Celebrating the life and work of Kerry Reed-Gilbert

Celebrating the life and work of Kerry Reed-Gilbert
The Cherry Picker's Daughter
Talks / Lecture

Recording date: 
12 October 2019

Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Wiradjuri woman, writer, artist and activist, passed away on July 2019 shortly before her memoir and final piece of writing was published.

Fellow writers and activists, Yvette Holt and Samantha Falkner, joined us to pay their respects to Aunty Kerry. Reflecting on and celebrating her life and writing, they spoke to Kerry’s latest and final piece of work The Cherry Picker’s Daughter.

The Cherry Picker’s Daughter explores Kerry’s story of love and loss, repeated dislocation, dispossession and the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection laws.
During her childhood, fruit-picking meant the difference between going hungry or having a roof over your head. Kerry’s final piece of writing encompasses her early life, leading us through memories of losing her mother, her father imprisoned for her the murder of her mother, and the vital strength of family ties in Aboriginal communities while surviving the White Australia Policy and everyday racism.

Kerry Reed-Gilbert was a Wiradjuri woman, writer, artist and activist and the inaugural Chairperson of the First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN). She was a member of the ACT Us Mob Writing (UMW) group and was FNAWN co-editor for the Ora Nui Journal collaboration between First Nations Australia writers and Maori writers.
Kerry conducted writing workshops nationally and internationally and her poetry and prose have been published in many journals and anthologies internationally.

Yvette Henry Holt is a national multi-award-winning poet, academic, serial photographer and habitual hiker, heralding from the Yiman, Wakaman and Bidjara Nations’ of Queensland. Her poetry has been widely published, translated and anthologised in both in print and online. In 2005 Yvette was awarded the Queensland Premier’s David Unaipon Award for her manuscript, anonymous premonition (UQP), the Victorian Premier’s Literary for Indigenous Writing in 2008, Scanlon Poetry Prize NSW 2008, Kate Challis RAKA Award 2010.

Samantha Falkner is the current Chairperson for US Mob Writing Group of which Kerry was a member. Samantha is a Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal woman from the Wuthuthi / Yadhaigana peoples, Cape York Peninsula and Badu and Moa Islands, Torres Strait. She is the author of Life Blong Ali Drummond: A Life in the Torres Strait, published in 2007 by Aboriginal Studies Press. She has performed at several festivals and conferences and has had poetry and prose published: locally and nationally.

Image: The Cherry Picker's Daughter: Book cover 

Transcript

Celebrating the life and work of Kerry Reed-Gilbert:
The Cherry Pickers Daughter

 

*Speakers: Female (F), Auntie Elaine Lomass (E), Yvette Holt (Y), Samantha Falkner (S)

*Audience: (A)

*Location: National Library of Australia

*Date: 12/10/19

 

 

F:         Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before I introduce myself I would like to welcome on stage Auntie Elaine Lomass who I have met through Auntie Kerry, I’ve also met numerously through social media as it is in today’s day and age. As it is in today’s day and age sometimes you have a biographical to read, sometimes you don’t so Auntie Elaine has graciously offered to come up stage and to not put me on the spot with an informal introduction and she would prefer to introduce herself. So I would like you to firstly welcome Auntie Elaine Lomass, a dearly beloved family member of Auntie Kerry Reed-Gilbert. So please join me in welcoming Auntie Elaine for the welcome to country.

Applause

E:         [Speaks Aboriginal language]. I do an acknowledgment to country today. [Speaks Aboriginal language]. This is a bit hard for me, by the way. [Speaks Aboriginal language] Kerry Reed-Gilbert [speaks Aboriginal language], The Cherry Picker’s Daughter [speaks Aboriginal language].

[Speaks Aboriginal language] Elaine Lomass [speaks Aboriginal language] while I’m proud and strong Wiradjuri woman. [Speaks Aboriginal language] Canberra [speaks Aboriginal language].

So what I said was welcome, beautiful people, many family and friends. It’s good that you are here as we honour and pay respects and remember our wonderful mother, grandmother, auntie, cousin and friend, Kerry Reed-Gilbert and her book, The Cherry Picker’s Daughter on this day.

I am Elaine Lomass, I’m a proud and strong [Gilari] 3:11 Wiradjuri [yinna] 3:11 from Griffith, New South Wales living on Ngunawal country in Canberra and a very, very strong and proud cousin.

I remember and pay respects and honour to the Ngunawal elders and people long ago now and preserve and keep them always. [Speaks Aboriginal language]. Thank you, with respect and honour.

Applause

Y:        Thank you. Thank you, Auntie Elaine. No secret that I’m short-sighted but I’ve actually got 20/20 vision for reading so I will be traversing between wanting to look at you and then wanting to stick to my script so firstly let’s go.

