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Finding the Third Space

Biraban and Threlkeld: Finding the Third Space

ALMOST 200 years ago, in Newcastle, at Australia’s most brutal colonial outpost, two men became this nation’s first civil rights activists. Biraban, a bilingual Aboriginal man and leader of Newcastle/Lake Macquarie’s First Nations peoples, and the Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, a British missionary sent to convert these people to the word of God became mates.

They captured songs, poems, ceremonies and dreaming stories, and represented Aboriginal people in court; whose testimony could not be accepted because they could not swear an oath on the Bible. Together, they undertook the first systematic study of an Aboriginal language anywhere in the country and created the first ever translation of the Bible into an Aboriginal language.

It’s also the first time an Aboriginal language was printed. Their work was so thorough that it is still being used to this day to reconstruct language. This is a truly amazing story, told for the first time.

This film took two years to make. It uses decades of research and is told using both First Nation and European historians, academics and linguists. If these two men could find the Third Space between the Aboriginal and European worlds two hundred years ago, surely this should be a shining example for what could be achieved today. 

MMM … Issue 33, Sept. 2022