In this paper I have argued that the task of relating and relating to Australias traumatic colonial past primarily depends on the way historians tackle the matter of distance. I have suggested that at least two moves are necessary: historians must allow empathic unsettlement, must allow ourselves to be unsettled by an empathetic relationship to this traumatic past, and we must try to empathise with all the subjects of a traumatic past (not only the victim and the resister but the perpetrator, the collaborator and the bystander), in order to recognise our relationship to them and to attain a complex subject position. This approach enables both proximity and distance, and by integrating affect and analysis it offers the possibility of constructing a history and mourning the past. It thus provides the basis for working through rather than merely acting out the past. By these means, the traumatic burden of the past can be mitigated and there can be a re-investment in life in the present.

The Australian Patient: traumatic pasts and the work of history

Bain Attwood, The Australian patient: traumatic pasts and the work of history, a paper presented to the Australian Psychoanalytical Society Annual Conference Open Day, 22 July 2006

The history of the Australian nation, like most other nations, comprises traumatic pasts, and the darkest of these is the history of colonialism. The colonisation of this country by those we can call settlers brought devastation in its wake. Prior to white settlement in 1788, Aboriginal people numbered between 750 000 and 1.25 million. Within a generation of first contact on the frontiers of settlement, hundreds of Aboriginal groups were destroyed. By 1900 only 100 000 Aboriginal people remained. This, quite obviously, is a cataclysmic event. It was once described (by Charles Rowley) as The destruction of Aboriginal society (in a book of that name). The story of this disaster has not been told adequately told (and perhaps cannot be): this is my second premise. Indeed, the muted presence of this history in the nations historical consciousness, as distinct from its historical unconscious, testifies to its profound impact.[[i]][1]

More then twenty five years ago, Bernard Smith, one of Australias leading intellectuals, suggested that Australian culture is haunted by the dispossession and death of Aboriginal people occasioned by the settler colonisation of this country. [T]he crimes committed against Aboriginal society, he wrote, have been suppressed and removed from our nations memory. Australian society had tried, by means of psycho-cultural mechanisms (by which Smith largely meant repression and projection) to put the Aborigines out of sight and out of mind. Yet, Smith observed, like a nightmare to be thrust out of mind, the dispossession and death settlers had wrought among Aboriginal people has continued to haunt our dreams.[[ii]][2]

The problem Smith points up is the failure of the nation to remember a traumatic past. In Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through, Freud wrote of a certain kind of patient who does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but rather acts it out. The patient reproduces what he or she has repressed, Freud continued, not as a memory but as an action, which is to say that the patient unknowingly repeats in action acts out what he or she is unable or willing to remember. In observing that this kind of patient was unable or unwilling to remember, Freud was arguing that this kind of patient resisted having a history resisted constructing a history and preferred instead to continue acting out a past they wanted to keep at a distance, and so was unable to put a stop to the prescriptive power of that past, often at considerable cost to him or her self. Following Freud and Smith, I suggest that it is useful to consider the Australian nation as this kind of patient.[[iii]][3]

As readers will observe, I am presuming, as a professional historian, that both history and psychoanalysis, or both historians and psychoanalysts, have a common interest. As the English psychoanalyst and author Adam Phillips noted recently, Psychoanalysis, like historiography, is about the re-presentation of the significance of events, though I would prefer to put it like this: historians and psychoanalysts have a common interest in relating the past and relating to the past. (By historians here, I mean anyone who seriously attempts to make meaning of the past.)[[iv]][4]

In this paper, I shall not consider the ways in which the Australian patient has continued to be unsettled by the telling of stories about the traumatic history of colonialism. (The so-called history wars of the last several years testify to this unsettlement).[[v]][5] Rather, I want to focus on how we might relate the history of disaster in the Australian nation, and how we might relate to this history of disaster, in order that we might be more able to come to terms with this countrys traumatic colonial past, and work through this rather than merely act it out. This entails asking, in Freuds terms, what is required for us to become successful historians, or more successful remembrancers, of ourselves?

