Guide to the Papers of Stephen Muecke [MSS 121]

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Manuscript Name Papers of Stephen Muecke 
Manuscript Number MSS 121
Last Updated July 2021
Extent 2 boxes + 1 oversize + 3 AV boxes
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra
Abstract Original personal papers, draft writings, research and audiovisual recordings relating to Stephen Muecke

Collection Subject Type


Scope and Content

The bulk of this collection relates to Stephen Muecke and his work on Reading the Country: Introduction to Nomadology (Fremantle, 1984), a postmodern ethnography written in collaboration with Indigenous elder Paddy Roe and painter Krim Benterrak. It contains correspondence, notebook and literary drafts, research papers, reviews, business papers, audio recordings, still images, photographic negatives and maps, some of which did not appear in the published edition. Of note is the additional group of correspondence and draft writings between noted literary academics D C Muecke and Wayne C Booth

Date Range of Content


Biographical Note

Wikipedia article:

An academic in linguistics and semiotics, Stephen Muecke grew up in Newcastle and Melbourne before graduating from Monash University in the 1970s. He moved to Perth to work on his doctorate (a semiotic analysis of oral narratives from the Kimberleys) and it was during his research that his friendship with Indigenous elder Paddy Roe began. Muecke has taught at several Australian universities and written extensively on Indigenous Australia. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, a Faculty member of the Global Center for Advanced Studies, Switzerland and was appointed Professor Emeritus of Ethnography at UNSW Sydney in the 2010s


Author record, Stephen Muecke, AustLit (, St Lucia: The University of Queensland, 2002- retrieved 04 November 2020


Administrative Information


Access and Copying Conditions

Access: Check with Curator

This collection contains a variety of copyright material. Copyright is held by the creator of each item. Specific conditions for this collection are listed below. If no conditions are stipulated then the standard terms of the Copyright Act apply for published and unpublished items. Digitised material from manuscript collections is provided to clients by UNSW Canberra in good faith for private study and research only, and may not be published or re-purposed without the express and written permission of the individual legal holder of that copyright. Refer also to the UNSW copyright, disclaimer and takedown policy. 

Copying: Check with Curator

Preferred Citation

Papers of Stephen Muecke, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, MSS 121, Box [Number], Folder [Number].


The collection was acquired in 1990 and 1998  

Related Material

Further material relating to D C Muecke is located at The University of Adelaide, Rare Books and Manuscripts: Douglas Colin Muecke, Playscripts and papers 1954-2007, MSS 0220


Subject Keywords



Stephen Muecke, 1951- Archives

Aboriginal Australians  Western Australia  Roebuck Plains. 

Geographic perception

Roebuck Plains (W.A.)  Maps, Mental

Irony in literature

Personal Names

Stephen Muecke, 1951-

Paddy Roe, 1912-2001

Krim Benterrak, 1952-

Wayne C Booth, 1921-2005

D C Muecke, 1919-2015




Literary critics



Container List


Box 1

Correspondence, notebook and literary drafts

Folder 1

Correspondence. D C Muecke, Wayne C Booth [1970-1974]

The Rhetoric of Irony I by Wayne C Booth, Chapters I and II

Folder 2

The Rhetoric of Irony I by Wayne C Booth, Chapters III and IV - draft

Folder 3

The Rhetoric of Irony I by Wayne C Booth, Chapters V and VI - draft

Folder 4         

The Rhetoric of Irony I by Wayne C Booth, Chapters VII and IX - draft

Folder 5

Reading the Country


Letter, typed, 18 November 1982 from Bureau of the Northern Land Council to Stephen Muecke (SM)

Correspondence between SM and Freemantle Arts Centre Press 3 August 1982 – 24 October 1984 re project Reading the Country

Handwritten letter from ‘Ray’ 10 May 1984 regarding slides and photographs for inclusion in Reading the Country

Letter 11 September 1985 from Jean Daly OBE to SM

Unfinished, typed letter in French to ‘Christiane’, unsigned and undated

Folder 6         

Journal – Field trip notebook

1 x Spirax Students Note Book (no. 592). Front cover – ‘Stephen Muecke c/- Paddy Roe, Broome’ Contains rough notes at front and back of notebook [April 198-]

Folder 7         

Reading the Country

Literary drafts – background/working notes

File of notes on Reading the Country, includes annotated draft of Table of Contents; annotated photocopies of photographs and slides being considered for inclusion; annotated drafts and/or notes on some chapters; project notes; notes on reading as a general concept

