Archives as 'Thin Places'

Resurrecting ghosts of Australia's earliest refugees through poetics of resistance

Drawing on the Irish notion of a ‘thin place’ (where the veil between us and the spirit world is so thin that we can sense those on the other side), this paper outlines an approach to archival research and creative practice which seeks to reawaken and give voice to the ghosts of some of Australia’s earliest refugees. This work uncovers new connections between the Great Irish Famine, a humanitarian crisis which halved Ireland’s population and the cyclical incarceration and abuse of young women in New South Wales in the 1860s and 1870s—to highlight a small but significant, yet largely unwritten, chapter in Irish-Australian history. Employing poetics of resistance incorporating elements of these young women’s outlawed native Irish language and culture, this work seeks to decolonise their memories and restore voice to those who suffered the brutal consequences of colonisation in both their native and adopted countries.