of both Kaytetye and European ancestry, jointly authored by Alexander Donald (Don) Ross and Terry Whitebeach, a Tasmanian writer with European and Aboriginal family connections.

Don Ross was born in 1915, approximately half a century after the first contact between Europeans and Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, and worked most of his life in the developing Northern Territory pastoral industry. He owned a cattle station, Neutral Junction Station, near the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station, on Kaytetye land, in Central Australia, between 1947 and 1952. During a lifetime spanning most of the twentieth century (he passed away in April 1999) Don Ross’s life was influenced greatly by changes in the pastoral industry and by social and political changes related to the rights of Indigenous people, which affected both the family lives and the employment conditions of Indigenous pastoral workers in the Northern Territory and throughout Australia.

The thesis employs Don Ross’s narratives of his childhood, relationships and working life, which were compiled from interviews and conversations with a series of people (including the author of this thesis) to explore aspects of the period and region in which he lived. Relevant archival and other historical material is also employed as part of this investigation of the ‘life and times’ of Don Ross. Two significant aspects of Don Ross’s life, his skill as a stockman, and his ambiguous legal and social status as a man of both European and Kaytetye parentage, and the concomitant limits and freedoms his classification as ‘half-caste’ awarded him during different decades of the twentieth century, are crucial to this investigation.

The thesis also investigates the processes whereby a life history is mediated through, and affected by, the perceptions and cultural position/s of the researcher, writer and receiver of the story, the perspectives revealed in the historical documents and records of the time, and successive interpretations of this material.

Thus, it addresses the complex and contested historical, historiographical, literary, cultural and cross-cultural and personal processes of receiving, researching, compiling and narrating, from another time and place, and through the multifaceted lenses of memory and history, another person's life history; the implications and responsibilities of telling someone else’s story.

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