As a Yiman Wakaman and Bidjara woman from Queensland, the Yiman heralding from the lower Dawson River of the [Tarume] 4:31 in southwest Queensland up to Woorabinda. That is where the Henry side of my mother’s father heralds from. The Wakaman nation from the Chillagoe region of the far north Queensland from my maternal grandmother and the Holts from the Bidjara nation some 600km northwest of Rockhampton. I, Yvette Henry Holt, do pay my humblest respects and acknowledgement and a deeply profound underlying respect to Auntie Elaine, the Ngunnawal people of Canberra and to all extending first nations people of Australia who are with us here today gathering for this fine national tribute in honour of the original cherry picker’s daughter, Auntie Kerry.

Indeed it is an honour for me to stand before you all here today and to have been asked by Wild Dingo Press and Deadly Dingo Books as we meet on Aboriginal lands in our Commonwealth’s national capital where our collective sovereignty as Aboriginal people had never been ceded.

I would also like to acknowledge Auntie Kerry’s family with us here today, in particular her daughters, Lisa and Melanie, their children and their grandchildren, elders’ present and reflective respect for the footprints of those who have passed. I’d like to acknowledge Marissa McDowell, family and friends for FNAWN’s, members of our First Nation Australian Writers’ Network, Us Mob Writing members from the Canberra Writers’ Centre, to acknowledge the National Library of Australia for hosting this event and of course to Wild Dingo Press and Deadly Dingo Books for being so considerately instrumental in organising this national tribute.

French Cuban American diarist, essayist, novelist, critical literary activist and writer of short stories and poetry, Anaïs Nin, once wrote, “We write to taste life twice, once in the moment and in retrospect. Life shrinks or expands in portion to one’s courage”. In my view of Aunt’s legacy this is courage. It is the essential foundation, core. It is the relinquishing narrative, the undercurrent of expelling memories from her history monochromed in joy, hardship, institutional racism, family unity, labour, survival, loss and above all unconditional love. Courage is what runs through the veins of the cherry picker’s daughter.

Kerry Reed-Gilbert, a Wiradjuri woman heralding from the central New South Wales and over the last four decades or more Aunt called Canberra her home. Auntie Kerry held an astonishing career with Aboriginal literature, a performer, national facilitator of workshops throughout Australia, internationally, writer, editor, poet, award recipient, anthologised, translated and a contributor to multiple collected publications including the Macquarie Pen Anthology of Australian Literature. A former adviser of the Aboriginal Studies Press Advisory Committee, an international collaborator with first nations Maori writers and journals, a proud co-editor of a collection of works titled By Close of Business Day. Business by the ACT Us Mob Writing, cofounder, first chairperson and lifelong patron of the First Nation of Australian Writers’ Network, FNAWN.

We will discuss Auntie Kerry’s work throughout the next 40 minutes but I feel it would be very disrespectful if I weren’t to introduce on my behalf on how I first met Aunt. So here I begin.

I first read of Aunt’s poetry before I knew her. In 2002 I was brunching over a lazy summer Sunday with my cousin, Jackie, in her north Brisbane home. Snooping as I do over her bookcase, leaning inwardly across the spines of her poetry collection. I plucked from the shelf a very slim volume of poetry, attractive to me in name and title. Black Woman, Black Life. Whilst thumbing through the pages I was speechless. Drawn to the carriage of her rhythmic lyricism, descriptive of what lies beneath and above the reality of modern day Aboriginal women’s lives, holding hostage between the numbered pages through her poetic discourse and the unfathomable realities of being born woman of colour, being born woman and being indigenous from yesteryears through the refractive lens passing from one generation to the next, whether on subject matters of overthrowing racially-based sexism, social exclusion, the inclusivity of [tiddeship] 10:49 or permeating the emotions across the terrains of a loving relationship. This author who I was yet to meet ticked all the boxes I had so desperately wanted to read about in my adulthood infancy of daring to become a poet.

I then hoorayed at my cousin, demanding to know who is this lady? Who is she? Jack just turned to me and said that’s a very dear friend of mine, Kerry Reed-Gilbert. I said, do you know her? That was my first initial response. I mean do you actually know her for real? Jack chuckled and said yes, I just told you, cuz, she’s a very dear close friend, she is one of my [tidders] 11:45. Before OMG became fashionably acronymised to the gleeful three-letter cult status it holds today my jaw dropped and my mouth was agape. Jackie then asked me if I would like to meet her. Meet her? I had never met an actual published poet before. I had read poetry before, of course, but most of the poetry I had read were from old Anglo-Saxon males wearing lacklustre cravats, inhaling ungodly lengthened Nicaraguan sweatshop cigars and unleashing their waistcoat watches drowning in sepia-saturated portraits of an era that was not even remotely in my field of poetic dreams.