How we tackle this task, I contend, largely depends on how we tackle what we might call the matter of distance. (By distance I mean the continuum which has intimacy at one end and disassociation at the other.) I shall argue, after Freud, that the problem of the Australian patient has been caused by the fact that we have both too much and too little distance from our traumatic pasts. It is worth noting that the task of relating and relating to traumatic pasts has been complicated by the fact that we live in what has been called the age of testimony or the era of the witness: a world in which a concept of intimacy has come to dominate how our society and our media function. This puts experience on display and privileges affect rather than analysis. Today, the person who has experienced an event, particularly a traumatic event, and bears witness (testifies), rather than the professional historian, is regarded as the most authoritative bearer of truth about that past. This has prompted historians such as Annette Wieviorka to ask: How can the historian incite reflection, thought and rigor when feelings and emotions invade the public sphere?.[[vi]][6]

History and distance

To begin this consideration of distance I shall discuss the manner in which most practitioners of the discipline of history have conventionally gone about the work of relating and relating to the past. An English historian, Barbara Taylor, has observed recently: The position the historian adopts vis--vis [his or] her objects can be seen as a key element in what, in psychoanalytical terms, might be described as a historical scene, meaning a fantasy setting for desire where the relationship among the elements in the scenario (the historian, the facts) is as crucial as the elements themselves. Since the nineteenth century at any rate, western history or historiography has been preoccupied with issues of distance and proximity. Distance, of course, is inevitable in historical work, inasmuch as we always undertake it after the event. In other words, some degree of distance is necessarily present in all historical work. Having said this, though, it is also apparent that distance is not just a given; it is also a construction (on the part of both the writer and the reader (or viewer or listener), and a construction which has several dimensions. This is to say that distance has a broader meaning than its usual temporal sense; it has, most importantly, formal, affective, ideological and cognitive elements, all of which are determined by the historian. Thus, one can speak of a series of distances (or even distance-effects) that modify and reconstruct the temporality of historical accounts, thereby shaping every part of our engagement with the past.[[vii]][7]

In modern times and by modern I mean the period since the eighteenth or at least the nineteenth century history has actually insisted on making a distinction between times past and times present, and this has served to create a sense of distance rather than proximity in the relationship of our present to the past. In one sense historians have proceeded from the assumption that there is, and has to be, a connection between present and past in order to do our work, but in another sense this is disavowed as we have tended to disconnect the past from the present. As Michel de Certeau once famously observed: Historiography is based on a clean break between the past and the present Historiography conceives the relation [between past and present] as one of succession (one after the other), correlation (greater or less proximities), cause and effect (one follows the other), and disjunction (either one or the other, but not both at the same time). In making this argument, it should be noted, de Certeau was explicitly concerned with the differences between how psychoanalysis on the one hand and history on the other represent or re-present time. Psychoanalysis, he argued, recognises the past in the present; historiography places them one beside the other. In other words, de Certeau makes clear, as the Melbourne historian and psychoanalyst Esther Faye has pointed out, that the work of history has rested upon some version of the past/present opposition.[[viii]][8]

Indeed, several characteristics of the discipline of history have long entailed what a British historian, Mark Salber Phillips, has recently called distantiation, by which he means whatever has the effect of putting things at a distance. Several aspects of historiography have entailed distantiation. First, historians have striven to articulate the ways in which the world of a particular past was different to that of our own, and this has inclined us to focus on the discontinuities or differences between past and present rather than on the continuities or similarities. Second, historiography has conceived of time as lineal and progressive, and we have told the story of the modern world continuously breaking with, or continuously moving away, from the past. Third, our discipline has had an ideal of objectivity, which has emphasised the importance of historical detachment. Fourth, historians have long focused on examining historical events in terms of their causes, and this has tended to direct our attention away from the effects of those events. Last, in our practice we have had a tendency to subordinate experience and all this entails to the abstract, the conceptual and the analytical.[[ix]][9]

