"Who'd have thought?": unravelling Ancestors' hidden histories and their impact on Dharug Ngurra Presences, places and people

Jo Anne Rey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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As a means of opening the lid on transgenerational silencing—which was a survival strategy for thousands of Indigenous families against intended cultural genocide—while balancing the place of auto/biography in that journey, this paper focuses on the impact of Ancestors’ hidden histories and how the discovery of those histories drives complex identifications when woven with Presences, places, and people on Dharug Ngurra/Country. Using my own family’s recently uncovered early colonial Ancestral storying, histories that involve Dharug traditional custodian, African slave, and Anglo characters, some as First Fleet arrivals, the paper considers the place of auto/biography as a form of agency that brings past into presence, and which, in turn, opens opportunities to heal, decolonise, and transform Dharug and, more broadly, Indigenous communities, their knowledges, practices, and ontologies. When this activation involves most of the metropolis known as Sydney, Australia, we recognise its transformative potential to change non-Indigenous people’s perspectives. When we recognise auto/biography as a form of ‘truth-telling’, it allows a space to re-story relationality, both human and other-than-human, and restores Indigenous presence into Ngurra for biodiverse justice in a climate-changing world. Addressing these matters through poetic multimedia allows a place of safety between the pain and the healing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • activism
  • Dharug
  • genealogy
  • identity
  • Indigenous
  • storying
  • 'kin-sensing'


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