Why must Miranda go?

Since the novel’s publication in 1967, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and its story of the inexplicable disappearance of schoolgirls and their teacher in 1900, has engrossed the Australian collective imaginary. For fifty years, associations with the fictional vanishing of white women have persistently troubled and haunted visitors to Hanging Rock. Each year, countless tourists climb the rock, calling out for the main character “Miranda”, and retell the tragic story of her loss. It’s time to end this habit. Let’s ask ourselves:

Why do we obsessively retell a myth of white vanishing?

Why don’t we cast as much attention to the actual losses and traumas that took place at the Rock?

Whose absences matter?

 

The region in which Hanging Rock is located, like the rest of Victoria and Australia, was settled by European invaders who through introduced diseases, violence and forced occupation, killed or displaced the original Aboriginal inhabitants. The effects of settler colonialism have severely disrupted the transmission of oral history so vital in Indigenous Australian cultures, which means the available knowledge about the traditional custodians of Hanging Rock and their cultural practices is fragmentary.

This campaign aims to direct attention to the real losses and traumas at Hanging Rock: the dispossession of Aboriginal people and destruction of culture which actually took place. It is initiated by independent, non-Aboriginal Australians who seek to challenge our fixation with white vanishing myths.

We implore non-Aboriginal Australians to learn their difficult place better:

Remember our troubling past

Remove the white vanishing myth

Rethink the stories we tell at Hanging Rock

MIRANDA MUST GO

 

Our Aims

Remember our troubling past

Hanging Rock is haunted by a convenient fiction rather than an uncomfortable truth.

In comparison to the considerable information made available to tourists about the fictional schoolgirls’ disappearance at Hanging Rock, there is scant material about the real Aboriginal losses and traumas that have occurred in the area.

Historians have concluded that Aboriginal people of the region were exposed to introduced diseases, such as deadly smallpox outbreaks, or were killed and displaced by early settlers. In 1863, Aboriginal people who survived were relocated to the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve in Healesville. This history of violence, abuse, dispossession, invasion and theft of Aboriginal land is cursorily mentioned or ignored in tourist presentations at the site.

The Miranda Must Go campaign calls for the acknowledgement of the negative impact of white settlement at Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock visitors should be haunted by this history of dispossession and violence, rather than the mythic vanishing of white schoolgirls.

Remove the white vanishing myth

Picnic at Hanging Rock is obsessively retold and reaffirmed at Hanging Rock.

The local tourist industry capitalises on Hanging Rock’s association with Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Tourist pamphlets and road signs are branded with the slogan “Experience the Mystery”. The interpretive Discovery Centre at the foot of Hanging Rock dedicates considerable display space to the myth. Every year around February 14 (the date when the girls go missing in the novel) Peter Weir’s film adaptation is screened outdoors at the Hanging Rock Reserve. Recently it was announced that Fremantle Media and Foxtel will film at the site a new six-part miniseries adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock, to be broadcast in 2017.

Cultural theorist, Elspeth Tilley, has written about the prevalence of the white vanishing myth in Australian culture, stating that the persistence and repetition of this trope “is engaged in a strategy of forgetting and displacing the non-white, and installing itself as a constituent of the dominant national mythology”.

The Miranda Must Go campaign demands the end to the habitual retelling of Lindsay’s story at Hanging Rock. We seek to lay the ground for a decolonialised future for Hanging Rock which is free of associations with white vanishing. 

Rethink the stories we tell at Hanging Rock

The wrong losses and absences are commemorated at Hanging Rock.

The available knowledge about the original Aboriginal custodians of Hanging Rock is fragmented and incomplete. Three different groups, the Wurundjeri, Taungurong and Djadja Wurrung, have their traditional boundaries close to Hanging Rock and it is believed the site was an important inter-tribal ceremonial meeting place. The damaging effects of colonial occupation, however, have severely disrupted the transmission of oral history and connection to country so crucial to Aboriginal culture.

For this reason, recent local community efforts to recoup Hanging Rock’s Aboriginal name have proven difficult. At least six European names – ‘Mount Diogenes’, ‘Diogenes’ Head’, ‘Diogenes Monument’, ‘Dryden’s Rock’, ‘Dryden’s Monument’, and ‘Hanging Rock’ – have been documented for the site but there are limited records of an Aboriginal name. An engraving of Hanging Rock by German naturalist, William Blandowski, made during an expedition in 1855/56 records the word “Anneyelong”. It is commonly presumed that this is the Aboriginal name for Hanging Rock. Historian and toponymist Ian D. Clark believes Blandowski misheard the name, and the word was possibly “Ngannelong” or something similar.