The insistence on a proper form of distance in historical work has been such a marked feature of our historiographical tradition, Phillips has remarked, that this has been rendered almost invisible, so much so that it has become difficult [for historians] to distinguish between the concept of historical distance and the idea of history itself. If this is an overstatement, there can be no denying the power of the ideal of distance in historical work. The commitment to it has been so strong that a failure to live up to this has been the grounds not simply for criticising ones fellow historians (as presentist) but also of demanding that their work be excluded from the body of writing called history.[[x]][10]

This said, it should be noted that the nature of historical practice has changed considerably over the last forty or fifty years. The rise of what has been called history from below has, in the course of focusing on those peoples hidden from history, paid considerable attention to experience, particularly the experience of loss and suffering of indigenous peoples, migrants, sexual minorities, slaves, women and the working classes. This has challenged both the concept and the ideal of distance. This has been especially evident where oral history (or testimony) has been to the fore, rather than the written word that history traditionally emphasised. Oral history, by its very nature, has a very different relationship to the past than history has (or used to have). If the practice of history in modern times has rested in effect upon the absence of the past, the practice of oral history has required the presence of the past. Oral historys conjunction of past and present has, more often than not, led to a greater emphasis on continuity and similarity rather than the stress on change and difference between past and present. In oral history, moreover, time is not always a matter of succession or linear time the past always before the present but often a matter of cyclical or repetitive time, and sometimes past and present are effectively in the same moment as then and now become entangled with one another. As the historian Paula Hamilton has pointed out, doing oral history changes the relationship between past and present in historical research. Another historian, Alan Atkinson, has asked: Why should it matter whether the voices you hear as a reader, writer or listener are present or past, living or dead, immediate, orally recorded or transcribed. Yet, it usually does. Men and women experienced in Oral History, Atkinson observes, often say how hard it is to listen with both sympathy and scientific detachment Listening to another person is an activity so fundamentally different, so fundamentally humane, Atkinson argues, as to confront the whole business of conventional scholarship. In the practice of oral history the degrees of distance and proximity of the past are radically changed, most importantly in terms of the relationship a historian has with his or her subjects or sources of information. As a result, oral history has not only proven to be another way of relating the past, but another way of relating to that past.[[xi]][11]

Traumatic history, transference and counter transference

The impact of oral history on distance in historical work has been all the more profound when the past being related is a traumatic one. Trauma, as we know, throws into question any distinction that might readily be made between an event on the one hand and its aftermath on the other, and it can diminish any sense of difference between past and present. In traumatic history, any distance between then and now tends to collapse. In other words, trauma challenges the very conception of time that has long informed history by placing the past in the present rather than putting the past beside, before or behind the present. In short, trauma resists the attempt of historians to place events in (an)other time: the past rather than the present.

How, then, should historians approach a traumatic past? The challenge of relating and relating to such a past has been embraced most significantly in respect of the Jewish Holocaust, and here I am going to proceed mostly by drawing on the work of an American historian, Dominick LaCapra, who has long had an interest in psychoanalysis and who has been contemplating how best to relate and relate to the Jewish Holocaust.[[xii]][12] Fundamental to this work, LaCapra argues, is an acknowledgment that we usually have a transferential relationship to the pasts we consider. This is to say that we have an emotional or empathic connection to something or other in the pasts we write about, and so we tend to be implicated in some way or another in our treatment of these pasts. Transference will be especially intense in the case of a traumatic history, particularly where historians work with oral history in some form or another and especially where we work with oral informants or interviewees. The very nature of trauma means that historians are working on matters that are highly charged, and this is all the more so when the past is a matter of contemporary social and political debate. As such, historians must consider how we will handle affect in any encounter or exchange with such a past.

