Intimacy and Distance: Indigenous Relationships to Country in Northern Australia

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Among the strategies employed by colonial authorities to ‘manage’ Indigenous people, forced removal and centralisation to townships was a deliberate attempt to fragment relationships to home territories. For Yanyuwa, an Indigenous group in northern Australia, this meant being removed from their saltwater ‘country’ in the Gulf of Carpentaria and resettled 60 km inland. Despite this violent act Yanyuwa saltwater identity has remained strong. Whilst enduring, it has however undergone changes in the way relationships to place are established and maintained. Travelling through saltwater country with younger and middle generation Yanyuwa has revealed that sometimes relationships to place are marked by conditions of fear, nervousness and uncertainty. Not classically held to be dispositions of a ‘proper’ Indigenous person, these reveal that states of intimacy require time and certain conditions to flourish. So too, distance, signalled by fear and uncertainty, is a relational state that defines a vitally important relationship with country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-191
Number of pages20
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Indigenous Australians
  • fear
  • uncertainty
  • cultural wounding
  • healing
  • place
  • Indigenous Australia


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