ANTaR ACT Book Discussion: Hidden in Plain View by Paul Irish

Discussion summary written by Valerie Albrecht

Members and guests shared discussion, thoughts and questions about this thought provoking and educative book which grew from Paul Irish’s Phd thesis. His intention, as he states, is to present a balanced way of looking at Aboriginal history, presence and their cross cultural relationships with Europeans in Sydney in the 19th century. Using evocative language such as “tired ideas”, “cultural hybrids”, “ochre and rust”, and statements such as “an artificial divide between European and Aboriginal History” he puts to the reader well researched, grounded facts and recounts of interactions between colonial and Aboriginal individuals living in Sydney at this time.

Irish invites, indeed challenges, the reader to re-think, re-learn and re-consider concepts such as authentic Aboriginal culture, timeless tradition and the perception that Aboriginal people were absent in Sydney in the 19th century. He does this by presenting stories of Aboriginal people engaging with Europeans economically through fishing, trading, cultural walks, hunting and fishing tours, also pointing out that Aboriginal people had a strong and sincere presence in non-Aboriginal congregations, including as pastors. Irish describes well Aboriginal places in Sydney, how they were used at this time by Aboriginal residents and remains such as middens and engravings at Rushcutters Bay, Redleaf Pool, Nelsen Park, Vaucluse Park and Kurnell Meeting Place (also known as Cook’s Landing Place).

The group agreed that Hidden in Plain View indeed had challenged our ways of looking at Aboriginal presence in 19th century Sydney and, as well, had piqued our interest about similar books concerning other Australian cities.

Please join us for the next Book Discussion on July 11th with author Paul Collis and his book “Dancing Home”. Venue to be confirmed. Email for more information.




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