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Rethinking ‘the Human’ in Memory of Fay Gale (AO)


  • This is an adapted transcript of the Inaugural Fay Gale Lecture, sponsored by The Academy of The Social Sciences in Australia and presented at The University of Western Sydney (March 2010), and the universities of Adelaide and Wollongong (April 2010).


In 1972, the late Fay Gale (AO) published a characteristically self-styled book titled Urban Aborigines. It launched a richly diverse career that delivered an exceptional legacy to the academic discipline of geography, aboriginal justice, university administration, and women's professional advancement. This article, based on a 2010 lecture in her honour, takes up Fay's intellectual contribution to one of these fields. It pursues her critical interest in the clash of indigenous/settler cultures in Australia through a novel account of the notorious head-measuring practices of 19th century racial craniometry. Probing the Western premise that ‘mind’ is the assured marker of human distinction from nature, the article explores a question of fundamental contemporary relevance for Australian audiences and others across the globe: are there fresh prospects for reconciling settler and indigenous, as well as ‘green’ and ‘growth’, values if the conceit of this distinction can be overcome? This question is provoked from a peculiarly southern perspective in the spirit of the insistently geographic project that was Urban Aborigines.