An Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Abstract

An Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography (IADB) is a new Australian Research Council-funded research project led by Malcolm Allbrook, Tom Griffiths, and I which seeks to redress the long-standing underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) by doubling the number of Indigenous biographies within the online ADB, and producing a standalone published volume of Indigenous short biographies. Yet, rather than just producing 190 new entries, our aim is also to rethink how Indigenous biographies can be conceptualised, being attentive to how and why Indigenous biography is distinctive, and how Indigenous people, who have long been marginalised and excluded from the national imaginary, can now be better accommodated with the ADB, and hence be better incorporated within the national story.
In this chapter I will trace the history of the ADB, highlighting how it originated during the ‘great Australian silence,’ and the various efforts made since that time to improve its representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives. I will analyse the way in which Indigenous people are already portrayed in the ADB, in order to shed light on how such biographies have been approached in the past, and assess the net effects of the ADB’s cooperative structure, which involves myriad authors, guided by autonomous working parties, and overseen by an evolving editorial board. Finally, this chapter will draw inspiration from other national dictionaries of biography, suggesting a range of different directions for the IADB as we embark on this new project.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrue Biographies of Nations?
Subtitle of host publicationThe Cultural Journeys of Dictionaries of National Biography
EditorsKaren Fox
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherANU Press
Chapter8
Pages139-158
ISBN (Electronic)9781760462758
ISBN (Print)9781760462741
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

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