Shortlist year: 2018

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: NewSouth Publishing

Aboriginal people are prominent in accounts of early colonial Sydney, yet we skip a century as they disappear from the historical record, re-emerging early in the 20th century. What happened to Sydney's Indigenous people between the devastating impact of white settlement and increased government intervention a century later? This book shows that Aboriginal people did not disappear. They may have been ignored in colonial narratives but maintained a strong bond with the coast and its resources. This original and important book tells this powerful story through individuals, and brings a poorly understood period of Sydney's shared history back into view.

About the author


Paul Irish

Paul Irish is an archaeologist and historian who has spent the past 15 years working with local Aboriginal people on projects about Sydney's Aboriginal archaeology and history. He has worked on the presentation of Aboriginal history at Sydney Living Museums, and has also contributed to the Dictionary of Sydney and the City of Sydney Barani website. He regularly lectures on Aboriginal history and archaeology at the University of New South Wales and Sydney University.

Judges’ comments

Hidden in Plain View is an important book that is likely to change people's views on Indigenous people. It carefully maps relations between the European and Indigenous inhabitants over a 100-year period, in the process demonstrating how individuals from both sides developed strategies to ensure Aboriginal survival. Irish is a talented historian who cleverly integrates archaeological material to recreate the lives and culture of Sydney's Indigenous communities. This is an empirically rich text built on meticulous research and previously uncovered resources. The book reads as both imaginative and creative. This is a stunning local history, the kind which is likely to prove exemplary for other local studies across the nation. The inclusion of images both nineteenth century and contemporary adds immensely to our understandings of the lives of Sydney's Indigenous inhabitants.