"White Nativity"

Reinscribing Aboriginal Land in the poetry of Araluen and Whittaker


  • Alice Bellette Deakin University


In a chapbook of poetic responses to Dorothea Mackellar’s ubiquitous verse ‘I Love a Sunburnt Country’, Alison Whittaker, in her contributing poem, names the settler literary appropriation of her Gomeroi homelands as a ‘white nativity’. Two recent collections by young Aboriginal women – Dropbear (2021) by Evelyn Araluen and Blakwork (2018) by Alison Whittaker – challenge the pastoral renderings in settler literature by writing back into them – or reinscribing – from an embodied writing practice.  This essay closely reads poems from the collections to honour and explore the refusal of the literary legacies of the settler imagination – a legacy that has denied First Nations peoples’ sovereignty of narrative, story, life and bodily autonomy. I also contend that the literary continuum of reinscribing practices – of which Whittaker and Araluen are only its contemporary iteration – make visible the paradox of settler relationality to Country, where Aboriginal land is a vessel for the conjuring of a national identity but is extracted for its natural resources with impunity. More crucially, however, a reinscribing method attends to histories covered over by the colonial gaze. This gaze, I suggest, is the ‘appropriating’ of Country, and a method that seeks to naturalise the settler on stolen land.

Author Biography

Alice Bellette, Deakin University

Alice Bellette is writer and researcher. She submitted her doctoral thesis in November 2023. With an Australian Research Council funded grant she co-produced the limited-series podcast, Welcome?, telling stories about colonised landscapes, and the people who meet in them. Her creative and critical work has appeared in the Griffith Review, Australian Poetry JournalCordite Poetry Review and ACMI Online.