Reef Madness: Digging up the Dirt on an Australian Myth

    Start 12 August 2022, 11:30am
    End 12 August 2022, 12:30pm

    Public Seminar

    Reef Madness: Digging up the Dirt on an Australian Myth

    Presented by Ernest Hunter

    Friday 12 August 2022 | 11.30 am – 12.30pm | Cairns Institute Lecture Theatre, JCU | McGregor Road  Smithfield


    It’s a tale that doesn’t seem like it would be a winner; an improbable proposition of a ten-mile reef of gold in the middle of the continent, a cabal of scheming investors, a farrago of poor planning and preposterous publicity, the fiasco of the prematurely celebrated triumph of technology over unforgiving terrain, a dead prospector – and no gold. The Central Australian Gold Exploration Company had it all, and Lasseter’s Last Ride was in the stores before the final chapter of the real-life debacle had closed. It was a runaway success.  

    For a generation Ion Idriess was Australia’s most popular author and Lasseter’s Last Ride – the story of a failed prospecting expedition in 1930 – was his first success and was the foundation stone of a quintessentially Australian myth. Many of Idriess’ books rely on descriptions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and practices and in Lasseter’s Last Ride – which Idriess insisted was an accurate account – he used quasi-ethnographic descriptions of traditional Aboriginal ways and wiles as central plot devices. With the Depression biting, Idriess drew on existing tropes and tricks to capture the popular imagination about remote Central Australia – which he had never visited. In this talk popular representations of Indigenous Australians in the decades before and following the Second World War are presented to demonstrate how Idriess – and others – commodified a primitive exotic in an era before television drew the public gaze elsewhere.

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