Unsettling Australian Histories: Letters to ancestry from a great-great-grandson by David Denborough



What do you do when you find your family tree has been re-planted in someone else’s yard? *

What do you do as a white Australian when you are invited by Aboriginal friends and colleagues to connect with and honour your ancestry?

These questions become even more complicated when you know your family participated in colonial violence and dispossession. The author’s great-great-grandfather was Samuel Griffith, one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Australian Federation. He was a Premier of Queensland, the first Chief Justice of Australia and intimately involved in drafting the Australian Constitution. Other ancestors of the author participated in the Frontier Wars in North Queensland to claim, ‘settle’ and defend their occupation of Aboriginal lands.

This book is a series of letters written to these ancestors. 

Unsettling Histories also includes contributions from Aboriginal Australians and Australian South Sea Islanders about the ways their ancestors are entwined with the complex histories of Australia’s colonisation.

Created through cross-cultural friendships and partnerships, Unsettling Histories engages with the past to enable action in the present.

About the author: David Denborough is a community worker, writer and teacher at Dulwich Centre. He also coordinates the Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work at The University of Melbourne – a program developed in partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal faculty. 

* Paraphrased from lyrics by Andrea Rieniets 



From the Foreword

by Victoria Grieve-Williams – Aboriginal historian and author of Aboriginal spirituality: Aboriginal philosophy – the basis of Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing.

What an honour it is to be invited to write a foreword for this timely and often startling book that is an important step on a journey towards the decolonisation of Aboriginal people in Australia. It is startling in its honesty and candour, its revelations and in the history that it uncovers. This book offers for settler colonials a way of living in this country that is on Aboriginal terms, recognising Aboriginal values, ethics and ways of being as viable lifeways  . . .  This book is a treasure.

Tom Griffiths, Emeritus Professor of History, Australian National University: 

“I found it a moving and stimulating book, and one that I will think about for quite some time. Denborough is enacting in a more personal and immediate way what historians aim to do all the time, which is to cultivate an enlightening dialogue between the past and the present. I learned much from this book, and not just about Sir Samuel Griffith, but also about our shared challenges today as Australians.” 

Pete Hollams, Farmer from Yorke Peninsula: 

“To me, this is an amazing, insightful account of colonisation right up to where we are today. A personal conversation with history. A must read”


Additional information

Weight 0.63 kg
Dimensions 21 × 15 × 3 cm