Thereby the reflection in my imaginings after the consuming of Aunt’s words never reflected the mirror of my reality against those. This woman knew more than just something of being black and sovereign, this author had me detined in a full length mirror since the beginnings of my ramblings of scrambled notes upon an anonymous premonition.

In the following months I had held bragging rights with my then senior lecturer who is here today and I acknowledge Dr Sonia Link-Pearce who I would like to thank. She is here with her husband, Tony and her sister and niece. Through Jackie’s wishful thinking and Sonia’s endearing [tiddeship] with Aunt Kerry as well, and they go way back, I had finally been able to meet with Auntie Kerry at my Alma matter, UTS, Haymarket, 2003. Aunt was invited by Sonia as a guest lecturer on the presentation of Australian Aboriginal writings, Jack Davis, Jimmy Chi, Oodgeroo Noonuccal were also present in memory of our collective narrative in her poetry.

We were introduced to each other in that innate way that Aboriginal people are and the way that we have met for millennia in the knowing who we are related to, in the sense of belonging with our nations and in placing each other as black women, as blackfellas within our Aboriginal universe. From the moment we met I was in awe of her generosity, her patience, her courage, her humour and her love of language and memory. To a standing ovation fellow students asked her if they could purchase a signed copy of Black Woman, Black Life. To my astonishment Aunt told them that there aren’t too many copies on the shelves left for purchase anymore and that she had only brought one of the few remaining that she held onto.

Students then lined up for the purchase and it was a scrum to end all scrums. Aunt held the collection of poetry high above her raven crown of hair. She stated that the only copy she brought with her today was for this deadly young lady, Yvette Holt. I acknowledge that many of you here today have known Kerry Reed-Gilbert most of her adult life, if not some of her life and that my personal relationship with Aunt in the Gregorian calendar of time stacks up quite minimally to the length of years she has shared with many of you. However I am inclined to believe that is it not the fabric of a beautiful woman who endowed upon us her loyalty, her friendship, her [tiddeship], her truth-telling and above all that brings us here today, today of all days to pay tribute to this remarkable woman who has written this remarkable childhood memoir titled The Cherry Picker’s Daughter.

From the opening pages Aunt has drawn a line in the sand. There is no denying, no swerving, no yielding to the presence of her dearly beloved family, more emphatically her mummy, Joyce Hutchings, her father, Kevin’s, older sister. Joyce raised both Kerry and her brother, Kevin, as I am sure you are all just chewing away at the formidable chapters that await you and I do not wish to give too much away. That is why we have bookstores.

But what I would like to do is to extract from two people who are also here in the audience today and they know a little bit about a lot about Aboriginal writing, literature and critical review and that is Dr Janine Lane and Melissa Lucashenko, the Miles Franklin winner for 2019. Melissa. When Auntie Kerry asked me to help her with her memoir I said I would be happy to, not only because I expected it to be a terrific yarn but also because of who she was. You couldn’t turn around in Canberra in the years I was there, and no doubt for many years prior, without running into Auntie Kerry doing a reading or leading a protest or helping someone in the community in some quiet or occasionally loud way.

I’d known her as a senior member of the Canberra Aboriginal community and as a poet and writer and activist in the south. I guess because Auntie Kerry lived in Canberra it had never really struck me to think very hard about just how she had grown up. It was fascinating to eventually realise just how Auntie Kerry’s 60 something years on the earth embodied so many of the great issues of Aboriginal life in the 20th century. From running from the welfare to the sometimes very [unclear] 19:07 racism of small country towns to the devotion of the large family who surrounded and mostly protected her. Her life was a testament to all that Koori people faced and all too often continue to face.

When Auntie Kerry asked me to help her with her memoir I said I would be happy to, not only because I expected it to be a terrific yarn but also because of who she was. You couldn’t turn around in Canberra in the years I was there and no doubt for many, many years prior. I think I read that. I think the NLA did an outstanding service and they printed it twice. But wait, there’s more. One thing I remember most clearly was Auntie Kerry saying with great satisfaction that when people read her memoir they would be forced to shut up about her and to me as a friend, as a comrade and as someone who has great loyalty to the memory of Auntie Kerry, that means a lot to me.

When somebody writes her biography or when it’s written posthumously autobiographically it means something to a large percentage of that family. What Aunt has written should never diminish her truth-telling and her memory. I can tell you right here and right now there are many amongst us who will fight to the end to push her memory through in loyalty, in respect and in truth-telling to Auntie Kerry Reed-Gilbert.

