Writing from the Contact Zone: Fiction by Early Queensland Women
This paper examines some of the ways in which white women novelists contributed powerfully to shaping the literary imaginative landscape through which Australian readers came to 'know' Indigenous people, and the nature of inter-racial contact, in the period before the publication of writing by Indigenous women began to disrupt the textual landscape. The shaping of the imaginative landscape of the contact zone is a profoundly colonial project: through writing white women transcend their otherwise marginal political status to become, as Georgi-Findlay puts it, 'authors and agents of territorial expansion, positioned ambiguously within systems of power and authority'. A preoccupation with the intersections of race and gender is particularly pronounced in writing by white women who grew up in Queensland, where, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a burgeoning of new publishing opportunities for women coincided with a relatively late and harshly oppressive colonial frontier. These factors, along with the exceptionally decentralised nature of the state, meant that well into the twentieth century Queensland women writers were more likely than those from other states to grow up in rural areas and experience frontier conditions, either first hand or through the personal accounts of parents and grandparents. Until Kath Walker (later Oodgeroo Noonuccal) published her first volume of poetry, We are Going, in 1964, white women's depictions of Indigenous women and inter-racial interactions remained undisturbed by Indigenous women's own representation of colonial processes. Literature, then, is a domain in which white women's agency as colonisers is both palpable and susceptible to analysis.
Hibiscus and Ti-Tree: Women in Queensland
Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)