Contrary to what many might recommend, professional historians should not try to deny or circumvent any transferential relationship they might have to traumatic pasts or histories. [T]ransference occurs willy-nilly and the challenge is not how to escape it but how to come to terms with it, LaCapra argues. As I have been saying, the stance the historian has conventionally sought to take has been one of a distance, one that amounts to be an innocent bystander or onlooker. Yet, adopting this stance, LaCapra points out, runs the risk that one will repress or deny or disassociate from a traumatic past. Historians, therefore, need to work through their historical proximity critically.[[xiii]][13]

LaCapra has recommended that historians adopt an approach in which they begin by accepting their empathic or empathetic response to the subject(s) in their object of inquiry with whom they most compelled to empathise, whether that subject be, for arguments sake, a perpetrator, a collaborator, a victim, a bystander or a resister. Indeed, he has insisted on the need for what he calls empathic unsettlement in responding to traumatic events or conditions: one must undergo at least muted trauma and allow that trauma (or unsettlement) to affect ones approach. Empathic unsettlement is necessary, LaCapra argues, not so much because it can deepen a historians understanding of a traumatic past but because it provides the historian with an experiential basis for working through that past.[[xiv]][14]

Allowing empathic unsettlement, however, is the only the first stage that LaCapra enjoins upon historians who are seeking to relate and relate to a traumatic past. He insists that they must be careful not to confuse their self with the other, or to confuse empathy with identification. Rather, they must stop short of identification with any one participant, and strive to work through their transferential relationship, not in order to dispose of it but in order to realise the differences between their position and that of the historical subject. In order to check any tendency to identify with one of their subjects, LaCapra urges historians to try and grasp the ways in which they probably have an emotional relationship to the other subjects of this traumatic past the subjects other than the one or ones with whom they have originally empathised and try and empathise with these.[[xv]][15]

In recommending this, LaCapra is suggesting that historians try to be both proximate and distant in relationship to the subjects of the traumatic past. Although he does not say this, he is suggesting in effect that historians should try to counter the original transference to practise, in other words, counter-transference. By adopting this approach, LaCapra suggests, the historian can attain a more complex subject position than many historians have adopted when they have sought to relate and relate to traumatic histories. He argues that this can provide for the critical perspective that is necessary for writing history, a perspective he has called historical objectivity, though not objectivity in any transcendent (third person) sense. By adopting this approach historians can broaden and deepen their historical understanding of a traumatic past but also acquire a richer sense of their own relationship to this. Most importantly, this can help facilitate the process of working through the past rather than allowing disassociation, denial, or acting-out of that past, as well as the process of mourning rather than melancholy.[[xvi]][16]

The stolen generations

I shall now develop what I have been saying by discussing a particular example: those Aboriginal children separated from their kin (the stolen generations). More especially, I will discuss the historical narrative of the stolen generations that was manifest in the writing of the historian Peter Read in the 1980s and 1990s; the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal children in 1995-97, and its report, Bringing Them Home; the championing of this by the political commentator Robert Manne in 1997-2001; and the reaction to the narrative by those who have been called the sorry people. This narrative, I argue, had two noteworthy features: first, it was not the creation of academic or professional history but rather took the forms of other kinds of history we can call public history, oral histories, autobiographies, political submissions, legal briefings and the like; second, it was presented in, or projected onto, forums that were not historiographical in nature but memorial, literary, therapeutic and the like (though not psychoanalytical).[[xvii]][17]

The creators of this historical narrative took LaCapras first step of allowing empathic unsettlement, or transference but they did not take the next steps LaCapra recommends. As a result, I argue, the outcome of this stolen generations narrative entailed, at least for most of its tellers, limited historical understanding; acting out of rather than working through the past; and melancholy rather than mourning; and that this was actually the result of what Freud would have regarded as both too much and too little distance on the part of those relating and relating to this past.

