Fascinating ABC program (main author, Erin Parke), 'Gold teeth and a broken heart: Dirrikaya’s adventure unravels Australia’s hidden history following up discovery of old photographs providing evidence of Makassar (Indonesia) contact with the Kimberley and Northern Territory'.

A key researcher in the work leading to the program was Lynette Russell AM, Wotjobaluk woman, Professor of History at Monash University, and a Supporter of Defending Country. “This is a story that most people have no idea about, but there is no doubt that Aboriginal people came to Makassar and stayed and had families,” she says. “Some voyaged back to Australia, but others did not."

“I suspect the scale of the movement is probably larger than what we first thought.”

The scenario challenges Australia’s national origin story of a continent of landlocked people living in isolation for tens of thousands of years.

Professor Russell — who has Wotjobaluk heritage herself — says the migration north shows more than a sense of adventure.

“I think the Aboriginal people who decided to join the Makassan fleets showed extraordinary agency and entrepreneurship,” she reflects.

“There was obviously also a network of friendships and relationships that developed.

“I think it’s extremely likely that there are descendants of Aboriginal people here in Makassar, and descendants of Makassan sailors in Australia.”

The article looks also at the Makassar end and possible relationships with First Australians.

Map key
Largest red dot: Makassar, Other red dots (left to right): Rote, Timor, and Aru, Three yellow dots: Kimberley, Single yellow dot: Arnhem Land
Apr 10, 2024
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