Abstract

Methods used to investigate the history of mapping the coastal areas of Australia have relied heavily on the journals, diaries, ship's logs, maps, and other accounts of European mariners available in the archival record. Although these records give some details of the part played by local Indigenous peoples, such texts by themselves are a far from reliable way to arrive at authoritative conclusions about Indigenous influence in coastal exploration. Taking the form of a dialogue, this article revisits archival material concerned with coastal exploration along the southern areas of what is now Western Australia from a fresh perspective, drawing out instances where the Nyungar took “center stage” and where mariners' perceptions were shaped by their interest in the Nyungar and Nyungar knowledge. It draws upon Nyungar methods for “reading” the history of contact along the southern coast, incorporating oral accounts, knowledge of the Nyungar language, and Nyungar place-names to “talk back” to the old texts.

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