Unwinding Australia

The Politics of Evasion Post-Mabo


  • Jeanine Leane University of Melbourne


Settler Australians always ask what First Nations Australians have done in Australia. This address turns the lens to my largely settler audience and asks how far you have come in your engagements with us in literary and textual spaces, and in Australian popular culture in the last three decades. In the minds of many settler Australians, the Country’s First Peoples live between a series of calendar events – 1788, 1967, 1992, 2008, and 2017. Between the lip service given to invasions/discoveries, referendums, national apologies, and royal commissions, the lives and lived histories of First Nations Australians are largely terra incognito to many settler Australians. Yet in between, beyond and underneath these events exists a language of constraint and civility symptomatic of the ongoing Australian (dis)ease – evasion. This address offers a First Nations perspective on the language and politics of evasion in some settler texts in post-Mabo Australia, and suggests pathways and protocols for future engagements with and interpretations of First Nations writing.

Author Biography

Jeanine Leane, University of Melbourne

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, poet and academic from south-west New South Wales. Her first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: A.D. 1887–1961 (PressPress, 2010) won the 2010 Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry and her first novel, Purple Threads (UQP), won the David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer in 2010. Her poetry and short stories have been published in Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia, Journal for the Association of Australian Literary Studies, Australian Poetry Journal, Antipodes, Overland, Best Australian Poems, Lifted Brow, Southerly and Australian Book Review.






Barry Andrews Memorial Lecture