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Whitefella Way

  • ISBN-13: 9780646802022
  • Publisher: JON RHODES
    Imprint: JON RHODES
  • By Jon Rhodes
  • Price: AUD $45.00
  • Stock: 11 in stock
  • Availability: Order will be despatched as soon as possible.
  • Local release date: 13/10/2022
  • Format: Hardback (235.00mm X 230.00mm) 275 pages Weight: 1270g
  • Categories: Regional & national history [HBJ]
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Whitefella Way is the highly-anticipated sequel to the award-winning Cage of Ghosts, a nuanced and scholarly work of ‘unusual originality’, published in 2018.

Photographer and writer Jon Rhodes again takes the reader on nine vivid and richly illustrated journeys as he examines the intertwined histories of blackfellas and whitefellas at the Eora rock engravings on Grotto Point and Balls Head in Sydney. At the grave of Yuranigh south of Molong, and the tumulus of the ‘Black Chief’ west of Condobolin, both in Wiradjuri country. To Black Jimmy’s grave at the Bellingen Cemetery, in Gumbaynggirr country. To the Armidale Folk Museum in Nganyaywana country on the New England Tableland. To the Bundjalung bora ground in the Tucki Tucki General Cemetery south of Lismore. And to the Gubbi Gubbi stone-walled fish trap at Sandstone Point on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

In the final chapter Rhodes investigates the mass killing of Warlpiri, Anmatyerre, Kaytej and Warumungu in the Northern Territory – the 1928 Coniston Massacre – and again asks, when will the fundamental truth of the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War be wholeheartedly acknowledged and memorialised by the government of the Commonwealth of Australia?

JON RHODES is renowned for his trilogy of photographic exhibitions from Aboriginal Australia: Just another sunrise? (1976), Kundat Jaru mob (1991) and Whichaway? (1998).

But when Agfa ceased manufacturing black & white paper and chemicals in 2006, he decided not to make the transition from silver-based photography to digital, preferring instead to begin writing about his photographs in the now light-filled space that was once his darkroom.

Whitefella Way has been shortlisted for the 2023 NSW Premiers Community and Regional History Prize.
The Judges’ comments:
Whitefella Way is a fascinating examination of Aboriginal–settler relations in the history of New South Wales. Beginning each chapter with a question, Rhodes expertly and sensitively guides the reader through a discussion of several significant events – ranging from the spearing of Captain Arthur Phillip by an Eora man at Collins Cove in 1790, to the first burials of Scottish Presbyterians near a Bundjalung bora ground in the 1880s, and the removal of Anaiwan carved trees from Boorolong in 1962 — to reveal how landscape and place can tell complex, intertwined histories. This multi-layered, multi-generational analysis offers a thought-provoking rendering of Aboriginal connection to Country, of colonists’ efforts to exert their influence over the land and its Indigenous inhabitants, and of frontier violence. Rhodes has cleverly blended archival research with interviews, artworks, maps and his own unique photographs in this stylishly written book. Often confronting, but always compelling, Whitefella Way is an innovative interpretation of the complex legacies of settler colonialism and of the preservation (or not) of Aboriginal cultural heritage in colonial and present-day New South Wales.

Whitefella Way has been shortlisted for the 2023 NSW Premiers Community and Regional History Prize.
The Judges’ comments:
Whitefella Way is a fascinating examination of Aboriginal–settler relations in the history of New South Wales. Beginning each chapter with a question, Rhodes expertly and sensitively guides the reader through a discussion of several significant events – ranging from the spearing of Captain Arthur Phillip by an Eora man at Collins Cove in 1790, to the first burials of Scottish Presbyterians near a Bundjalung bora ground in the 1880s, and the removal of Anaiwan carved trees from Boorolong in 1962 — to reveal how landscape and place can tell complex, intertwined histories. This multi-layered, multi-generational analysis offers a thought-provoking rendering of Aboriginal connection to Country, of colonists’ efforts to exert their influence over the land and its Indigenous inhabitants, and of frontier violence. Rhodes has cleverly blended archival research with interviews, artworks, maps and his own unique photographs in this stylishly written book. Often confronting, but always compelling, Whitefella Way is an innovative interpretation of the complex legacies of settler colonialism and of the preservation (or not) of Aboriginal cultural heritage in colonial and present-day New South Wales.

