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Vulnerability: An affliction of the powerless: A Nyoongar Story

Shaw, Gerrard George (2012) Vulnerability: An affliction of the powerless: A Nyoongar Story. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis analyses and investigates the issue of vulnerability among Australian Aboriginal people, as exemplified through the Nyoongar Shaw family and in particular myself. The Shaw family is from southwest Western Australia, more specifically the area belonging to the Yued nation. This thesis examines events in the lives of ancestors and descendants of the Nyoongar Shaw family. It specifically reconstructs the personal stories of our Aboriginal great-grandmother, Mary Ann Chuberan, our Aboriginal great-grandfather (in law), Frederick John Blurton, our Aboriginal grandfather George Shaw, Charles Fitzgerald (our Aboriginal grandfather in law), our Aboriginal aunties, Lilly, Jane and Margaret Shaw, and our Aboriginal mother, Ruby Shaw. By examining these lives, this thesis offers a way of understanding past Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships in a West Australian context. It does this by drawing on government records, personal interviews, and the telling of my story as a member of the ‘Stolen Generations’. Using the post-modern concept of auto-ethnography as a literary tool, it combines the genres of biography and autobiography. Through the telling of my story, I explicate my experience of being raised to be vulnerable, manifesting itself through inadequate emotional care in childhood, thereby setting me up for failure in dealing appropriately with relationships in adult life. This provides a personal account of the effects of removal. Through recording the stories of both ancestors and descendants, I demonstrate the vulnerability of Aboriginal people, the result of living under government legislation during the years 1920-1959. These stories will show how, over time, this legislation disempowered and dispossessed them, and are intended to facilitate further discussion on what the effects of vulnerability mean for the lives of Aboriginal people and the community more broadly.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Media, Communication and Culture
Supervisor: Trees, Kathryn
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