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Sociospatial structures of Australian Aboriginal settlements.

Abstract: This article is concerned with the 'sociospatial patterns' of Australian Aboriginal settlements, which are herein defined as the division of settlements into spatial zones, each occupied by an aggregate of domiciliary groups and possessing some common social identity and characteristic social structure. It is argued that sociospatial structures occurred in large Aboriginal camps across the continent to facilitate various social functions. Drawing on 15 case studies in the anthropological literature which were researched between 1896 and 1988, the analysis considers the following principles as explanations or generating devices for sociospatial settlement patterns: kinship and economy, sociogeographic identity, class divisions, and the locational principle of camping in the direction of one's country.

Are such patterns being maintained under conditions of cultural change and sedentarisation? If so, how important is it to acknowledge and preserve these patterns? It is argued that the continuity of a sociospatial structure in an Aboriginal community enables traditional social groups to maintain distinct residential locations in relation to one another, which in turn contributes to the maintenance of a variety of customary behavioural features, including social identity and internal social control.

Introduction

This article is concerned with the sociospatial patterns of Australian Aboriginal settlements--that is to say, the division of settlements into spatial zones, each occupied by an aggregate of domiciliary groups and possessing some common social identity and characteristic social structure. Although the author has maintained an interest in this subject for many years, applied anthropological work in Alice Springs in the late 1980s catalysed the preparation of the original version of this article (Memmott 1990a). (1) The author's client was Tangentyere Council, an Indigenous organisation that provides housing as well as other social welfare services to the residents of 19 Town Camps in Alice Springs. Since the formation of Tangentyere in 1977, its architects had called for a culturally appropriate approach to the planning of new housing layouts in these camps (AHP 1977:2; Dillon 1986:2; Heppell and Wigley 1981:144-6).

Many aspects of the traditional sociospatial patterns of Central Australian camps continue to occur in the Alice Springs Town Camps. In summary, this involves: (i) tribal groups from the various quarters of Central Australia camping around the urban outskirts of its regional capital in the direction of their homelands; and (ii) within these camps, the formation of sub-camps representing further subunits of customary social organisation (Memmott 1994). Within these sub-camps there is a preferred high density of residents, while there is a parallel preference for considerable spacing between such sub-camps. Allied to this preferred residential pattern are culturally distinct concepts of crowding and privacy.

Trying to accommodate these patterns in settlement planning has at times drawn strong criticism from government agencies. In the first place, the wide separation of sub-camps, by necessity, has incurred the additional development costs of long service runs for housing. But more frustrating for the Aboriginal Town Campers was that their repeated applications for more lease areas during the 1980s were at times met with resistance among bureaucrats and politicians who seem to have had an ethnocentric perception of Aboriginal sociospatial structures. They argued that there was ample space for further housing on the existing larger leases, which they regarded as being underdeveloped. Such perceptions were not readily dissuaded by Tangentyere's arguments that such spaces were important buffer zones, required to facilitate (i) the continuation of Aboriginal socio-spacing, (ii) the accompanying minimisation of conflict in an increasingly sedentarised setting, and (iii) the retention and enhancement of cultural identities among Aboriginal groups. Government critics failed to acknowledge the social untenability, discomfort and stress of one tribal group allowing another to randomly reside in their midst.

Although I do not here intend to pursue the specific Tangentyere Council cause any further, the aim herein is nevertheless to examine the general theoretical basis underlying the arguments of its Town Campers and architects. What exactly are the structural properties of such sociospatial patterns in traditional Aboriginal settlements? What were the functions of such? How much continental variation occurred in such patterns? Are such patterns being maintained under conditions of cultural change and sedentarisation? If so, how important is it to acknowledge and preserve such patterns? The answers to such questions have not been readily available, as no systematic literature review (2) and analysis of this subject has been published to date, although there are allusions to the phenomenon embedded in the writings of most Australian field anthropologists. This article begins to redress this situation.

Aboriginal camps

Traditional Aboriginal camps were complex units of place. Size and length of occupation varied. They ranged from small camps occupied by one or several domiciliary groups for a few days, to large camps of a specialised nature containing several or more local groups for up to six weeks or more when concentrated food supplies were available. Such options of camping style were made within seasonal parameters. Seasonally available foods, together with prevailing and local climatic changes, were factors influencing variables such as size and spatial structure of camps, shelter types, hunter/gatherer methods, use of certain artefacts, diet, and movement patterns.

Such seasonal camps were often economically specialised in the better watered areas. For example, at Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Lardil had regular dugong and turtle feasting camps, camps from which to exploit particular runs or schools of fish and crops of fruits or vegetables (water-lily camps, pandanus camps, and so on), and camps to exploit specific materials for artefact manufacture. Most Australian coastal groups enjoyed camps of this type. On the other hand, for desert and semi-desert dwellers, it was the larger perennial water sources (particularly waterholes) that had important settlement implications. They provided venues for large-scale social and ceremonial gatherings, being able to sustain groups for some months with the associated plant and aquatic foods and the animals which came in to drink the water. They were also vital refuges during sustained periods of drought. Writing on this phenomenon in Central Australia, the anthropologist Mervyn Meggitt (1962:55) said:
 Comparatively large groups of perhaps 400 to 500
 Walbiri assembled on these [ceremonial] occasions. I
 may point out here that gatherings of this size were
 more common in the desert than is generally realized.
 Thus...in some localities parties of several hundred
 Aranda and Matuntara congregated for four or five
 months at a time. Similarly...groups of up to 300
 Pintupi were observed in the arid South-west
 Aboriginal Reserve as recently as 1925.


