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Footprints: The Journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper.

Footprints: The Journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper

Simon Flagg and Sebastian Circuillo 2008

National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office of Victoria, Melbourne, 132pp, ISBN 9781920807610


This recently published book is another fine example of a 'demonstrative' publication often produced by museums, archive authorities and public record offices, and libraries and institutions of a similar ilk. They are 'demonstrative' in that one of their aims is to demonstrate the value of the archival record for detailing Indigenous social and family history, or, as stated in the foreword, 'We hope that it will inspire and inform the search for reconnection to family, land and culture for all Aboriginal people and will encourage many to find their own family history' (Gibbs and Heazlewood 2008:v). In choosing a particular family, that of Lucy and Percy Pepper, the authors are seeking to illustrate what Aboriginal people may find in the archival record.

The publication is a collaborative effort between the Public Records Office of Victoria and the National Archives of Australia and, given that they share Victorian Aboriginal records, the two authorities are keen to show the inter-relationship of their records and their usefulness for Aboriginal people researching their family histories.

The story of Lucy and Percy Pepper is known to us in terms of broad brush strokes through the autobiography and regional history published by their son, Phillip Pepper (1980; Pepper and De Araugo 1985). The primary focus of this book is a 20-year period (1907 until 1927) in the life of Lucy and Percy Pepper and their family. The book is organised into eight chapters, each centred on a key event in the life of the family, such as a protracted period of illness, intra-state travel and family relocation in the hope of improved health; Percy Pepper's enlistment in the First World War and active duty in France; soldier settlement at Koo-Wee-Rup; and finally the death of Lucy Pepper in 1923 from tuberculosis and her family's unsuccessful efforts at securing her reburial at the Lake Tyers cemetery.

The production values of Footprints are exemplary--photographs in the public domain are supplemented with photographs from the Pepper family album. Complementing these are colour reproductions of important records such as Percy Pepper's service record. The Peppers' family story--their struggle to keep their family together and survive unemployment and ill-health and other major stressors, not to mention government policy that prevented them from living on Aboriginal stations because legal definitions of Aboriginality defined them as 'non-Aboriginal'--was not atypical in Victoria, and was the shared experience of many families in Victoria. This book is a welcome addition to the suite of publications that present archival records and make them available to Aboriginal people and researchers (PROV and National Archives Australia 1993; Nelson et al. 2002; PROV 2005), and is highly recommended for those who wish to learn more about the potential value of official government records for providing diverse and rich information about the lives of Victorian Aboriginal people in the early twentieth century.


Gibbs, Ross and Justine Heazlewood 2008 'Foreword' in Simon Flagg and Sebastian Curcuillo, Footprints: The journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper, National Archives of Australia and PROV, Melbourne.

Nelson, Elizabeth, Sandra Smith and Patricia Grimshaw (eds) 2002 Letters from Aboriginal Women of Victoria, 1867-1926, History Department, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne.

Pepper, Phillip 1980 You Are What You Make Yourself to Be: The story of a Victorian Aboriginal family, 1842-1980, Hyland House, Melbourne.

Pepper, Phillip and Tess De Araugo 1985 What Did Happen to the Aborigines of Victoria, Vol. 1: The Kurnai of Gippsland, Hyland House, Melbourne.

PROV (Public Record Office Victoria) 2005 Finding Your Story: A resource manual to the Records of the Stolen Generations in Victoria, PROV, Melbourne.

--and National Archives Australia 1993 My Heart Is Breaking. A joint guide to records about Aboriginal people, PROV and National Archives Australia, Melbourne.

Reviewed by Ian D Clark, University of Ballarat <>
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Author:Clark, Ian D.
Publication:Australian Aboriginal Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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