Too early yet or not soon enough? Reflections on sharing histories as process

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Historical Studies, 2002, 33 (118), pp. 7 - 24
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The concept of 'sharing histories' has been a key goal of the Australian Reconciliation process. It involves a widespread popular concept of history as a collection of facts, to which previously excluded voices can be simply added-in to make the collection more comprehensive. This article indicates differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians' understandings of the concepts of both 'sharing' and of 'history'. It then traces the narrative shifts which tend to occur when complex memories previously retold in community settings are transferred to adversarial public platforms, resulting in simplification and polarisation. The article argues that the processes by which all groups construct and narrate their histories shape their historical content. Further, collaborating in these history-making processes offers more opportunities for generating new relationships than do confrontations between the simplified 'finished' histories which become weapons in intense public political conflicts. Finally, I suggest alternative approaches to 'sharing histories' that may allow the processes of collaborative investigation to take precedence over the arithmetical approach of collecting and adding up facts for new retellings of Australian pasts.
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