There are similar reports of such large camps for many other parts of Aboriginal Australia. (3)

In these large camps, social interaction was intensified. News and gossip were exchanged and recent deaths, births and fights reviewed. The camp acted as the centre for information dissemination. Individuals continually attended to their position in the social structure so as to facilitate proper kinship behaviour between one another. Attention structures were always operating. Jealousies, disputes and fights were likely, as individuals were in the company of potential marriage partners. There were also many customary forms of spatial behaviour. The location of one's sitting position and orientation was chosen carefully to enable ease of communication with appropriate categories of relatives. When approaching or passing close to domiciliary spaces, auditory signals were purposely used to make others aware of one's presence. At night, sensory space was audibly articulated with forms of public communication (e.g. mourning, quarrels, the discussion of tomorrow's plans) (Memmott 1989, part I).

That Aboriginal residential groups imposed upon themselves a spatial definition in accompaniment with a social identity was amply reported in the early ethnographic literature of the last century (Memmott 1983:55, 57), a period that has been referred to as 'the compiling and collating phase' of Australian anthropology (McCall 1982:7). These reports are very brief and lack empirical detail, however, even though they came from a number of corners of the continent. But they did generate two competing hypotheses concerning the principles generating sociospatial structure in large camps: (i) that groups camped in the direction of their homeland; and (ii) that the domiciliary groups that constituted a sub-camp had close kinship links. In the following analysis, it will be seen that there is an even wider range of generative principles and functional arguments explaining this phenomenon.

Units of analysis

Terminology and unit definition present further problems in analysing case study materials. Differences in the meaning of basic social and settlement units are discernible in the writing of various authors. The word 'camp' is used in a particularly loose and polysemous manner. Some of the relevant units are put forward here with working definitions, in an attempt to introduce some standardisation (and thus precision) into this field of study. In presenting the case study materials, the units of nomenclature as derived by the current author are employed, rather than those of the case study authors. Although put forward on a preliminary working basis, the formulation of these unit definitions is by no means arbitrary. The definitions have been derived from analysis of the literature and from the author's own field observations over 30 years.

The domiciliary space

This is the living area of a domiciliary group, physically defined by (i) the intermittent presence and activities of the residential group, and often its dogs as well, (ii) one or more hearths, (iii) various personal artefacts, (iv) possibly one or more shelters, and (v) all within an area that is to some extent cleared, often resulting in peripheral refuse piles or scatter which articulates a boundary zone. Shelters may or may not be present, depending on prevailing weather conditions and/or the length of duration of intended occupation.

The domiciliary group

The 'domiciliary group' consists of those people, usually (but not always) tied by kinship, who regularly inhabit a domiciliary space. The duration of occupation of the space by the group usually has specific temporal properties, the most common distinction made in the literature being between nocturnal and diurnal domiciliary groups. In the early contact period of colonial Australia, nocturnal domiciliary groups were usually divided into nuclear families, single men's groups and single women's groups. (4) On the other hand, diurnal groups in large camps were often entirely based on gender divisions. These patterns still persist in many remote parts of Indigenous Australia (Memmott and Moran 2001), sometimes in Town Camps, various remote discrete settlements, outstations, and particularly when people camp in the bush, on the beach or at ceremonial grounds, away from sedenterised settlements. In more sedenterised settings with permanent shelters or dwellings, the domiciliary group is often referred to as a 'household'. Types of domiciliary groups will be mentioned in due course.

The domiciliary head

A 'domiciliary head' is a socially recognised leader of a domiciliary group. There may be several domiciliary heads in a group. The head may be male or female and this will be influenced or dictated by the kinship and gender properties of the group as well as other cultural norms. The domiciliary space is often referred to by the name of the domiciliary head (e.g. 'Abbot's Camp').

A camp

A 'camp' is formed by one or more constituent domiciliary groups and their domiciliary spaces clustered within an environmental setting, in which the residents have a social awareness of one another and of their social relations. This does not mean that all members interact on a face-to-face basis, as avoidance rules between certain categories are often operating in such settings. The term 'camp' may refer to either the settlement, to the occupants of the settlement, or to both simultaneously in which case it is used as a 'sociospatial' description (see below). Camps may vary in their length of occupation. Traditional life for many groups was marked by regular movement patterns within a prescribed territory, and thus many camps were occupied for relatively short periods (a day or two). Even when a group on the move stopped to cook a daytime meal, a camp was formed, albeit for an hour or two (sometimes now called a 'dinner camp'). Post-contact life was often characterised by increasing sedentarisation and longer duration of camps.

A sub-camp

When a number of the domiciliary spaces of a camp form a distinct cluster in relation to other domiciliary spaces in the camp, such an aggregate can collectively be termed a 'sub-camp' (see Figure 1 for a simple depiction).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Sub-camp cluster

When a number of the domiciliary spaces of a subcamp form a distinct cluster in relation to other domiciliary spaces in that sub-camp, the former aggregate can collectively be termed a 'sub-camp cluster' (again, see Figure 1).

A camp head person

In some cases, there is an acknowledged 'camp head person' or 'camp boss'. The roles of such a person are likely to include deciding where various people or families should locate themselves to reside in the camp (particularly more distantly related groups), and when to break the camp. Alternatively, this role may be fulfilled by a group of resident elders, although the senior land owner of the camp locale would undoubtedly have a key role.

