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November 28, 2022


#AusReadingMonth2022 Telling Tennant’s Story

by NancyElin

Bill Stanner,  Australian  Anthropologist (1930s)…Looks like somebody out of central casting! 

Telling Tennant's Story The Strange Career of the Great Australian Silence by Dean Ashenden by Dean Ashenden (no photo)

Genre: non-fiction  (354 pg)
Rating: B++
Review: Telling Tennant’s Story (ISBN: 9781760641757)


Good news: This impressive  phrase is the core message of the book: “...a silence that reigned largely unchallenged from the late 19th C to the 1960s.” (pg 57). There was no room for Aborigines in the physical world (NT, Tennant Creek)..that had been theirs. This book attempts to reveal through the eyes of the narrator (D. Ashenden) the muffled silence he experienced in his childhood home of Tennant Creek. He delves into the need for a new perspective. Australia needed an anthropologist’s sensitivity...and that man was Bill Stanner (1905-1981) who dared confront Australian bureaucracy.


Good news: While reading this book I looked up a photo of Bill Stanner (1930s)…my goodness, he was so handsome! Looked like somebody out of central casting! But all kidding aside…Mr Stanner had been a tireless critic of the treatment of Aboriginal people since the 1930s, and of the policy of assimilation that dominated in Australian in the 1940s. He advocated for the proper recognition of Aboriginal identity, culture, and land rights.


Personal: There is a lot to unpack in this book….especially for someone who does NOT live in Australia! If you are interested in the Great Australian Silence (Australian govenment vs the rights for Indigenous people) …this is a good place to start. Don’t be discouraged if your eyes glaze over (…as mine did) while reading the chapters about the courts in landmark cases for Aboriginal land rights…just absorb what you can and push on to the last part of the book. Mr. Ashenden gives a summary about what still has gone wrong in Tennant Creek.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 28 2022

    Those eyes!!!!

  2. Nov 28 2022

    This has been on my radar Nancy. It just won the 2022 Australian Political Book of the Year Award and sounds really interesting. So many stories have gone untold. It;s pleasing to see so many authors and publishers trying to address this imbalance now.

    • Nov 28 2022

      So impressive even though I didn’t always follow the politics of it all.
      The Great Australian Silence…there was no room for Aborigines in the physical world…and not one objected. Glad I could learn more about Bill Stanner. He really made a difference.


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