Canberra Critics Circle, Frank McKone, November 18, 2022.
Jon Rhodes is a creative recorder of the past in the present. In Whitefella Way he selects nine examples of points in time and place which document in words, paintings and photographs, a thread linking Blak and Whitefella cultural interaction from 1788 to 2022. This work is a development from his earlier highly-acclaimed Cage of Ghosts (2019 Winner NSW Community and Regional History Prize), which followed his 2007 photographic exhibition of that title shown at the National Library of Australia. Whitefella Way is laid out in a format similar to Cage of Ghosts, with each chapter followed by extensive numbered endnotes. Each chapter begins with a question, this time focussed on history connected to an artefact and its place. Reading and looking at the artwork and photographs is to read a story, of the past and often of the discovery of the past, to find the answer. Then the endnotes fill in the details, often with surprising information – and provide a sense of the depth of historical research that Rhodes has undertaken. Each of the nine chapters begins with a map, of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) for Chapter 1, where Rhodes asks the question about Bennelong and Collins Cove: Why the confusion about exactly where the first Governor of New South Wales was speared on September 7, 1790? Examine the map, and you will find the spot in question: “Kay-yee-my Collins Cove 1788 Manly Cove”. Three names; two histories. And much more in the answer than I was ever taught in Year 9 Australian History. Each chapter has its own focus question, and so can be read as a story and historical study in its own right.  It seems a tenuous thread from one to the next, yet in the meaning of each answer, for both cultures, we come to understand what links the spearing of Captain Arthur Phillip to the simple but quite massive marble Stone of Remembrance in front of the Australian War Memorial in the National Capital, Canberra in Chapter 9: THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE. The publication is so up-to-date that Rhodes’ forceful conclusion is:
“My challenge to Anthony Albanese in his first term is follow Harold Holt’s 1967 Referendum, Paul Keating’s 1992 Act of Recognition of Aboriginal Australians and Kevin Rudd’s 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generations, and wholeheartedly deliver in the House of Representatives a fourth prime-ministerial statement – Acknowledgement of the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War. And by the end of his second term in 2028, facilitate the construction of an Australian Frontier War Monument in Canberra. Twice in Cage of Ghosts I wrote that the appropriate place for such a monument is on military-precise Anzac Parade, ‘the national capital’s major commemorative way’. But after studying the planned $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial, built on the ancestral land of the Ngunnawal, the ultimate ‘Truth-Telling’ site for an Australian Frontier War Monument has to be side-by-side with one of the Australian Military’s most sacred places: the Stone of Remembrance on the forecourt of the Southern Entrance, where, on Remembrance Day, the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I is commemorated with a one minute silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. The 110th anniversary of the Armistice and 100th anniversary of the Coniston Massacre both fall in 2028, and the unveiling on August 24 of an Australian Frontier War Monument, sculpted in the shape of the Warlpiri rockhole on the opposite page, would truly become a place for the Nation to solemnly contemplate the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War.”
Whitefella Way is an intriguing read – and crucially important to appreciate the need, now, for the truth-telling envisaged in the Uluru Statement from the Heart; especially from where I sit, in that National Capital, in Ngunnawal / Ngambri Country. 
Whitefella Way is not to be missed.

The Weekend Australian, Review, Notable Books, Caroline Overington, February 18-19, 2023.

The images in this book are absolutely gorgeous. You should order it, just to see an                                Australia that is almost gone. The author, Jon Rhodes, has been

photographing Indigenous Australians for decades. He has also investigated our nation’s troubled history, which forms his work. I was intrigued to learn that he stopped taking pictures when Agfa ceased manufacturing black and white paper and chemicals in 2006, deciding that the transition from silver-based photography was not for him, and he now writes “from the light-filled space that was once my darkroom”. 

