Cage of Ghosts

Cage of Ghosts is a landmark publication. In this richly illustrated and thought-provoking book, photographer and writer Jon Rhodes takes the reader on a search for reminders of the almost invisible Aboriginal presence in south-eastern Australia, where the impact of European settlement has been the most intense. 


About the book

Without making a conscious effort, it’s possible to travel all over south-eastern Australia, in contrast to the Centre, and never come across any significant Aboriginal places. Or to ever realise that, only a little over two centuries ago, hundreds of distinct tribes of hunter-gatherers had occupied this land for many thousands of years.

Rhodes examines in vivid and fascinating detail the histories of an extraordinary cast of 19th and early 20th century ethnologists, antiquarians, surveyors, anthropologists and artefact collectors, who were obsessed with documenting Aboriginal culture. He takes up recording where these men left off, journeying from Sydney’s Eora rock engravings at Point Piper, Bondi, Allambie Heights and Mt. Ku-ring-gai; to ceremonially carved trees on a Kamilaroi bora ground near Collarenebri in north-western NSW; to the Djab wurrung paintings of Bunjil and his two dingoes in Victoria; and to the Ngunnawal scarred trees in the nation’s capital, Canberra.

By intermingling these esoteric narratives with his personal observations, Jon Rhodes solves many of the intriguing puzzles he investigates, but raises the one big question yet to be answered – when will the fundamental truth of the 140-year-long Australian Frontier War finally be publicly acknowledged, and memorialised?

About the author

Jon Rhodes is one of Australia’s outstanding photographers, and is known for his trilogy of exhibitions from Aboriginal Australia – Just another Sunrise? 1974-1975, Kundat Jaru mob 1986-1990, and Whichaway? 1974-1996. He is well represented in both State and National collections.

Cage of Ghosts the book is based on his exhibition of the same name, shown at the National Library of Australia in 2007.

Cage of Ghosts is also available at The Book Warehouse stores in Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Yamba, Ballina and Grafton


Jon Rhodes is one of Australia’s outstanding photographers, and in Cage of Ghosts he also reveals himself as a remarkable writer and exceptional historian.

Illuminated by his own  photographs as well as an extraordinary array of other images, this book transforms our understanding of Aboriginal sites across time.

Professor Tim Bonyhady  – Australian National University

Cage of Ghosts is a tour de force. With great artistic care and intellectual rigour Jon Rhodes sparks an intense curiosity about the many layers of Australia’s non-Indigenous collection practices with warmth, sometimes humour, and an abiding compassion. This is a book for the ages.

Professor Kate Auty – University of Melbourne