UNE research paper on indigenous languages breaks journal record

Published 31 March 2016
Nick Reid

Associate Professor Nick Reid, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences

A University of New England research paper on indigenous oral histories in the journal, Australian Geographer, has been viewed nearly 18,000 times, setting a new record for the publication.

The paper is co-written by the University of New England linguist, Associate Professor Nick Reid and the University of Sunshine Coast‘s Professor Patrick Nunn.

“We looked at 21 stories from around Australia’s coast with all the tell tale signs of coastal flooding. We argue that these stories (and probably many others) recall coastal inundation as sea levels reached their present level at least 6,000 – 7,000 years ago.”

The paper has been viewed almost 18,000 times in seven weeks, edging out Indirect Tracking of Drop Bears Using GNSS Technology’ as the most read article in the journal’s 89-year history.

Australian Geographer Editor Professor Chris Gibson described the paper as a landmark piece of scholarship that bridges geography, coastal science, anthropology and Aboriginal studies.

“The product of a gigantic amount of collaborative and synthetic research, Patrick Nunn and Nick Reid’s article connects Aboriginal oral histories of coastal sea-level change in Australia with the scientific record, across many thousands of years, circumnavigating the entire continent,” Professor Gibson wrote.

Associate Professor Nick Reid said the paper called ‘Aboriginal Memories of Inundation of the Australian Coast Dating from More than 7000 Years Ago,’ has exceeded all expectations.

“The wide interest generated by this paper is very gratifying because it suggests a willingness to reevaluate what feats of oral transmission non-literate peoples may be capable of.”

He said the paper presents convincing evidence that Australian Aboriginal people kept telling stories across thousands of years that seem to record events we now know were real – the inundation of Australia’s continental shelf on which Aboriginal people had previously been living.

“Unbroken story telling on this scale defies generally held beliefs about how accurate non-literate oral traditions might be, and provides compelling evidence of cultural continuity.”



Associate Professor Nick Reid, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences 02 6773 3400 or nreid@une.edu.au