Migration Memories
Robinvale perspectives


Kay Grose: A colonial migration perspective


In this great loop of the river – finding the past 1943

Kay’s story was driven by her interest in the first colonial settlers in Robinvale and the Indigenous people who were there before them. The development of the material for display was a collaboration that drew on her research and knowledge as well as that of local Aboriginal elders and a descendant of the first white settler. 

Kay GroseKay speaking with Mary. Photograph: Jo Sheldrick, 2007.   Kay's display
View of Kay’s story on display at the National Museum of Australia. Photograph: Lannon Harley, 2007. Courtesy National Museum of Australia.


Mapping the personal, the local and historical

In the exhibition of Kay’s story, maps, images and text were used to show the migration context of the first British landholder in Robinvale, John Grant. Grant came to Australia in 1840 on an assisted passage from a region of Scotland where many people had lost their livelihood through eviction from their small landholdings.

map of migration
map of Victoria
Detail from Kay Grose, panel two, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay. Cllick to enlarge.   Detail from Kay Grose, panel four, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay. Cllick to enlarge.

Maps, images and text also showed the position of Aboriginal people in the region from the time of the arrival of settlers like John Grant.


The local

John Grant arrived in the area to take up land for his cattle in 1847. As grazing and farming intensified the Latji Latji people lost their traditional lands. Some of their descendants returned in the 1950s when fruit picking and other work became available. When Kay arrived in Robinvale from Melbourne in 1943 to teach at the Robinvale Primary School, she started to find out about some of this history through her interest in her local environment.

Detail from Kay Grose, panel one, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay.


The personal in historical contex

display panel
Detail from Kay Grose, panel three, Migration Memories: Robinvale. Design: Paula McKindlay. Click to enlarge.  

Kay had remembered a very interesting story, told by another early settler, about the arrival of John Grant’s family and their first meeting with Aboriginal people. Mary was able to find the story and it was used to highlight the personal experience of contact between new settlers and traditional owners. Comments by Mary, Kay, and Aboriginal elder, Aunty Rose, were included to show what they each saw in this story.






Looking back on the project

Kay Grose
  Kay Grose. Photograph: Jo Sheldrick, 2007.

At first I didn’t know what to make of you or your project… I was feeling my way around… I have no qualifications as an historian - only this enormous interest in history… I can’t help having that great curiosity… I’m quite intrigued really at the way you’ve been able to connect the present to the past through these little bits and pieces that I’ve been able to find and which you’ve been able to develop into further leads or connections.

In the absence of obvious Robinvale connections to the colonial migration period, Kay’s curiosity about her place’s Aboriginal and colonial past was a vital personal link into that history. Her local history knowledge, and the understandings of local Aboriginal elders, provided me with directions for finding relevant examples of wider historical material that suggest some answers to her questions about the experience of local Aboriginal people as a result of colonisation.