Fake history, trauma, and memory

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australian Studies Journal [Zeitschrift für Australienstudien]


German Association for Australian Studies


School of Arts and Humanities




Arthur, P. L. (2021). Fake History, Trauma, and Memory. Australian Studies Journal, 35, 31-43. https://doi.org/10.35515/zfa/asj.35/2021


This paper considers two very different cases of intergenerational trauma caused by forced displacement of communities from homelands based on their ethnicity. One relates to the Ukrainian diaspora in Australia, with which I have a connection through my mother and her side of the family in Adelaide and Perth, and the other to the Aboriginal “diaspora” of displaced First Nations people across Australia. Both have a history of communal loss on a massive scale, and in both cases the long-term effects of this history have been intensified by the extraordinary success and resilience of systematic official policies of denial, obliteration, or falsification in official historical records and narratives of the cataclysmic events that forced their displacement. The trauma is thereby rendered invisible to the wider community, causing a second layer of dispossession within the diaspora through the killing of the story of loss and replacing it with a fake story – or silence – or a combination of them working together to establish a widely believed and accepted yet fake history. But within families and across the diaspora, the memories live on – of traumatic events that tell a completely different story. They are passed down in a process described as the “guardianship” within diasporas of “a traumatic personal and generational past with which some of us have a ‘living connection’”.



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