RAHS Special Event – Indigenous Intermediaries and the Art of Encounter

The Australian hydrographic expedition captained by Phillip Parker King (1818-22) produced a vast archive of journals, reports, log books, letters, maps, sketches and material collections. Within this collection, and at times well hidden, are narratives, traces, fragments and images of the Indigenous men who travelled with the expedition to the north-west and northern coasts of Australia. Boongaree, a Kuringgai man, travelled with King on board HMC Mermaid in 1818. In 1821, Bundle, a Dharawal man replaced Boongaree for the fourth and final voyage on the replacement vessel, HMS Bathurst.

This talk reveals the ways in which the art, letters, journals and log books that the crew generated, offer a glimpse into the experience of these men as they voyaged on board this maritime expedition. The focus of the talk will be on the art that was produced in scenic observations, encounter scenes and portraits of Boongaree and Bundle.

About the speaker: Associate Professor Tiffany Shellam, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, works collaboratively with Noongar people and historians, museum curators, archivists and librarians to critique the archives, unearthing hidden and alternative histories generated by encounters between Indigenous people and explorers and settlers in the nineteenth century. Her book Shaking Hands on the Fringe: Negotiating the Aboriginal world at King George’s Sound was published by UWA Publishing in 2009. Meeting the Waylo: Aboriginal encounters in the Archipelago (UWA Publishing 2020) won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in Australian History in 2020.