Norman Tindale and the politics of anthropology

State Library of Queensland will host a symposium set to explore the impacts of anthropological research in Aboriginal communities on 24 September.

Cultural heritage professionals will focus on the career of Norman Tindale and why his name is so prominent in Australian anthropology, linguistics, native title, and Aboriginal history.

Tindale has at times been criticised for the invasive nature of his research and treating Aboriginal people as scientific objects.

However, other people are grateful for his foresight in collecting such a vast amount of data, and his goodwill in donating his photographs, field journals, and related materials to the South Australian Museum.

State Librarian Janette Wright said that The legacy of Tindale: Photography and the politics of anthropology and Native Title is a day-long symposium that questions the responsibilities of those working with this material, and discusses the need to bring the past to life in an accurate way.

“The symposium is an important part of the Transforming Tindale exhibition program, on show at SLQ until 9 December,” Ms Wright said.

Transforming Tindale is designed to provide a thought-provoking journey into the Tindale collection, what it means to Aboriginal people, and its place in Queensland’s history.

SLQ has copies of genealogical information and photographs from the Tindale collection, held by the South Australian Museum, for the Queensland Aboriginal communities of Mona Mona, Yarrabah, Palm Island, Woorabinda, and Cherbourg as well as two northern New South Wales communities at Boggabilla and Woodenbong.”

Ms Wright said the Tindale collection had come to be valued by some as a resource for researching their own family history.

Transforming Tindale curator Michael Aird will speak at the symposium about the work he has done in curating the exhibition, understanding the historical context of the collection, and finding a way to give it back to communities.

Artist Vernon Ah Kee will talk about his personal connection to the Tindale collection and how he has used photographs of his family members in the collection to produce portraits that speak of the personalities behind the scientific images.

Speakers also include Daniel Browning (ABC Radio National), Henrietta Fourmile Marrie, Dr Marcus Waters (Griffith University), Prof Bruce Rigsby (UQ), Dr Nancy Williams (UQ), Flo Watson (Jinnadirran Training and Consulting Services), Lindy Allen (Museum Victoria), and Jeanie Bell (Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education).

Visit for more information about The legacy of Tindale symposium and Transforming Tindale.

The legacy of Tindale: Photography and the politics of anthropology and Native Title
Mon 24 Sep, 9.30am–4pm
State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Bank
Bookings or 3840 7768

Transforming Tindale
Open daily 10am–5pm until 9 Dec
Free exhibition at State Library of Queensland

Media enquiries: Amanda Edwards, SLQ Communications
07 3842 9803 |

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