This campaign recognises that efforts to restore Aboriginal language and stories are crucial, and are currently being undertaken by the traditional owners with support from local council and community groups. The Miranda Must Go campaign, however, demands that Australians also confront the signs of missing or partial knowledge and openly recognise them as distressing consequences of settler invasion of Aboriginal land. The stories that should trouble us at Hanging Rock should be these real Aboriginal losses and traumas, not white lost-in-the-bush myths.

Diogenes Monument “Anneyelong” looking Sth towards Mt Macedon, by W. V. Blandowski, effect & engraving by J. Redaway & Sons (1855-1856).

Latest News

History research

In recent months, the Miranda Must Go campaign has been contacted by a number of residents from the Hanging Rock/Macedon Ranges region who wish to learn and share more information about our past and how dispossession has affected the area’s Aboriginal people. There are number of local histories written about the Macedon Ranges, but few have focussed on …

How It Goes

On Tuesday 14 February 2017, Miranda Must Go campaigners held an Anti-Picnic at Hanging Rock. We gathered to contest the site’s habitual associations with Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and instead draw attention to the real losses and traumas Aboriginal people have experienced due to European settlement. As Valentine’s Day is the date when the …

Media

#MirandaMustGo campaign resources

ARTICLE – Amy Spiers, “What Really Happened at Hanging Rock?“, VICE Australia, 3 February 2017

VIDEO – #MirandaMustGo campaign video:

VIDEO – Aboriginal land rights activist Robbie Thorpe explains why campaigns to contest dominant white myths are important: 

VIDEO – “Experience the Mystery”, a 15 min video by artists Amy Spiers and Zoe Scoglio that reflects on what is known and not known about Hanging Rock:

PLAY – “How it Goes” by writer Elpseth Tilley:

How it Goes, a play by Elspeth Tilley by amyspiers on Scribd

#MirandaMustGo in the news

Chris Conti, “Did It Really Happen?: Picnic at Hanging Rock“, Sydney Review of Books, 29 September 2017

Simone Fox Koob, “’Miranda must go’: push to end Hanging Rock’s enduring myth“, The Australian, 23 September 2017

Laura Hindmarsh, “Six films that changed my life (for better or worse)“, MCA Blog, 14 September 2017

Joseph Earp, “How White Australia and Picnic At Hanging Rock have tarnished the legacy of a sacred Aboriginal site“, The Brag, 26 April 2017

Jessica Caroline, “interview with Amy Spiers”, CHASM Journal, 21 April 2017

Mary-Anne Thomas MP Member for Macedon interview, “Pod On The Hill Episode 9″, Australian Labour Party, 20 April 2017

Jessica Longbottom, “Australia Wide – Series 2017 Ep 10“, ABC News, 8 April 2017

Helen Vines, “Push to recognise Indigenous history at Hanging Rock in Victoria”, ABC News Melbourne, 14 February 2017.

Kathrin Bartha, “Must Miranda Go?“, Kill Your Darlings, 14 February 2017

Angela Crawford, “Campaign to change the narrative of the Rock”, Midland Express, 13 February 2017

Richard Watts, “Pushing Miranda off Hanging Rock”, ArtsHub, 10 February 2017

Tom Allinson and Claudia Rhodes-White, “Vanishing Myth of Picnic at Hanging Rock obscures indigenous history“, The Wire, 30 January 2017

Mark Kearney, “Indigenous history should take precedence over Picnic at Hanging Rock mystery, campaign contends”, Bendigo Advertiser, 27 January 2017

Carolyn Webb, “Replace ‘Miranda’ myth with Indigenous history at Hanging Rock, says activist”, The Age, 26 January 2017

Richard Watts, “Smart Arts“, RRR Radio, 26 January 2017

Hamish MacDonald, “Miranda Must Go takes aim at Picnic at Hanging Rock“, Radio National Breakfast, 19 January 2017

Sinead Stubbins, “There’s A Campaign To Stop The ‘White Vanishing’ Myth Of Hanging Rock“, Junkee, 18 January 2017

Larissa Romensky, Fiona Parker and Jo Printz, “No picnic at Hanging Rock: Campaign to recognise Aboriginal past rather than ‘white myth’”, ABC News Central Victoria, 17 January 2017

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On Tuesday 14 February 2017, Miranda Must Go campaigners held an Anti-Picnic at Hanging Rock. We gathered to tell alternative histories and stories to  Joan Lindsay’s novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and draw attention to the real losses Aboriginal people have experienced due to European settlement. More details about the event are in the Latest News section.

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