A sociospatial unit

A 'sociospatial unit' is a group who regularly interact together in a specific space and who maintain a common social identity. Examples of sociospatial units are likely to be domiciliary groups, sub-camps and camps. Other types of sociospatial units are observable in other types of behaviour settings, for example groups attending public corroborees, ceremonies, film screenings, grocery store, canteen, and so on (Memmott 1979, ch. 7).

A sociogeographic unit

A 'sociogeographic unit' is a social category whose members identify with, or who are in certain ways associated with, a specific geographic area which lies or extends beyond the immediate visual field. This type of unit is commonly used in the anthropological theory of Aboriginal land tenure and socioeconomic and religious organisation at the wider environmental scale (e.g. through the use of such terms as estate, range, tribal territory, language group territory). Such units are usually abstract in that the area of environment cannot all be perceived in one physical experience, and because the members of the group may not all come together in space at any one time. It is therefore essentially a cognitive device.

Sociospatial and sociogeographic units therefore both have, as part of their definitions and identity, a spatial component. In the case of sociospatial units, the spatial component can be sensually experienced, while the experience of sociogeographic units is an abstract amalgamation in human memory of temporally segmented experiences from a larger-scale environment.

Other place components of camps

Apart from the domiciliary spaces of domiciliary groups, there were usually other designated places or zones in traditional Aboriginal camps. Such additional units included: (i) one or more water sources (well or waterhole); (ii) a public dancing area; (iii) a public ritual area; and (iv) a defecation area, usually located in an outer zone of the camp area. The outer environs of camps also took on a range of sociospatial properties during settlement occupation in large camps. Meggitt (1962:52-3) once again provides an example from the Warlpiri of Central Australia in the 1950s:
 Within a radius of three or four miles, the
 neighbourhood of the settlement includes a number of
 clearly defined tracts that are closed to men or to
 women. The men cannot wander at will in the southern
 and south-eastern of these--'they have no space there,
 for that is women's country'. Any man who goes there
 alone is thought to be contemplating adultery...The
 northern, north-eastern and eastern environs are men's
 country, where most of the ceremonial activity takes
 place. Women have no space there, for the sacred songs
 and rituals are intrinsically dangerous to them.
 Moreover, in the old days, a woman who trespassed
 would have been killed; nowadays, the men are likely
 to thrash her with boomerangs and perhaps rape
 her...If women or children have to travel by motor-truck
 along either of the two northern roads, they must
 crouch face downward and cover their eyes until they
 have passed the men's country.


The outer environs of the Warlpiri camp were thus divided sociospatially on a gender basis. Transgression of such divisions was likely to result in a degree of embarrassment, shame or fear, and perhaps punishment. Hamilton has also described (1973:214) the stressful and dangerous circumstances of transgressing gender-segregated zones in and around Yangkuntjara camps in the east of the Western Desert.

In the following analysis, there will be little reference to topographical or other environmental features in camps which may have an important effect on sociospatial structure, such as topographical character, surface nature, drainage capacity of soil, availability of building materials, presence of shady areas, threat of harmful reptiles or insects, and so on. Although these aspects are important in the selection and organisation of campsites, case studies are usually not fine-grained enough to report on them (some exceptions being Memmott 1979; O'Connell 1977:124).

Social organisation

Aboriginal societies are characterised as employing a number of integrated subsystems of social organisation, some properties of which need to be incorporated into the ensuing analysis. The types and combinations of such subsystems vary across the continent. They can be broadly broken down into (i) kinship, (ii) social class systems, and (iii) local groups.

Kinship was an all-pervasive medium in Aboriginal camps, generating both links and distancing between particular domiciliary groups. Elkin (1938:69) has examined the relation between the kinship system and everyday behaviour in camps:
 The kinship system...is not only the principal factor to
 be considered in arranging marriages, but also provides
 patterns of behaviour for all of life's situations, the
 patterns being represented or codified by the various
 types of relationship, such as father-son, mother's
 brother-sister's son and so on. The behaviour is both
 positive and negative; that is, a certain relationship
 demands that the two persons concerned perform
 certain duties, or make certain gifts, often mutual; and
 it may also prescribe that certain things be not done.
 The kinship obligations operate right through life and
 lay down what a person must do or not do with regard
 to his various classes of relations from their birth,
 through initiation to illness and death, and any
 complete description of the social and ceremonial life of
 the tribe would show the important part played by
 kinship.


Thus, there are rules for the sharing of, and access to, food and other material items and resources. For example, a woman had to provide food and water for her mother's brother, and a man may ask his brother's wife for food or to obtain a drink (Elkin 1938:71). Among these rules and obligations based on kinship are some that affect sociospatial behaviour, that is, the behaviour of people in spatial relation to one another--either their relative positions, orientations, or the extent of their body contact, seen as an expression of their particular social relations.

By way of example, we can take the various forms of avoidance behaviour observed by certain of the Lakes Group of tribes (around Lake Eyre, Lake Frome, and so on), as documented by Elkin. These show how rules of avoidance affected everyday spatial behaviour, including which way one should face in a small group setting, when one must leave a group upon the arrival of another, and the necessity to sometimes pass information or objects to another through a third person. Such rules are as follows:

* Conversation between 'cross cousins' (e.g. a man and his mother's brother's daughter) was unrestricted, although such a couple always remained at least a few metres apart (Elkin 1938:71).

* While a man must not sit close to his mother's brother, he was free to enter the camp of such a relation whenever he wished (Elkin 1938:70).