Before going any further we should remind ourselves what the particular stolen generations narrative I have pinpointed comprised. It claimed that an enormous number of Aboriginal children had been separated from their kin during the twentieth century, indeed, perhaps as many as one in three; that most of separations had been forced removals; and that the main purpose of the policy under which separation had occurred was the prevention of the reproduction of Aboriginality, and so amounted to genocide. This narrative, as I have argued elsewhere, had fundamental flaws both as a narrative that sought to relate the past and relate that past to the present, which meant it was extraordinarily vulnerable to criticism. First, it confused the separation of children with the removal of removal and especially forced removal, and suggested forced removal was more common than it was; second, it obscured the range of ways in which Aboriginal children were taken, and thus the different effects this had on children, parents, families and communities; third, it obfuscated the fact that children were separated for several reasons, among which were neglect; fourth, it conflated government policy and government practice, or intent and implementation, and thus exaggerated the number of children removed; fifth, and most problematically, it claimed that the separation of children was primarily the outcome of a malevolent genocidal plan on the part of government to destroy Aboriginality.[[xviii]][18]

At the centre of this stolen generations narrative was one historical subject the victims of separation, or, to be more precise, a particular victim, the children ― though another subject, the resisters occupied an important place. The historians who were involved in the making of this narrative allowed the process of empathic unsettlement to occur in respect of these subjects and they sought to relate and to relate to their plight and/or struggle. In this, it should be conceded, they were very successful. However, their work by and large stopped there. There was little if any attempt to do the work of counter-transference. As a result, the historians relating this traumatic past (many of whom were probably unaware of what had attracted them to it, that is, the nature of the transference that had compelled them to do this work) did not merely empathise with the Aboriginal victim and the non-Aboriginal resister, but identified themselves with these figures, such that they fused, and so confused, themselves with them.

In this work there was little if any attempt to relate to the other subjects of this past the perpetrators, the collaborators and the bystanders and almost certainly not in a way that allowed for much if any empathy with them, let alone for empathic unsettlement. As a result of their identification with the position of the victim and the resister, they treated those other subjects, especially the perpetrator, with enormous antipathy, accusing them of the heinous crime of genocide. Rather than an attempt to understand these historical subjects, there was, on the part of the creators of the stolen generations narrative, something of a rush to judgement. In this, they lost sight of the fundamental task of the historian, at least in the opinion of historians such as Marc Bloch. In his book, The Historians Craft, unfinished when he was murdered by Germans in France in 1944, Bloch wrote: When all is said and done, a single word, understanding, is the beacon light of our studies Understanding, in all honesty, is a word pregnant with difficulties, but also with hope. Moreover, it is a friendly word. Even in action, we are far too prone to judge. It is so easy to denounce. We are never sufficiently understanding A little more understanding of people [is] necessary in the conflicts which are unavoidable; all the more to prevent them while there is yet time.[[xix]][19]

In relating and relating to the stolen generations, I want to suggest, the historians largely acted out or repeated a past by assuming the position of the victim and/or the resister. In other words, there was both too little and too much distance between the past and the present, and so there was little working through of this past. To consider this problem further, let us turn back to Freuds patient and move our focus to the stolen generations themselves. The problem in the case of trauma, Adam Phillips points out, is that survivors do not have a history; there is history, but not for them; because they are too close they can make nothing of their experience. The problem is not merely that the patient is unable to construct distance from the past they repeat; it is that they have not noticed, to all intents and purposes, that this distance actually exists. At the same time, by re-enacting or repeating the past rather than remembering it, they could, paradoxically, be said to keep that actual past at a distance.[[xx]][20]

The problem this patient has, as Phillips notes, is that he or she is living in the past but is not living in history. In their being too-close, in too much feeling or affect being present, there is too little room for anything else, and so re-presentation of this past is hampered, a re-presentation that can provide the possibility of the ascribing of new meanings. This is to argue that it is the construction of distance, the construction of history, that allows the space for reflection, for re-describing the pain, and for working through, and so the prospect for psychic survival. In the work of the creators of the stolen generations narrative this was true of many of the Aboriginal narrators but it can be argued that this holds too for the narrators of the particular narrative I have been discussing.[[xxi]][21]

