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That’ll buff out: an Indigenous exploration of Australian car culture

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posted on 2022-07-22, 04:49 authored by Christopher Miller

In Australia there are undeniably strong links between systems of automobility and identity. Past scholarship clearly demonstrates that these links between identity and automobility within Australia are a way of governing by the state and have played a fundamental role in the colonization of Aboriginal lands, cultures and peoples. Cars play significant roles in the lives of Indigenous Australians particularly along lines of mobility, identity and sovereignty. Despite these clear connections, many of the representations in mainstream media tend to reify colonial discourses surrounding Indigenous peoples’ capacity to engage with Western technology, particularly branding Indigenous Australians as problematic in relation to cars. Despite an array of research on Aboriginal people and their relationships with cars, the scholarship that does exist focuses on rural and remote Indigenous Australian communities. This scholarship contributes to the continued problematization and romanticisation of Indigenous people. My study offers an analysis from an urban Indigenous perspective that challenges the misrepresentations of Indigenous Australians and their relationship with car culture. Within this thesis I deploy qualitative content analysis, specifically focusing on popular media examining shows such as the television series Bush Mechanics (2001) and other popular cultural representations of Indigenous people in relation to car culture. In addition to this I review a wide range of literature covering fundamental Indigenous studies and Australian mobility literature to speak to the current scholarly conversations around Indigenous Australian Automobility. This thesis offers an urban Aboriginal insight into current scholarly discusses around the strong, long established links Indigenous Australians have to cars and car culture. This study signals a first step in retelling the stories of our own relationships with cars that challenge colonial narratives and assumptions of Indigeneity within the mainstream Australian context.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Methodology -- Chapter 3: Literature review -- Chapter 4: What is Australian car culture? -- Chapter 5: Where the real blackfellas are: misrepresentations of Indigenous automobile identities -- Chapter 6: Sovereignty never ceded: automobility as Indigenous sovereignty -- Chapter 7: Conclusion -- Chapter 8: List of references


‘A Thesis Submitted in fulfilment of the Masters of Research Degree’

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of Indigenous Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Tristan Kennedy


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Christopher Miller 2020.




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