“No More Boomerang”: Environment and Technology in Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Poetry

John Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based in oral traditions and song cycles, contemporary Aboriginal Australian poetry is full of allusions to the environment. Not merely a physical backdrop for human activities, the ancient Aboriginal landscape is a nexus of ecological, spiritual, material, and more-than-human overlays—and one which is increasingly compromised by modern technological impositions. In literary studies, while Aboriginal poetry has become the subject of critical interest, few studies have foregrounded the interconnections between environment and technology. Instead, scholarship tends to focus on the socio-political and cultural dimensions of the writing. How have contemporary Australian Aboriginal poets responded to the impacts of environmental change and degradation? How have poets addressed the effects of modern technology in ancestral environments, or country? This article will develop an ecocritical and technology-focused perspective on contemporary Aboriginal poetry through an analysis of the writings of three significant literary-activists: Jack Davis (1917–2000), Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1993), and Lionel Fogarty (born 1958). Davis, Noonuccal, and Fogarty strive poetically to draw critical attention to the particular impacts of late modernist technologies on Aboriginal people and country. In developing a critique of invasive technologies that adversely affect the environment and culture, their poetry also invokes the Aboriginal technologies that sustained (and, in places, still sustain) people in reciprocal relation to country.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-957
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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