Black and white and in between
Arthur Dimer and the Nullabor
by Peter Gifford
ISBN 085905 301 6, (2002 new), Soft Cover, illustrated, 330grams
$30.00 + POST
At one level this is the story of a working man whose life has been spent mostly in a region of Western Australia traversed daily by scores of road and rail travellers, most of whom see it only from their car or train windows – the Nullarbor. If they have time, they might visit the place where his parents were married, the old telegraph station at Eucla, now almost buried by encroaching sand dunes. They might also view the Ngadju Aboriginal display at the Balladonia roadhouse on the Eyre Highway near where Arthur Dimer was born. If they are especially attentive at Balladonia, they will see a copy of Arthur’s application for citizenship of his own country, made in 1948 when he was 24 years of age and already the trusted overseer of the oldest pastoral station in the district, Fraser Range.
For Arthur’s life has been that of the bushman – horse and camel breaker, shepherd, shearer, boundary rider and overseer, and later underground mine worker at Norseman, then Shire and Main Roads plant operator. Yet as a man whose grandmothers were full-descent women of the Ngadju and Mirning peoples – the traditional inhabitants of the south-west Nullarbor region – he is also an integral part of a much older system of law and land ownership which has been damaged but not destroyed by the advent there since the 1870s of Europeans including his own grandfathers. It is this wider pattern of change incorporating Arthur’s own story which he and Dr Peter Gifford evoke in this singular narrative – part biography, part social history involving historical figures such as Daisy Bates and A.O. Neville.
Ultimately however, although careful attention is paid to source material, the book does not conform to strict historiographical or anthropological lines of argument. The evidence is sometimes contradictory, and readers must judge it for themselves.
No. 20 in the Aboriginal Studies Series.
Peter Gifford is a former journalist with a doctorate in Australian history from Murdoch University with first class honours in Australian history. He was the inaugural winner of the C.A.L.M. Prize for Environmental History (Murdoch University, 1991) and the Amalia Davies Prize for Australian History, University of Adelaide, 1983.