I shall now turn to consider the response of many of those who read or heard the narratives of the stolen generations, in particular those people who have been called the sorry people. Here I want to present an argument that has been made by Haydie Gooder and Jane Jacobs, who are responsible for coining the term the sorry people to refer to the supporters of Aboriginal reconciliation and in particular the making of an apology to Aboriginal people, the stolen generations in particular. Drawing on Freuds work on melancholy and mourning, Gooder and Jacobs argue that these settler Australians were suffering from the loss of a love object or ideal, the worthy nation, whose moral legitimacy had been drawn into question, had been unsettled, by the Aboriginal histories, particularly the history of the stolen generations. However, they refused to break their attachment to this lost object or ideal they refused in other words to mourn their loss but held on it in a narcissistic fashion; they abased themselves, expected to be punished, and sought to redeem themselves and their object or ideal by means of an apology. (In the clinical picture of melancholia, Freud argued, dissatisfaction with the ego on moral grounds is the most outstanding feature.)[[xxii]][22]

In their response to the stolen generations, many felt compelled to empathise with the Aboriginal subjects. In this there was probably some confusion on the part of the sorry people between absence on the one hand and loss on the other. (Arguably, absence refers to a transhistorical or general phenomenon, loss to a historical or specific one.) Most importantly, the sorry people, and settler Australians more generally, had very little historical understanding of the reasons why Aboriginal children were separated from their kin by their settler predecessors. This is a serious problem because it diminished the prospect of being able to work through this past in the present. A properly historical approach would have pinpointed that Aboriginal children were not separated because of a policy of genocide, which was something the sorry people could readily consign to a distant past that had little to do with them, but rather because of a policy of assimilation premised on the assumption that settler modernity was for their own good, which is an assumption that is probably still dominant today and so one in which settler Australians are intimately familiar and thus implicated. Grasping this would have been both more unsettling and more helpful in relating to the past. Settler Australians might have realised that the past was in the present not only in the form of the Aboriginal people affected by the practice of separating Aboriginal children from their kin, but also in the form of a white mentalite we can assimilationist. Understanding this would provide a means of working through this past as it would address the role of the very ideas and attitudes that have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the destruction of Aboriginal communities and Aboriginality or at least their diminution.

The work of mourning

To turn to the question of how the nation might really do the work of mourning. Death, it has been remarked, lies at the heart of national formations. States can be set up as political entities, but they only become nations through the magical or spiritual agency of death, Stephen Muecke has observed. A people recognises itself as a people through the symbolic treatment of its dead. In large part Australia has become a national community by remembering and mourning those who have fought in wars over there (overseas) but not here. The nation has not remembered and mourned the victims of the wars here, particularly the Aboriginal people who lost the most because of those wars. The settler state has never acknowledged that their losses are worthy of recognition.[[xxiii]][23]

As a result of its failure to work through this and other such traumatic events, the Australian nation has been unable to grapple with the wounds of its past and the divided legacies these have left. Instead, it has repressed these. Consequently, historical discourse in this country has swung between two extremes, two excesses: overstating the amount of blood shed on the one hand, understating the amount of blood shed on the other. To come to terms with this traumatic past, I have argued elsewhere,[[xxiv]][24] a process of mourning this event and its aftermath is required. For this work, some rites of passage are necessary. What is required in Australia are appropriate memorials in the form of monuments throughout the land and appropriate rituals such as an annual day of mourning.

