Dr Tiffany Shellam Travels to the Pilbara to Meet With a Wong-a-too Elder

Dr Tiffany Shellam from Deakin University and the Contemporary Histories Research Group recently travelled to the Pilbara to meet with a Wong-a-too Elder, Wilfred Hicks, and to hand back copies of archival documents. Tiffany reflected on this trip for the Contemporary Histories Research Group:

As part of my ARC DP ‘Exploring the middle ground’ I have been involved in unearthing Aboriginal histories from the Australian exploration era in the north-west. The journals of the maritime explorers, Phillip Parker King and John Septimus Roe, tell the story of an encounter with the Yaburara or ‘West Ngarluma’ people who lived in Dampier’s Archipelago, in what is now the Pilbara region of WA.  Their logbooks, sketches and diaries are very early records of an encounter that took place in February 1818.

In September this year I met with Wilfred Hicks, a Wong-a-too Elder to talk with him about this early history, and to give him copies of all the archival documents that I found in Sydney and Perth archives which relate to this encounter in February 1818. He was very interested to see sketches of one of his ancestors on his watercraft, paddling through the Archipelago, and to read the descriptions about this man and other countrymen on the islands. I asked Wilfred about this early contact history and we talked about Yindjibarndi and Ngarluma vocabularies that give further value to Indigenous interpretations of such histories.


Tiffany hands back archival documents to Wilfred Hicks, Wong-a-too Elder.


Archival copies that Tiffany handed back to Pilbara communities.


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