Pathfinders: A history of Aboriginal trackers in NSW
Michael Bennett

Paperback | Mar 2020 | NewSouth | 9781742236568 | 336pp | 234x153mm | GEN | AUD$34.99, NZD$39.99

There are few Aboriginal icons in white Australian history. From the explorer to the pioneer, the swagman to the drover’s wife, Europeans predominate. Perhaps the only exception is the redoubtable tracker who, with skills passed down by generation after generation for over 65,000 years, read the signs and traced the movement of people across the land.

The saviour of many and cursed by the wayward, trackers live in the collective memory as one of the few examples where Aboriginal people’s skills were sought after in colonial society. In NSW alone, thousands of Aboriginal men and a smaller number of women toiled for the authorities post-1862, tracking the lost and confused, seeking out the thieves and their ill-gotten booty and bringing criminals to justice. 

More often than not the role of tracker went unacknowledged. Little about the complexity and diversity of their work is known, how it grew out of traditional society and was sustained by the vast family networks of Aboriginal families that endure to this day. Pathfinders brings the work of trackers to the forefront of NSW law enforcement history, ensuring their contribution is properly acknowledged.

‘The word tracker conjures images of the legendary Aboriginal bush experts responsible for bringing criminals to justice and finding people lost in the wild. Michael Bennett’s new book is a very welcome addition. The book charts an important though largely overlooked area of the country’s history. Aboriginal trackers hold a mythical yet obscure presence in the history of the continent. Bennett weaves back into the nation’s historical narrative these Aboriginal heroes and heroines.’ — Professor John Maynard