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Surviving New England: A History of Aboriginal Resistance and Resilience Through the First Forty Years of Colonial Apocalypse

2020 - Winner

Winner

Judges' comments

Callum Clayton-Dixon’s Surviving New England tells of what happened when the country of the Anaiwan people of the Northern Tableland of New South Wales was invaded by settlers and sheep in the nineteenth century. The author’s close attention to the complexities of cross-cultural contact and the destruction of Indigenous culture and material resources reimagines a story of frontier violence too often understood in terms of Aboriginal people easily overcome by the settler presence.

This is an account of violence and dispossession, but also of resistance and survival. Based on formidable research and community knowledge, the book reads the colonial archive against the grain to uncover, as far as possible, the story of the Anaiwan on their own terms. It is also charmingly illustrated by Anaiwan and Kamilaroi artist Narmi Collins-Widders. Surviving New England offers a fresh and engaging perspective on one of the most famous pastoral frontiers in Australian colonial history.

The story of the European invasion of the New England region has been told from the point of view of settlers and their descendants, sometimes in a manner sympathetic to the plight of Indigenous people. In Callum Clayton-Dixon’s Surviving New England, however, we have the story told, and the sources reinterpreted, from the perspective of an accomplished Indigenous scholar. This is a timely history written with clarity, empathy and an eye on the relevance of a contested history to an unresolved present and future.