Writing traumatic history

Finally, I am going to consider the question of how one might best relate traumatic history in terms of narrative forms. In my last book, Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History, I suggested that historians should give more consideration to the forms of narrative they might adopt in representing this past. Here, I want to relay an argument an American philosopher of history, Hayden White, puts in an essay in a collection entitled Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution. He argues that traditional or classic realist mode of representation that is, the form, which came into being in the nineteenth century, whereby both novelists and historians have sought to represent reality realistically is inadequate to the task of relating events and experiences such as the Jewish Holocaust because of their nature, and that consequently another form of representation is required, namely that of modernism. More particularly, White argues that a form of representation Roland Barthes called intransitive writing fits the bill.[[xxv]][25]

Barthes, White tells us, considered intransitive writing in order to characterise the differences between classical realism and modernism. In the context of a discussion of voice, Barthes sought to focus attention on the different kinds of relationship someone can be represented as bearing in relation to action, and he pointed out that whereas modern European languages offered two possibilities for expressing this relationship, the active voice and the passive voice, ancient Greek offered a third possibility: a middle voice. Whereas in the active and passive voices the subject of the verb is presumed to be external to the action in the middle voice the subject is presumed to be interior to the action, White notes. It is a form, Barthes observes, in which writing becomes itself the means of vision or comprehension, not a mirror of something else as it is in realism. Intransitive writing is, then, a distance-denying discourse.[[xxvi]][26]

In making the case for this as way of representing traumatic pasts, White spells out the differences between realism and middle voiced-ness by referring to the characteristics of modernism (at least as they have been identified by a critic discussing Virginia Woolfs To the Lighthouse): First, the writer as a narrator of objective facts disappears, and instead almost everything appears by way of reflection in the consciousness (and/or unconscious?) of the dramatis personae; second, there is a dissolution of any perspective or point of view outside the text in which the people and events within it are observed; third, in the narrators interpretation of these events, the predominant tone is one of doubt and questioning; fourth, there is an employment of devices such as stream of consciousness (or should that be stream of unconsciousness?) that obliterate the impression of an objective reality completely known to the author; fifth and lastly, the use of new techniques for the representation of time and temporality, such as those which counter the notion of time as lineal or successive, those which use the chance occasion to release processes of consciousness which remain unconnected to a specific subject of thought.[[xxvii]][27] It seems to me that in order to tell the traumatic story of colonialism in this country, it might be necessary to adopt forms such as this.


[[i]][28] C.D. Rowley, The Destruction of Aboriginal Society, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1970.

[[ii]][29] Bernard Smith, The Spectre of Truganini, ABC, Sydney, 1980, p. 17.

[[iii]][30] Sigmund Freud, Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through (1914), in Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle and Other Writings, trans. John Reddick, Penguin, London, 2003, pp. 36-37, original emphasis.

[[iv]][31] Adam Phillips, Close-Ups, History Workshop Journal, no. 57, 2004, p. 144

[[v]][32] For a discussion of this, see my book, Telling the Truth about Aboriginal History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, chap. 1.

[[vi]][33] Shoshana Felman, Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching, in Cathy Caruth (ed.), Trauma: Explorations in Memory, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1995, p. 16; Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness (1998), trans. Jared Stark, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2006, pp. 142-44; Jay Winter, The Memory Boom in Contemporary Historical Studies, Raritan, vol. 21, no. 1, 2001, pp. 56, 66.

[[vii]][34] Barbara Taylor, How Far, How Near: Distance and Proximity in Historical Imagination, History Workshop Journal, no. 57, 2004, p. 120, original emphasis; Mark Salber Phillips, Distance and Historical Representation, History Workshop Journal, no. 57, 2004, p. 126.

[[viii]][35] Michel de Certeau, Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. Brian Massumi, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1986, p. 4; Esther Faye, Impossible Memories and the History of Trauma, in Jill Bennett and Rosanne Kennedy (eds), World Memory: Personal Trajectories in Global Time, Palgrave, New York, 2003, p. 160.

[[ix]][36] Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The Objectivity Question and the American Historical Profession, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1988, 1-2.

