Level 3 Mortlock Wing State Library of South Australia North Terrace Adelaide SA 5000
Djulliri ship D Wesley 2018

Lunchtime Meeting

The Phantom of Djulirri

Dr Mick de Ruyter, Flinders University

This presentation, based on work with Daryl Wesley and Wendy van Duivenvoorde, will trace the origin of a complex rock art motif of a ship in Arnhem Land, Australia.

Identification of watercraft in Australian Indigenous rock art can provide a rich narrative context of culture contact experiences. This historical richness is even greater when the watercraft can be identified as a specific ship and the associated historical sources investigated. This talk outlines the case for the identification of a complex ship motif at Djulirri, Arnhem Land as the survey ship HMS Fantome, from around 1907 to 1912. The apparent presence of an anchor bed on the forecastle and the compartmentalisation of the hull suggests a vessel constructed as a warship between the 1860s and 1910s. HMS Fantome was the only warship in the area at the time that accorded with both the external and internal configuration of the painted ship. Archival research shows that between 40 and 60 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander men served in this ship during its operations on the northern Australian coast between 1907 and 1924. The painting at Djulirri was most probably done by a man named Noreman who worked onboard as a stoker’s assistant and who thereby developed extensive knowledge of the internal layout and operations of the ship. This identification offers evidence with which to expand understanding of both the nature and context of Indigenous Australian military service.

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Date and Time

6 May 2024
12:00 pm

Hetzel Lecture Theatre, Institute Building, North Terrace, Adelaide

Members: $Gold coin
Non members: $5