The Manning Community News, John Watts, February/March, 2023.

In a year when we will be asked to vote on a proposed amendment to the Australian Constitution, Whitefella Way will be important an aide to any voter wanting to understand more about the brutal history of white settlement and why the proposed constitutional changes are so important and necessary. Jon Rhodes, as well as being a quality writer, is a talented photographer, and this book is a beautifully produced hard cover work, which is not only well written in a clear informative style, but which also contains many informative photos and illustrations. This book is a sequel to his Cage of Ghosts, published in 2018, and in this book the reader is taken on nine journeys to various important sites where the writer deals with the interactions which occurred between the original inhabitants and the invading white settlers. The brutality and duplicity of the invader is evident from chapter one which is titled Bennelong and Collins Cove. In this chapter the narrative revolves around the Eora rock engravings on Grotto Point in Sydney. We are introduced to many characters whose names will be familiar because they are now well-known Sydney place names. Names such as Bennelong, Phillip, Collins, Bradley, Barangaroo and King. The much-vaunted British Justice System was certainly not on display from the very beginning of white settlement when it came to the invaders’ dealings with the Black population. In November 1789 Phillip gave an order for the capture of two ‘natives’ who turned out to be Bennelong and Colebe. The capturing party, led by Lieutenant Bradley, trapped the two by pretending to be friendly and offering them some fish before seizing them and herding them into a boat. Bradley later wrote: ‘The noise of the Men, [and the] crying & screaming of the Women & Children, together with situation of the two miserable wretches in our possession was really a most distressing scene’.

Any pretence by Phillip of not leading a brutal regime soon dissolved when, after the spearing of his gamekeeper McEntire by Pemulwuy, he ordered a punitive expedition which was to ‘bring away two natives as prisoners; and put to death ten… to cut off and bring in the heads of the slain.’ Remember these were not to be Aboriginal people who had done anything wrong, but any that the expedition could find and capture. So much for British justice.

The other eight chapters take the reader to other important sites and surrounding events around New South Wales including the Balls Head rock engravings in Sydney, the grave of Yuranigh near Molong; Black Jimmy’s grave in the Bellingen Cemetery; the Bundjalung bora ground in Tucki Tucki Cemetery, and to the Gubbi Gubbi stone-walled fish trap at Sandstone Point on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The events outlined in Chapter 9 show that even by 1928-9 nothing much had changed when it came to the way that Aboriginal people were treated by the so-called justice system. The events described in the chapter, known as the Coniston Massacre, took place in the Northern Territory, to the north-west of Alice Springs, then known as Stuart. After a dispute between one Aboriginal man and one white man, the white man was killed. Police were then dispatched to apprehend the offender and, in the process, managed not only to not apprehend the suspect but to massacre 17 other innocent Aboriginal people. A subsequent Federal Government Board of Inquiry found that the killings were all ‘justified’ and exonerated the police. It was on any view a complete travesty. At the end of this final chapter Rhodes asks, ‘when will the fundamental truth of the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War be wholeheartedly acknowledged and memorialised by the government of the Commonwealth of Australia?’ Perhaps one way to begin the process of acknowledgement would be for Australians to vote in favour of the referendum, which is simply about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Nations of Australia, and providing them with a body to speak to Parliament and government in order to improve decisions, policies and laws that affect them. Whitefella Way is highly recommended.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum, Steven Carroll, April 1, 2023.
In this sequel to Cage of Ghosts, photographer and writer Jon Rhodes creatively examines encounters between Indigenous Australians and Europeans from the First Fleet through to today. It’s sweeping in scope and rich in researched detail; a mix of analysis and the personal, accompanied by evocative black-and-white photographs and illustrations. Early encounters, such as the spearing of Governor Phillip in 1790, incorporate the remarkable figure of Bennelong and Pemulwuy’s guerilla war against the British, which arguably continued in the form of the Frontier War. His account of the Coniston massacre in 1928 underlines the importance of the Voice and comes with a challenge to the prime minister to acknowledge the Australian Frontier War with a monument. This is an atmospheric, timely study.


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