A previously neglected area of the Burke and Wills story is the involvement of indigenous tribes. As the Expedition progressed they acted as guides, and often provided food, especially during the period when Burke, Wills and King had returned to Cooper Creek. After the deaths of Burke and Wills, the Yandruwhanda people took in John King and kept him alive until he was found by Howitt.
A team of academics from the University of Ballarat have obtained funding for research into these interactions. They have an Honours student in the School of Behavioural Sciences and Humanities who has won a scholarship from Sovereign Hill Museums Association for a project titled The Burke and Wills 1860-61 Expedition – an analysis of the expedition with specific reference to the role of Aboriginal people. In October 2010 they were awarded a three year ARC Linkage grant of $102,506. The Royal Society of Victoria is a collaborating organisation.
The results of the research are being published by the CSIRO in a new book titled The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills – Forgotten Narratives. This is a companion volume to Burke and Wills: The Scientific Legacy of the Victorian Exploring Expedition. The book was officially launched in August 2013. You can find out more and order your copy now from the Royal Society of Victoria website.
As part of the research project, Ballarat University held a three day International Conference on 23-25 November 2011 and a follow-up conference is planned for October 2013.