Cage of Ghosts - 2019 Winner NSW Premier's History Prize - is a landmark publication. In this richly illustrated and thought-provoking book, photographer and writer Jon Rhodes takes the reader on a search for reminders of the almost invisible Aboriginal presence in south-eastern Australia, where the impact of European settlement has been the most intense. Without making a conscious effort, it's possible to travel all over this part of Australia, in contrast to the Centre, and never come across any significant Aboriginal places. Or to ever realise that, only a little over two centuries ago, hundreds of distinct tribes of hunter-gatherers had occupied this land for many thousands of years.
Rhodes examines in vivid and fascinating detail the histories of an extraordinary cast of 19th and early 20th century ethnologists, antiquarians, surveyors, anthropologists and artefact collectors, who were obsessed with documenting Aboriginal culture. He takes up recording where these men left off, journeying from Sydney's Eora rock engravings at Point Piper, Bondi, Allambie Heights and Mt. Ku-ring-gai; to ceremonially carved trees on a Kamilaroi bora ground near Collarenebri in north-western NSW; to the Djab wurrung paintings of Bunjil and his two dingoes in Victoria; and to the Ngunnawal scarred trees in the nation's capital, Canberra.
By intermingling these esoteric narratives with his personal observations, Jon Rhodes solves many of the intriguing puzzles he investigates, but raises the one big question yet to be answered - when will the fundamental truth of the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War finally be publicly acknowledged, and memorialised?