* Brothers spoke to one another with reserve and with faces turned away (Elkin 1938:70). Beckett (1967:459) has also noted among these groups that brothers avoided the use of personal names, kinship terms and bodily contact, and that, although a man may enter his brother's camp to obtain food, the latter had to leave the camp while this was happening. (Alternatively, the former could wait outside the camp and have the food brought to him by his brother's wife.)

* One always sat a few metres away from one's mother's mother and mother's mother's brother and kept one's face turned away, although one could talk freely to them (Elkin 1938:71).

* Aman could not sit under the same tree as his wife's mother's brother (and, in some cases, his wife's father), nor go close to his camp, and when such a couple conversed, they did so with averted faces (Elkin 1938:69).

* There had to be complete avoidance observed between a man and his wife's mother (Elkin 1938:69).

* When in the proximity of a dying person or a lifeless body, certain classes of relatives of such an individual had to move right away (Elkin 1938:74).

In still other cases, circumspect behaviour arose from respect between two individuals who had a junior and senior status, respectively, in a common secret totemic cult. Elkin argues (1938:69) that the various rules, avoidances and taboos are much the same throughout Australia, although there were and continue to be many detailed variations that have been categorised by anthropologists, including Elkin himself (for an overview of different types, see Berndt and Berndt 1977:89). It needs to be pointed out that:
 the [behavioural] avoidances are not expressions or
 signs of hostility; they are associated with the making of
 gifts and the performance of duties, often mutual;
 indeed, betrothals and marriages from which some of
 the avoidances arise are themselves acts of reciprocal
 exchange which serve to bind individuals and groups
 together. Moreover, while some of the avoidances arise
 from marriage, being based on the mother-in-law-son-in-law
 situation, other taboos operate between close
 'blood' relatives and members of the same totemic
 clan, and are possibly based on the fundamental
 brother-sister incest taboo, though in some cases, as
 suggested, the avoidance should probably be correlated
 with the respect in which elders of the clan are held by
 the junior members. (Elkin 1938:72-3)


The social class systems (or division systems) involve categories such as moieties (two classes), sections (four classes) or subsections (eight classes). Kinship relations are assigned between members of the various classes, despite the fact that many people may not be related by blood or by marriage. Thus, all people in a society and within an entire region will be related in a classificatory sense through the use of such a system. (See Figure 2 for an Arrerntic subsection system involving eight classes.) Another type of class system is 'generation moieties', in which a person is categorised with both their real and classificatory siblings, cousins, grandparents and grandchildren, while separated from both their real and classificatory parents, uncles, aunts, children, great-grandparents and great-grandchildren--that is, six generations are divided alternately into two categories. An example is shown in Figure 3.

[FIGURES 2-3 OMITTED]

Local groups each have an attachment to a defined tract of land and thereby comprise sociogeographic units, for example patrilineages, patriclans, dialect or language groups. This constitutes another important form of grouping that is manifested in some sociospatial structures of camps.

The case studies

This article summarises the findings of a much lengthier analysis (Memmott 1990a), based on 15 case studies drawn from the anthropological literature and researched between 1896 and 1988 (see Table 1 and Figure 4). The size of the camp populations varies, some being as large as 500 residents. Similarly, the contact depth is variable.

[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]

A few early case studies deal with what could be regarded as 'traditional' camps, that is those established within a context of a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle. However, the majority of case studies deal with 'semi-sedentarised' camps, the occupants of which, although traditionally oriented with regard to their language, domiciliary behaviour and beliefs, had come to be partly or largely economically dependent on Europeans (missionaries, government welfare agencies or pastoral station owners). Nevertheless, shelters are self-constructed and these camps are still typified by a high degree of residential dynamics which is based on customary motives (e.g. residential movement for ceremonies, in response to death or conflict).

The analysis will now proceed by considering the following principles as explanations or generating devices for particular case studies of sociospatial settlement patterns: kinship and economy; sociogeographic identity; social class divisions; and the locational principle.

Kinship and economy

From the analysis of the case studies, avoidance between a male and his mother-in-law was clearly demonstrated to be a widespread kinship requirement in Central Australia (e.g. see the Arrernte and Alyawarr case studies) as well as in the Western Desert, and which shaped sociospatial structure. However, under pressures of change, its spatial component has been clearly relaxed in the south of the Western Desert among Pitjantjatjara groups, avoidance being achieved through shelter and body orientation and visual avoidance, rather than spatial distancing between domiciliary spaces. In Arnhem Land and western Cape York Peninsula, the spatial distancing component was either traditionally absent or could be acceptably dropped under certain circumstances.

Agnatic sociospatial principles (domiciliary clustering based on father-child relationships) were also prevalent among many of these groups. A predominant example is that of the Nunggubuyu of eastern Arnhem Land, who had a three-level agnatic sociospatial structure consisting of patriclan subcamp, patrilineage sub-camp cluster, and domiciliary group. These levels were arranged as nested clusters. (See Figures 5 and 6.) Patriclan sub-camps are also evident in the Alyawarr and Pitjantjatjara data, and in all three cases there was a sociogeographic correlation with patriclan estates. Agnatic ties can be regarded as a competing determinant of sociospatial behaviour to that of male mother-in-law avoidance. However, a preference for maintaining agnatic ties will have as a secondary consequence, by default, mother-in-law spatial avoidance. Thus, one could argue that these two mechanisms were complementary principles achieving the same sociospatial result.

