Post-Mabo Dreaming and Yuramiru’s European Explorations

Rodney Hall’s The Lonely Traveller by Night


  • Paul William Genoni Curtin University of Technology
  • Jo Jones Curtin University


Rodney Hall’s seven book fictional account of European imperialism and Australia spans some 260 years, from 120 years before settlement/invasion, to some 140 years after. The writing of the heptalogy occupied Hall for approximately 15 years; it was commenced in the prelude to the 1988 Bicentenary, encompassed the years of Mabo and Wik, and concluded at the end of the century. Publication spanned 1988-2000.

This paper focuses on The Lonely Traveller by Night—the second book in the heptalogy’s historical chronology. Hall wrote the Lonely Traveller by Night in 1994 in the wake of Mabo, and after three decades of intense personal activism in support of Indigenous rights. The book tells the story of Yuramiru, an indigenous man from Ikara/Wilpena Pound. Yuramiru is first encountered being sold as a curiosity in Venice in 1667, before becoming embroiled in the military and existential tussle between Venetian and Ottoman empires.

This paper reads Hall’s representation of Yuramiru as a bold counter-narrative challenging fundamental moral and ethical principles that underpinned the clash of civilisations as European empires came to terms with the southern continent and its Indigenous inhabitants. Published at a time when ‘first contact’ novels were rife in Australian literature (Hall had already written his own as part of the heptalogy with The Second Bridegroom (1991)) The Lonely Traveller by Night presents an audacious inversion of ‘first contact’, which is powerfully effective as literature and—in the context of Mabo—groundbreaking as polemic.

Author Biographies

Paul William Genoni, Curtin University of Technology

Paul Genoni is an Adjunct Professor with the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University. He is the author of Subverting the Empire: Explorers and Exploration in Australian Fiction (2004); co-author, with Tanya Dalziell, of Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 (2018); and co-editor, with Susan Sheridan, of Thea Astley’s Fictional Worlds (2006), He is a former ASAL President.

Jo Jones, Curtin University

Jo Jones is an Associate Professor in Literary and Cultural Studies at Curtin University. Her key research areas are literary representations of historical narratives, literary gothic, deep time and literatures of place. In 2018 Jo published Falling Backwards: Australian Historical Fiction and The History Wars with UWAP, which won the 2019 Niall Lucy Award. In recent years, Jo has worked extensively on the literature of rivers and the theory of deep mapping.