Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)

Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)

Hollywood in Ngunnawal Country

By Catherine Kevin

Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)' brings together a history of race relations, pastoral boom and film-making. It is a personal account of coming to terms with a history of dispossession and colonial power relations in a place that has offered the author a strong sense of belonging and settler-colonial family heritage.

Hardback, 250 Pages


July 2020

£45.00, $79.95

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About This Book

In 1955 ‘Jedda’ was released in Australian cinemas and the international film world, starring Indigenous actors Rosalie Kunoth and Robert Tudawali. That year Eric Bell watched the film in the Liberty Cinema in Yass. Twelve years later he was dismayed to read a newly erected plaque in the main street of the Yass Valley village of Bowning. It plainly stated that the Ngunnawal people, on whose country Bowning stood, had been wiped out by an epidemic of influenza. The local Shire Council was responsible for the plaque; they also employed Bell’s father. The Bells were Ngunnawal people.

The central paradox of 'Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)' is the enthusiasm of a pastoral community, made wealthy by the occupation of Ngunnawal land, for a film that addressed directly the continuing legacy of settler-colonialism, a legacy that was playing out in their own relationships with the local Ngunnawal people at the time of their investment in the film. While the local council and state government agencies collaborated to minimize the visibility of Indigenous peoples, and the memory of the colonial violence at the heart of European prosperity, a number of wealthy and high-profile members of this pastoral community actively sought involvement in a film that would bring into focus the aftermath of colonial violence, the visibility of its survivors and the tensions inherent in policies of assimilation and segregation that had characterized the treatment of Ngunnawal people in their lifetimes.

Based on oral histories, documentary evidence, images and film, 'Dispossession and the Making of Jedda (1955)' explores the themes of colonial nostalgia, national memory and family history. Charles Chauvel’s ‘Jedda’ (1955), a shared artefact of mid-twentieth-century settler-colonialism, is its fulcrum. The book newly locates the story of the genesis of ‘Jedda’ and, in turn, ‘Jedda’ becomes a cultural context and point of reference for the history of race relations it tells.


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Author Information

Catherine Kevin is a senior lecturer in history at Flinders University, Australia. She has published on the histories of domestic violence, pregnancy and miscarriage, feminism and maternity, post–World War II migration to Australia and the making of the film ‘Jedda’ (1955). Kevin’s work has appeared in a range of Australian and international journals and edited collections.


Anthem Studies in Australian Literature and Culture

Table of Contents

Prologue: ‘Jedda’ (1955): Cultural Icon and Shared Artefact of Mid-Twentieth Century Colonialism; 1. Making ‘Jedda’; 2. ‘Hollywood’ in the ‘Fine Wool Hub’; 3. Looking North: Mrs Toby Browne’s Colonial Nostalgia, ‘Jedda’ and the ‘Opening of the Territory’; 4. Memories of ‘Jedda’ after the National Apology; Epilogue: ‘Bogolong’ Memories: The Vagaries of Family History; Index.


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