[FIGURES 5-6 OMITTED]

Economic ties between domiciliary groups have also been stressed by two researchers as a generative principle among societies from Central Australia (West Arrernte, Alyawarr case studies). Among the Alyawarr, the strength of such ties was inversely proportional to the intervening distance between the groups. The strongest economic ties were between the members of a sub-camp (and not between sub-camps), a phenomenon which the current author argues helps to express the social identity of subcamps. The current author further argues that economic ties were based on kinship behaviour (i.e. obligatory sharing and gift-giving rules), and if the researchers of the other case studies had investigated economic practices in their study camps as well as spatial behaviour, they would no doubt have found similar economic principles underlying sociospatial behaviour.

Sociogeographic identity and clustering

There is a tendency for high sub-camp resolution in the two Arnhem Land case studies: nine or ten agnatic sub-camps for the Nunggubuyu (population 200-300), and nine language-based sub-camps at Maningrida (population 480). By comparison in Central Australia, the number of Alyawarr sub-camps ranged from three to five (max. 116-208 people), there were just four Warlpiri sub-camps reported (population 400-500), and only two described at Jigalong (population 300). However, this phenomenon needs to be considered in relation to multiple or nested clustering of groups, which imposes a more complex picture.

The Maningrida example (480 persons) illustrates the clustering into sub-camps by language groups, but, in addition, into further sub-camp clusters (total 19) based on various kinship ties (see Figure 7). However, the evidence for the largest language group (nine sub-camp clusters) in this camp indicates there was an intermediate level of sociospatial organisation, only partly structured, but possibly corresponding to some of the four sociogeographic divisions of this language group. There were thus two, and possibly three, tiers of clustering in this camp.

[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]

In comparison to this example, the sub-camps of the Warlpiri, although linguistically homogenous, were based on four sociogeographic divisions, intermediate between that of language group and patriclans. This is the only tier of clustering reported for this society. As the Warlpiri camps were of a comparable size to the Maningrida camp, we note far more extensive fission into sub-camps among the Arnhem Landers, not to mention further resolution into sub-camp clusters. There is another comparable example of a camp from Mornington Island around 1914, with a maximum population of 400. Like the Warlpiri, this was also divided into four sub-camps based on sociogeographic units at an intermediate level of structure between language group and patriclans.

It is difficult to identify a single common social function of clustering for all of the case studies, given the variation in other sociospatial properties. In the cases where sociospatial units correspond closely to sociogeographic ones, it could be argued that the former are a behavioural manifestation of the latter, derived from the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle. That is, the smaller 'building blocks' of camps comprise families who traditionally associated for most of the seasonal year (e.g. a patrifilial group, or a patriclan), while the members of each larger-scale sociospatial unit (a sociogeographic division, or a dialect group), although associating at times for economic or ritual purposes, would do so less frequently throughout the year than the former, but more frequently than those groups collectively making up the largest camps. Thus, familiarity and ease with residential neighbours would be the underlying basis of the sociospatial ties and tiers in the larger camps.

This hypothesis is supported by Ursula McConnel, who writes (1934:335) of western Cape York Peninsula: 'Throughout the camp there extends from one camp fire to another a chain of kinship, more intimate between some families than others, closer between some clans than others, and between some tribes than others. This relative intimacy largely corresponds to the local proximity of inter-marrying clans and tribes on their own grounds.' As a universal hypothesis for Aboriginal Australia, however, this is clearly at odds with the case studies based on class divisions.

Social class divisions

Social class subsystems of social organisation had a dominant role in the generation and elaboration of sociospatial organisation in Central Australia. The most outstanding example of nested clustering is the Arrernte camp reported by Spencer and Gillen in 1896, based on eight subsection classes (see Figure 8). Here there was a primary spatial division within a nocturnal camp into patrimoieties, with the second division based on patricouples, the third on subsections, and the fourth structured according to direction by homeland. Unfortunately, no population size is given for this camp.

[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]

In this example, diurnal single-gender camps also formed, being based on patricouple links and consisting of both classificatory (5) father-son pairs and classificatory 'auntie-niece' pairs (i.e. a woman and her brother's daughter). There were also numerous avoidance rules for various categories of class relatives, ranging from the broader scale of patrimoiety avoidance down to the more specific (e.g. mother-in-law avoidance).

A group of Alyawarr (Lake Nash case study) were also reported as employing a four-class (section) subsystem in their sociospatial behaviour, but it was used to generate a sociospatial structure based on generation moieties. The separation of fathers and sons was in contrast to the above examples, but there was still the possibility of a type of agnatic grouping in this arrangement (i.e. ego and his brother, father's father, son's son). This arrangement achieved the clustering of eligible marriage partners and, simultaneously, spatial avoidance of their parents-in-law.

Divisions based on generation moieties were also prevalent in the Western Desert. Examples were: nocturnal single-gender groups; public post-circumcision, ritual camps; and nocturnal, male, ritual singing groups. (The last involved totemic symbols associated with the two 'generation' moieties.)

Agnatic principles thus also underlay sociospatial organisation generated by these forms of class systems, both the patricouple or patrimoiety structures and the generation moieties. In both cases, these sociospatial structures simultaneously achieve male ego-mother-in-law spatial avoidance. However, at the same time, they place together people from different sociogeographic divisions.

An unusual type of moiety division was employed in the Darling River region (western New South Wales) for diurnal camps: that of 'blood' moieties, a subsystem involving unusual symbolic categories (associations of human blood types, tree sap types, tree sap viscosity, tree shade areas, and particular sitting positions in such shade for groups having the different blood types).

