Decolonisation is about breaking down systemic hierarchies, where European narratives have been considered superior to any others. In this talk, I will be asking whether this can be applied to the way we talk about Australian mammals.
My argument is that the ways in which museums and other sources represent Australian animals today are often fundamentally pejorative, and reflect an ongoing subconscious colonial bias. This attitude begins with the colonists and explorers of the 17th and 18th centuries, but remains detectable in the ways that Australian wildlife is interpreted today, in museums, TV programmes and in the popular zeitgeist. This may sound extreme, but I will be asking whether the zoological and socio-historical stories of marsupials, platypuses and echidnas may intertwine to have severe impact on global politics.
I will explore some common tropes for how Australia’s wildlife appears in our museums, and propose language and narratives to avoid perpetuating colonial narratives in museum interpretation.