Literary drafts – drafts and fragments included in final work

Typed transcript of conversation (‘Stephen’ and Paddy Roe) ‘How shall we write history (the night we were playing with the goat at Coconut Wells)’ – 3 pages numbered 89-91, parts incl in chapter ‘We better go back to country’ (pp 106, 107)

Handwritten notes and transcript of dialogue, numbered 1 – 5: p 1 headed ‘Butcher Joe’; pp 2 – 5 headed ‘Money – Story. Story about tribal punishment’ some lines incl in ‘We better go back to country’, (pp 107, 108)

Typed fragment, untitled, 2 pages, lines included in ‘We better go back to country’, (pp 107-)

Handwritten transcript of conversation Krim Benterrak (KB) and Paddy Roe (PR) ‘Blanket Story’, 5 pages numbered 6 – 10, some lines repeated in chapter ‘But I was just like a swag, too’ (pp 40 – 42)

Typed transcript of conversation between PR and SM, 3 pages, numbered, lines included in chapter ‘K5 International’ (p 68)

Draft transcript of interview by Freemantle Arts Centre Press with SM, October 1984, edited, 8 pages

Proof copy of transcript of interview by Freemantle Arts Centre Press with SM, October 1984, edited, 4 pages

Literary drafts – fragments, unfiled working notes

1 page, typed, poem/dialogue between PR and SM, untitled, undated

Typed transcript of conversation between Nangan (Butcher Joe), Stephen (Muecke) Paddy (Roe) and Krim (Benterrak) ‘Police’ 2 pages, undated

Handwritten conversation between PR and KB, ‘I went to Perth ... one time’ (alternative title ‘Paddy Roe goes to Perth’ crossed out), 2 pages, 10 September 1982

Handwritten notes, ‘Geo-politics’, 1 page, undated

Handwritten story and dialogue, no names, ‘Nyuba’, 2 pages, undated

Handwritten notes and dialogue, SM, KB, PR, ‘Sheep Camp’

Stapled together - Handwritten, draft essay ‘Departure’ 4 pages; note by unidentified person to ‘Steve’; brief note headed ‘Krim’s painting’; handwritten list of Aboriginal terms, 1 page. All unsigned and undated

Handwritten conversation ‘Cyclone’, PR and ‘K’ (KB?), 7 pages, numbered undated, unattributed


Box 2

Research papers, reviews, business papers and miscellaneous

Folder 8

Reading the Country Stephen Muecke (SM), Storyteller Paddy Roe (PR), illustrator Krim Benterrak (KB) - prepublication copy

Folder 9

Reading the Country


8 pages - Tim Willing (undated) ’The Acacias of Broome & its region’ – ‘unpublished notes’

2 pages of handwritten reading notes detailing Australian plants and potential as food

Map (295mm x 210mm) ‘Australia 1:100,000 Topographic Survey’, part of title ‘Roebuc...’ Handwritten Aboriginal place names

1 printed page with details of botanical trip in the West Kimberley. On the back is written: XIII International Botanical Congress. Handbook Field Trip no. 2, Northern Australia (Perth to Sydney 6/17 Aug 1981) – J.K. Marshall & K.F. Kenneally. Pub: Sydney June 1981. Australian Academy of Science

Handwritten notes (1 x 12 pages, 1 x 2 pages) and annotated, typed notes (4 pages) taken from readings on William Dampier, including notes on books consulted


Typed, undated, un-authored report, possibly from Freemantle Arts reader, on Reading the Country

5 pages, typed, lightly edited draft review of Reading the Country, Gary Wickham (undated) ‘An event in publishing, an intervention into academic style’

1 page draft review, typed and heavily annotated, untitled and unattributed

Business papers

Application for Research Grant for Reading the Country to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS) by SM, signed 17 May 1982. 7 pages

Application for Research Grant for Reading the Country to the South Australian College of Advanced Education (SACAE) by SM, 1 February 1983, 3 pages

Letter, typed, from John Chalken (SACAE) to SM, response to request for funding, 22 February 1983, 1 page

Letter, typed, SM to Woodside Offshore Petroleum requesting funding to support Reading the Country research. 20 December 1982. 1 page

Letter, typed, M P Conoley (Woodside Offshore Petroleum, Public Affairs Officer), response to request for funding from SM, 30 March 1983. 1 page

Letter, typed, SM to Petty Ray Geophysical requesting contributions to the cost of research for Reading the Country. 20 December 1982

Order Form NATAP Division of National Mapping (undated) for aerial photographs of the Broome/Roebuck Plains area, for Dr S Muecke. 2 pages