Locational principle

In addition to principles that generated group identities for individual clusters, another generative principle was employed across the continent: locational prescription. It has been reported in Victoria, western Queensland, western Cape York Peninsula, eastern and northern Arnhem Land, and the Western Desert. (6)
 Roth (1897:134) observed it in Boulia, and Thomas
 (1906:75) in central Australia--'the southern men...
 camp to the south and the northern men to the north.'
 Smyth (1878:vol.1,124) provides an example of a
 Victorian camp of about 800 people representing eight
 tribes which were arranged 'as if they had been set by
 compass.' McConnel (1934:335), whilst speaking of the
 Wik-Munkan and their neighbours in Cape York
 Peninsula, maintains that 'in any large camp met
 together for economic or ceremonial purposes, tribes
 will take up their position according to the direction
 whence they came--N.S.E. or W.' Downing (1974:5)
 mentions that this pattern is a contemporary
 phenomenon at Haast's Bluff as does Reser (1976:18) at
 Maningrida, Milingimbi, Ramangining, Nungalala;
 similarly, Gould (1969:173) for the Ngatatjara who
 consider the custom as 'traditional desert etiquette',
 and camp with up to 300 metres between tribal groups.
 (Memmott 1983:57)


There is not a unity of agreement in the case studies about the precise nature of this locational prescription. Many reports talk of camping in the direction of homeland--that is, a directional prescription which may have been generated simply from the direction of approach of incoming groups into a large camp. A causal hypothesis for this phenomenon is the facilitating of ease of retreat in the case of conflicts arising in the camp.

However, an alternative hypothesis, and probably more plausible, is that there are culturally distinct notions of respect and privacy associated with such approach behaviour and campsite selection behaviour. Some researchers speak of sub-camp groups replicating sociogeographic patterns, as if there was a conscious attempt to generate a sociospatial structure signifying a map of the land tenure of local groups. But once again, in the Arrernte examples, as outlined above, the arguments concerning approach behaviour do not hold, as the locational principle was subordinate to a division based on classes (patrimoieties). There would have thus been less emphasis on replicating abstract cognitive maps in the locational behaviour of these domiciliary groups.

Transformation of sociospatial properties

There are clearly two contrasting types of processes that may give rise to the generation of sociospatial structures. One involves the arrival of a large group at a fresh campsite who then consciously implement sociospatial divisions and sub-camp site selection for subgroups according to shared overt rules. The other type of process involves 'social accretion' whereby an individual or a domiciliary group arrives at any existing camp and attaches themselves to another domiciliary group on the basis of some social link. Such an attachment may set off other relocations of domiciliary groups in the camp, particularly due to avoidance rules or perhaps economic ties, until a satisfactory arrangement results. At a certain threshold of size and complexity of relationships, subcamp formation occurs and eventually, in some instances, sub-camp-cluster formation and even finer-grained subdivisions of nested clustering.

In many cases, sociospatial generation would have involved a composite of both of the above types of processes. Sociospatial transformation also occurred on a daily basis, as the more tightly structured nocturnal groupings gave way in the morning to diurnal groups for the day's activities and vice versa in the evening. There is one example in the literature of a total internal transformation of a nocturnal structure in a short period of days, that of a Western Desert public ceremonial camp (Wallace 1976).

Functions of sociospatial structures

From the above analysis, a range of functional explanations can be put forward to explain Indigenous sociospatial structure in Australian camps:

* expressing and maintaining kin relationships through behavioural style;

* expressing and reinforcing social group identities of various forms;

* expression of the economic dependency between and within domiciliary groups;

* achieving a certain style of group privacy in camps;

* minimising conflict between groups through distancing and concepts of 'respect'; and

* safety of retreat to homeland.

These catalysing factors or generating principles do not all occur at once, although several of them may be prevalent in a particular case study.

Conclusion

Sociospatial structures occurred in large Aboriginal camps across the continent to facilitate various social functions. Common properties include organisation based on kinship and locational principles, a tendency to sub-clustering above a certain threshold of population size, and frequent transformation of structures. Kinship principles are dominated by agnatic ties and male-mother-in-law avoidance, both of which can be seen as complementary means of pattern generation. Differences between case studies comprise the extent of nested clustering and the types of sociogeographic or social class units utilised in generating sociospatial group identity in camps. However, there is no neat pattern of regional distribution of these differing principles within the data corpus. Notwithstanding, the use of social class systems appears mostly confined to the interior. Such systems that are reported as being employed can be categorised into patrimoiety and patricouple structures, generation moieties, and 'blood' moieties. The sociogeographic units utilised in generating sociospatial divisions consist of language or dialect groups and local groups (patriclans, patrilines, patrifiliates), and other levels of sociogeographic structure intermediate between these two.

The author is currently analysing case studies of sedentarised Aboriginal settlements. This second stage of the study addresses the questions: Are sociospatial patterns being maintained under conditions of cultural change and sedentarisation? If so, how important is it to acknowledge and preserve such patterns? Preliminary analysis indicates they may have been lost in some communities, while in others they have survived for contact periods of up to 150 years and continue to represent important social identity systems (e.g. see case study on Wilcannia, in western New South Wales, in Memmott 1991). However, in many cases they are under threat from regimented grid town planning and unaware bureaucrats allocating houses to tenants on housing department or co-op waiting lists. There is thus a need to sensitise such professionals and paraprofessionals in the surveying, town planning and housing sectors, to the cultural needs and rights of Indigenous residents.

