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Histories of cross-cultural encounters and violence in Australia have largely focused on armed conflict and massacres, and with good reason. Truth-telling about frontier conflict is, after all, the compelling task of our age. But Aboriginal people did not respond to invasion and dispossession only through violent resistance in defence of their homelands. Their dynamic spirituality also demanded ontological explanations for the maelstrom, and spiritual and ritual responses aimed at
revitalising and sustaining culture in the face of dispossession, assault, disease and attempted cultural annihilation. In this seminar, Prof Karskens will explore some of the ways that Aboriginal people of the Hawkesbury and Hunter regions did this in the early colonial period.

Grace Karskens is Emeritus Professor of Australian History at the University of New
South Wales, Sydney. Her books include The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney and The Colony: A
History of Early Sydney, which won the 2010 Prime Minister’s Award for Literature (Non-
fiction). Her most recent book, People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia, won the
2021 NSW Premier’s History Award, the 2021 Prime Minister’s Award for History, and co-won the Ernest Scott Prize for Australian History

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