Whales, whitefellas and the ambiguity of ‘nativeness’: Reflections on the emplacement of Australian identities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


In 1992, an American marine environment researcher observed a distinctive white humpback whale off the Queensland coast and named it ‘Migaloo’. The nickname is a term meaning Whitefella among Aboriginal people in Queensland. It was suggested by a local Indigenous man and his aunt (the latter was said to be a ‘revered aboriginal elder’) after the whale researcher contacted them to express interest in finding an appropriate Aboriginal name. The website of the Pacific Whale Foundation now suggests to a world hungry for information about what has become a highly charismatic animal that Aboriginal people regard all ‘albinos’ – whether humans, kangaroos, crocodiles or whales – as ‘special beings’, ‘perhaps signs or tokens from the spirit world’.1 Thus, Migaloo the white cetacean has become an object of desire for those who celebrate whales as an inspiring species of nature; its name, deemed to be from everyday speech among Aboriginal people, may be understood to mean that Migaloo belongs in the marine environments of Australia.2
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInvasive and Introduced Plants and Animals
Subtitle of host publicationHuman Perceptions, Attitudes and Approaches to Management
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780203525753
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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