I shall provide one last case study to demonstrate this further. Taylor (1979) provides an analysis from western Cape York which is a comparison of two mission settlements, in one of which sociospatial patterns were preserved by town planners, while in the other they were ignored. These settlements were Mitchell River, now Kowanyama, and Edward River, now Pormpuraaw. Kowanyama was established in 1905 and Edward River was formed considerably later, in 1938. By the 1940s their inmates were occupying single-roomed framed huts of local vernacular materials. In the mission settlements (prior to mid-1960s), villagers could choose within fairly wide limits, where and near whom they wished to reside, resulting in Indigenous sociospatial patterns.

After a particularly destructive cyclone in 1964, the Queensland state government took over administration of the two settlements and commenced large-scale housing programs, installing Western houses within a town plan format. At Kowanyama, Taylor's analysis of the post-cyclone 'new town' produced no clear sociospatial pattern. He attributed this to the lack of attention of the town planners to the traditionally based layout of the old village, and to the allocation of houses by government officers, as they were completed, on the basis of individual family needs. He notes that a consequence of this was the rapid decline of traditional language usage. There was little manifestation of other forms of behaviour to reinforce the social identity of these groups. At Edward River, on the other hand, whether 'by accident or design', the new town plan incorporated the old settlement layout of two residential sectors (Thaayorre and Mungkanh). Within both of these residential sectors:
 the vernacular languages were the main vehicles of
 communication. People identified strongly with their
 particular side. In private conversation, the men of one
 side tended to disparage the men of the other,
 attributing to them many sins ranging from
 slovenliness, meanness, dirtiness, through to insobriety
 and pugnacity and even to sorcery and incest. Like
 Kowanyama, each side fielded competing 'island'
 dance teams during festival occasions but the element
 of competition also extended to adult and children's
 team sports and traditional secular dances ... Work
 gangs tended to be drawn almost exclusively from one
 side or the other. Each side maintained its own
 gambling ground which was patronised by both sides
 on alternate nights. The division was maintained
 during public meetings, at the picture, theatre, in
 church and even in the order in which groups of people
 did their shopping. Rivalry between the two sides
 rarely broke out into overt hostility and violent
 disputes were usually contained within one section
 with members of the other section standing on the
 sidelines playing the part of virtuous onlookers. (Taylor
 1979:220)


This case study supports the argument that the continuity of a sociospatial structure in an Aboriginal community enables traditional social groups to maintain distinct residential locations in relation to one another, which in turn contributes to the maintenance of a variety of customary behavioural features, including social identity and internal social control.
 Space is...everywhere a function of the forms of social
 solidarity, and these are in turn a product of the
 structure of society. The realisation of these differences
 in systematically different spatial forms is because ...
 society has a certain spatial logic and ... because space
 has a certain social logic to it. (Hillier and Hanson
 1984:22)

Table 1 Sociospatial analysis of Aboriginal
camps--details of case studies

Case study groups Time Contact depth at Size of
 of time of study settlement
 study pop'n

Arrerntic groups

1. Central 1896, In 1896 there had No data.
arrernte 1901, been three
 1920s decades of non
 disruptive
 contacts

2. West Arrernte 1974- Hermannsburg No data.
 75 est. about 1873.

3. Alyawarr 1967 Contact since
 1870s, disruption
 in 1920s & 30s.

4. Alyawarr 1971- Contact since Ranges from
(sample of 15 75 1870s, disruption 20 in 208 and
camps) in 1920s & 30s. averages about
 90 (5-35 dom.
 groups av. 20)

Other Central
Australian groups

5. Warlpiri 1953 Contact since Up to 400 or
 55 1860s, intensifying 500 max.
 after 1898;
 conflict in 1930s
 then
 revitalisation.

6. Pitjantjatjara 1941 Contact for 25-50 150-200 with a
dialect groups yrs. Strong permanent
 cultural core of about
 retention 80

7. Nyatunyatjara, 1966 Sporalic contact 370 including
Tjilanatjara 67 since 1870s 60 of study
Ngatatjara Mission presence group.
 from 1934.

8. Gardudjara, 1963- Mission presence 300 (mid-
Maunljildjara & 70 from 1946. 1960s).
neighbours Unsuccessful
 attempt at
 directed change.

9. Jangkuntjara, 1971- No data. 70-80 (one
(Pitjantjatjara 72 main camp
dialed group) only).

10. Jangkuntjara, 1969- Ooldea camp 300
Pitjantjatjara 71 moved in Yalata
 in 1954 (soe 6),
 Strong cultural
 retention.

11. Pitjantjatjara 1966- Ernabella No data.
 76 Mission est. in
 1937.

Amata area

Amhem Land
groups

12. Gidjingali and 1960 Trading post est. 480
neighbours 1949 to stem
 westward migration
 to Darwin.

13. Nunggubuyu 1971- Traditional life Max. 200 to
 72 until 1950s 300.
 followed by
 mission presence.

Gulf of
Carpentaria
groups

14. Lardill, Yangkal 1973- Mission presence Est. of about
and adjacent 76 from 1914. 200.
mainland groups Disruptive
 change 1921-49.

15. Ngiyampaa, c.1902 First contacts in No data.
Wangaayhuwan, & 1840s. Disruptiom
Muruwari, Badjiri c.1921 and major
 change, 1850 to
 1900.

Case study groups Numbers of sub-camps Settlement location
 in largest camps

Arrerntic groups

1. Central 2 sub-camps for section Alice Springs, NT.
arrernte groups. Four subsection
 groups; divisions by
 moicty (2) patricouple (4)
 and subsection (8).

