Uncommon Ground: White women in Aboriginal history

Uncommon Ground cover

Anna Cole

Victoria Haskins

Fiona Paisley

Apr, 2005
Product type: 
Book format: 
Aboriginal Studies Press
Place of publication: 
$34.95 RRP incl. GST


Uncommon ground brings together a unique collection of essays about the complex roles played by white women in Australian Indigenous histories. It showcases some of the latest and most interesting work in Australia on gender and cross-cultural history.

Each chapter highlights the work of a woman involved in Aboriginal issues, and with Aboriginal people, in a particular historical context. They include unknown and prominent public figures, activists, writers, and workers in missionary groups and administration (for instance Mary Bennett, Elizabeth Durack and Elizabeth McKenzie-Hatton), as well as leading Aboriginal woman activist (Pearl Gibbs) who worked closely with contemporary white feminists.

The four thematic parts include: ‘The home front’: personal and domestic relationships, highlighting the prominence of the ‘home’ as institution as well as refuge in such cross-cultural relationships; ‘Shared struggle’: collaborative relationships; ‘Public lives’: addressing white women who took on public roles with regard to Aboriginal issues; and ‘Knowing the Aborigines’: the ambiguous roles played by white women who claimed the knowledge to represent Aboriginal people and issues, and who have had various impacts upon Aboriginal histories as a result.

These lively and critical biographical studies trace the motivations, actions and impact of these women. The Indigenous and non-Indigenous contributors, both women and men, engage with some difficult yet fascinating questions of race, gender and identity in Aboriginal history.

Reviews and endorsements

'The editors of this collection are to be congratulated. With self-reflexivity each writer traces the complex intersections of the lives of white and Indigenous women on pastoral properties, within suburban houses, institutions and associations of activists. Uncommon ground is a major contribution to gender history, whiteness studies and critical race theory in this country and beyond. This is innovative history writing at its best.’

— Professor Patricia Grimshaw, University of Melbourne

'This is an extraordinarily refreshing collection of essays, each contribution teasing out different aspects of Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations. Louis Nowra recently praised Aboriginal Studies Press for publishing quality works re-examining what has been pejoratively called the 'black-armband view of history'; Uncommon Ground continues this fine tradition.'

— Anette Bremer, API Review of Books, April 2006

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Last reviewed: 12 Sep 2016