Freemantle Arts Centre Press, signed Memorandum of Agreement, 16 March 1984, between Stephen Muecke, Paddy Roe and Krim Benterrak and the Freemantle Arts Centre Press, 3 pages


4 original Chinese characters in black ink on A4 paper, used in chapter ‘Always Already Writing’ (pp 61-62)

Photocopy of print with caption ‘49. Moderplas – Puddle – Pfutze – Flaque d’eau’, undated, unattributed

Typed sheet, incomplete, of dialogue between unnamed speakers about differing ways of perceiving the same thing, contains reference to Paddy Roe

Arete vol 1, no. 1 [1965]. Australian Arts Faculty Association


Oversize material  

Oversize 1

Reading the Country

Map (182mm x 310mm) untitled, annotated. On reverse side handwritten note with following details: N.H. Speck & M. Lazarides 1964 ‘General report on Lands of the West Kimberley area, W.A.’ CSIRO Aust. Land. Res. Series no 9

Map (330mm x 225mm) ‘Vegetation survey of W.A. Sheet 1: Kimberley‘ J.S. Beard (UWA Press) 1979’ with some parts highlighted and handwritten notes

Map (255mm x 357mm) Roebuck Plains annotated with handwritten Aboriginal place names. Untitled, unattributed, undated

Map (360mm x280mm), small section of left-hand corner absent) unattributed and undated.  Shows Roebuck Plains annotated with handwritten English and Aboriginal place names

Map (415mm x 395mm) shows Roebuck Bay and Roebuck Plains. Untitled, unattributed, undated, partially hand-coloured


Audiovisual material


Reading the Country

Black 3 ring binder containing:

  • 4 x contact sheets, on reverse labelled A, B, C, D, followed by negatives (except for A) and prints from negatives on that contact sheet. Each set of negatives originally grouped under handwritten label ‘FACP negs A’, FACP negs B’, ‘FACP negs C’, ‘FACP negs D’
  • Prints grouped behind the negative strips containing the negative from which they were developed. Some negatives only printed
  • Subjects include individual portraits and groups, field trips, landscape, Paddy Roe, Butcher Joe, Stephen Muecke, mainly unidentified persons

Separate folder containing two photographs and three negatives



Reading the Country

Black 3 ring binder containing:

  • 2 groups of negatives (1 x 6 strips, 1 x 7 strips) with copies of colour photographs, prints grouped behind the negatives to which they belong
  • 2 strips of colour negatives, no accompanying prints
  • Subjects include corroboree; Paddy Roe, Stephen Muecke and Krim Benterrak; unidentified persons; landscape, buildings. Some prints included in Reading the Country
  • 3 colour slides; caravan; Paddy Roe; unidentified persons at social gathering
  • 1 black and white photograph from slide of social gathering
  • 2 larger negatives, black and white; same social gathering as colour slides
  • 39 strips of negatives for black and white photographs originally loosely filed in large envelope with handwritten label ‘Negatives Reading the Country, some negatives unprinted’
  • Prints from negatives: subjects include portraits of Paddy Roe and Butcher Joe; camp scene including PR and BJ and KB, part of photo group in AV1; a corroboree; beach scenes; streetscape; buildings and people; landscape; miscellaneous, some with notes/descriptions/numbered on the back

Note: First photograph of unnamed bushman (non-Indigenous Australian?) sharpening an axe was found in file of notes in Folder 6, separate from all other photos. Some but not all prints are photographs reproduced in Reading the Country



Reading the Country

7 x audio cassette tapes containing recordings of conversations between Stephen Muecke, Paddy Roe and Krim Benterrak .

AV3.1 – ‘Roebuck Plains 1. 22.3.1983’: digitised

AV3.2 – ‘Paddy + BJ (Krim Benterrak) 1984’: digitised

AV3.3 – ‘3, 2. Cont.’: digitised

AV3.4 – ‘Ray Keogh. A. 10.5.83’: digitised

AV3.5 – ‘Roebuck Plains B. 10.5.83’: digitised

AV3.6 – ‘Paddy Roe Mob. 23.3.83’: digitised

AV3.7 – Unlabelled tape: digitised

Digitised copies of the following recordings should be used in preference to the original tapes:

1 CD, digitised copy of audio cassettes recording conversations between Stephen Muecke, Paddy Roe, Krim Benterrak, also contains copy of INDEX Reading the Country tapes (Word document on CD-ROM)

Printout of INDEX Reading the Country tape: digitised