2. West Arrernte Not specified (probably Outstations near
 no sub-camps). Hermannsburg, NT.

3. Alyawarr 2 sub-camps. Lake Nash cattle
 station, NT.

4. Alyawarr 3-5 sub-camps each with Camps attached to
(sample of 15 10 75 people or 2 12 MacDonald Downs
camps) dom groups. cattle station, NT.

Other Central
Australian groups

5. Warlpiri 4 sub camps. Yuendumu, Hooker
 Ck, Phillip Ck, NT.

6. Pitjantjatjara Not specified. Oddca, SA.
dialect groups

7. Nyatunyatjara, Unclear, at least 2 broad Warburton, WA.
Tjilanatjara sub camps
Ngatatjara

8. Gardudjara, 2 sub-camps Jigalong, WA.
Maunljildjara &
neighbours

9. Jangkuntjara, One camp, no Everard Range
(Pitjantjatjara sub-camps. (later Mimili), SA.
dialed group)

10. Jangkuntjara, Not specified. Yalata.
Pitjantjatjara

11. Pitjantjatjara 2 major sub-camps. North of SA (prob.
 Ernabella).

Amata area

Amhem Land
groups

12. Gidjingali and 5 sub camps, 18 sub Maningrida, NT.
neighbours camps.

13. Nunggubuyu 9 or 10 sub-camps (each Numbulwar, NT.
 with 1 to 4 sub camp
 clusters).

Gulf of
Carpentaria
groups

14. Lardill, Yangkal 4 major sub-camps. Mornington Island.
and adjacent Qld.
mainland groups

15. Ngiyampaa, No details. Upper Darling River
Wangaayhuwan, Basin, NSW.
Muruwari, Badjiri

Case study groups Traditional or Sources
 semi-sedentarised
 camp

Arrerntic groups

1. Central Traditional. Gillen 1896
arrernte Spencer and
 Gillen 1927.

2. West Arrernte Semi-sedentarised Stoll et al
 outstation camps. 1979.

3. Alyawarr Semi-sedentarised Yallop 1968.
 since mid-1930s.

4. Alyawarr Semi-sedentarised Denham
(sample of 15 since mid-1930s. 1975;
camps) O'Connell
 1977, 1987.

Other Central
Australian groups

5. Warlpiri Semi-sedentarised Meggitt
 since 1942-49. 1962.

6. Pitjantjatjara Semi-sedentarised Berndt &
dialect groups Berndt 1942.

7. Nyatunyatjara, Study groups semi Gould 1969.
Tjilanatjara sedentarised for 2
Ngatatjara yrs, but resst of pop'n
 for 30 or more yrs.

8. Gardudjara, Since 1946. Tonkinson
Maunljildjara & 1966, 1974,
neighbours 1978.

9. Jangkuntjara, Semi-sedentarised Hamilton
(Pitjantjatjara 1972.
dialed group)

10. Jangkuntjara, Semi-sedentarised White 1977,
Pitjantjatjara 1981.

11. Pitjantjatjara

Amata area Traditional Wallace
 ceremonial camp. 1976.

Amhem Land
groups

12. Gidjingali and Semi sedentarised Hiatt 1965.
neighbours since 1957.

13. Nunggubuyu Reconstruction of Biernoff
 traditional camp. 1974.

Gulf of
Carpentaria
groups

14. Lardill, Yangkal Reconstruction of Memmott
and adjacent traditional camp. 1983.
mainland groups

15. Ngiyampaa, Traditional. Mathews
Wangaayhuwan, 1904; Beckett
Muruwari, Badjiri 1959;
 Radcliffe-
 Brown 1923,
 1930.


NOTES

(1.) This article is based on research done mainly in the 1980s which was financially assisted by the Planning Centre of the University of Sydney; Tangentyere Council, Alice Springs; the Local Government Section of the Commonwealth Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs; the Ian Buchan Fell Research Centre and the Planning Centre of the Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney; and the Department of Architecture, University of Queensland (Memmott 1990a). An earlier and shorter version was written in 1990 and has appeared in a conference proceedings (Memmott 1990b). The article was produced with the resources of the Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, University of Queensland (www.aboriginalenvironments.com).

(2.) Ashort review is to be found in Memmott (1983:53-8). The earlier paper by the author has already been mentioned (Memmott 1990b).

(3.) For example, Kaberry (1939:29, 30) reported for the Forrest River/Wyndham region of northwest Australia that camps of up to 200 people were structured sociospatially according to both kinship and local or sociogeographic organisation. Memmott (1985:8) has summarised literature reports on the sizes of large camps for the internal Barkly and Upper Georgina basins in the eastern Northern Territory. Maximum numbers reported there were 300.

(4.) An exception may well be areas of Arnhem Land, where certain Yolngu camps did not appear to have a distinct category of single women's nocturnal domiciliary groups, whereas they did have diurnal women's groups and both diurnal and nocturnal men's groups (pers. comm., S. Fantin, PhD student, Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, University of Queensland, researching aspects of avoidance behaviour and house design, May 2002).

(5.) The term 'classificatory' in this article refers to the classes generated by the various Aboriginal classification subsystems (moieties, sections, and so on), and is not used in the more conventional anthropological sense of collateral relatives.

(6.) Much of this literature has been reviewed in Memmott (1983: 55, 57).

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Paul Memmott

Aboriginal Environments Research Centre, University of Queensland
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