[[x]][37] Phillips, Distance and Historical Representation, pp. 125-26.

[[xi]][38] Alan Atkinson, The Commonwealth of Speech: An Argument About Australias Past, Present and Future, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2002, p. 62; Paula Hamilton, Sale of the Century?: Memory and Historical Consciousness in Australia, in Katharine Hodgkin and Susannah Radstone (eds), Contested Pasts: The Politics of Memory, Routledge, London, 2003, p. 145.

[[xii]][39] See Dominick LaCapra, Soundings in Critical Theory, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1989, chap. 3 (entitled History and Psychoanalysis); History and Memory After Auschwitz, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1998; Writing History, Writing Trauma, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2001; History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2004.

[[xiii]][40] LaCapra, History in Transit, pp. 192, 234.

[[xiv]][41] LaCapra, History and Memory, p. 40.

[[xv]][42] _Ibid._, pp. 41-42.

[[xvi]][43] _Ibid._, p. 206.

[[xvii]][44] See, for example, Peter Read, The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal Children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969, New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Sydney, 1983; Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children From Their Families, HREOC, Sydney, 1997; Robert Manne, The Stolen Generations, in Peter Craven (ed.), The Best Australian Essays 1998, Bookman Press, Melbourne, pp. 23-36.

[[xviii]][45] See my Learning About the Truth: The Stolen Generations Narrative, in Bain Attwood and Fiona Magowan (eds), Telling Stories: Indigenous History and Memory in Australia and New Zealand, Allen & Unwin/Bridget Williams Books, Sydney, 2001, pp. 183-212. Significantly, some academic commentators working in disciplines other history and psychoanalysis have apparently failed to grasp the need to test the reality of this stolen generations narrative. Having reminded us that it is impossible to gain direct access to historical reality (or, indeed, any reality), the historian Carlo Ginsburg would remark, they seem to infer that reality is unknowable, rejecting the possibility of analysing the relationships between these representations and the reality they depict or represent as an unforgivable instance of nave positivism, and implying that we can discard the principle of reality in our consideration of historical representations. These critics seem to overlook a major source of danger when they denigrate the role played by empirical research: unless historical narratives are tested and altered or even abandoned where they are contradicted by the known facts, how can one avoid historical error, and how can one mount a critical case against opposing historical narratives, most importantly denialist ones? (Carlo Ginsburg, The Judge and the Historian: Marginal Notes on a Late-Twentieth Century Miscarriage of Justice, trans. Anthony Shugar, Verso, London, 1999, pp. 17, 36). One of the offenders I have in mind here is Rosanne Kennedy. See her Stolen Generation Testimony: Trauma, Historiography and the Question of Truth, Aboriginal History, vol. 25, 2001, pp. 116-31, which, in my opinion, reveals a limited grasp of my essay on the stolen generations narrative and of psychoanalytical practice.

[[xix]][46] Marc Bloch, The Historians Craft, trans. Peter Putnam (1954), Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1992, pp. 118-19.

[[xx]][47] Phillips, Close-Ups, p. 148.

[[xxi]][48] _Ibid._, p. 142.

[[xxii]][49] Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (1917), in Freud, On Metapsychology, trans. James Strachey, compiled and edited Angela Richards, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp. 254, 256; Haydie Gooder and Jane Jacobs, On the Border of the Unsayable: The Apology in Postcolonising Australia, Interventions, vol. 2, no. 2, 2000, pp. 235-36.

[[xxiii]][50] Stephen Muecke, _No Road (Bitumen all the Way)_, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 1997, p. 227.

[[xxiv]][51] See Telling the Truth, pp. 194-96.

[[xxv]][52] Hayden White, Historical Emplotment and the Problem of Truth, in Saul Friedlander (ed.), Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1992, p. 50.

[[xxvi]][53] _Ibid._, pp. 47-49.

[[xxvii]][54] _Ibid._, pp. 50-51.