Applause

Now I know that Samantha Falkner, my deadly [tidder] 215 is just jumping up but I would also like to close before I put Samantha on stage, a reading of the review and you all must read the Sydney review, the Australian book review from Dr Janine Lane. A couple of paragraphs, I kid you not.

“The Cherry Picker’s Daughter is the book that all Australians need to read for its testimony to courage, determination and resilience and for what it says about activism that takes place a long way from public venues and media. As the statement at the front makes clear this book is dedicated to Mummy, the life of Joyce Hutchings should signal a reassessment of the Aboriginal activism that has been viewed to date.

I said in my earlier statement it was all about Mummy. We see Mummy bending her back and working her fingers to the bone to keep eight kids together while her husband, Daddy, Ned Hutchings, toils many miles away as a railway fettler bringing money home whenever he can. Mummy’s life is an affirmation of the quiet activism of women who’d raised children alone and who keep families together in defiance of a system intent on ripping them apart. These Aboriginal families stealing children.

As well as working long hours to keep the children fed, clothed, sheltered and out of view of welfare Mummy wrote regularly to the Queen to plead for the release of her younger brother. Likewise in keeping with Aboriginal ways of knowing and being in the world different life forms and presences are afforded equal respect as human beings. There is no questioning of their existence and their ability to move among within the human realm. Bunyips, spirits and animals are all given equal respect during a stint when the family lives in a tent by the town cemetery because the island is flooded. Mummy tells her, you don’t have to be scared of the dead ones, [daught] 23:59, only the live ones. Kerry knows that no spirit can take me away, only the welfare.”

In closing Janine says, this is a brave book on many fronts for the way Auntie Kerry calls out violence and exploitation of women and children from within the community as well as that which comes from the outside and let’s not pretend and let’s not just marshmallow over the facts. Perpetrated by the settler nation on more than one occasion we see Kerry and her sister, Lynnie, as children bullied and abused from within the family because they are wards of the state. The threat of informing welfare is enough to silence them even against the most heinous of injustices.

In closing, before I introduce Samantha up to the stage for Auntie Kerry Reed-Gilbert as I did last August for Because of Her, We Can! This poem is dedicated to Lisa Blair. If you don’t know Lisa Blair I suggest you run out and read her, and also to the deadly Nunga poet, Fabián Bayet, and it’s called Through My Eyes, Anonymous Premonition, University of Queensland Press for only Kerry.

When I look at Aboriginal women I see Murri, Koori, Nunga, Noongar, Yolngu and Palawa. I see more than 40,000 years of strength, courage and determination in animation, I look at Aboriginal women and I rejoice, relate, and receive. Some day the spirit of our ancestors will carry each one of us on a far, far away journey, elevating above red earth with regal black skin, circling the sun, renewer of life.

Look beyond our reflection and you’ll see our grandmother and her mother’s mother. Those lines on her face are an atlas to our past. This woman stands with amazing grace. Being born woman is learning about the struggle. Being born black and woman is knowing how to survive. I celebrate knowing the struggle for I too am woman with heritage, spirit and pride.

Indigenous women have carried the weight of oppression on the strength of their hips, breathing life into our culture and nurturing our grandmother’s mother’s mother. When I look at Aboriginal women today I see history past, present and future. Thank you.

Applause

Samantha, would you like to take a deadly seat to my far left? I was going to introduce you, Sam. My deadly sister, Samantha Falkner, who I have known for a number of years, she is one of my brains trust on the executive committee of the First Nations of Australia Writers’ Network. If you're not a member, if you’re a whitefella, put your hands over your ears, you know what to do, hit us up on the web page, we’re now live.

Okay, Sam. Sam is a Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal woman from the Wuthuthi Yadhaigana people’s Cape York Peninsula and Badu and Moa Islands, Torres Strait. She is the author of Life B'long Ali Drummond: A Life in the Torres Strait published in 2007 by Aboriginal Studies Press. As a member of Us Mob Writing group she has performed at a number of festivals including the noted 2015-2017 AIATSIS conference, 2014-2016. She has been published locally by Close of Business – yes – A Pocket Full of Leadership in the ACT, nationally, Etchings Indigenous: Treaty, Ilura Press and internationally, Ora Nui, a collection of Maori and Aboriginal Literature, 2016 Narrative Witness. I love that title. International Writing Program, University of Iowa. Go to the cornfields.

She has represented women in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests on local, state and national boards. She’s currently Chairperson of the Us Mob Writing, ACT, Torres Strait Islander Corporation and a member of the First Nations of Australian Writers’ Network, FNAWN. Please make welcome Samantha Falkner.

Applause

Before we do, Lisa and Melanie have just reminded me of the video. Can you not tell that I’ve just come off a flight from Alice Springs? I mean seriously who wears these ivory-coloured – but I had a very good breakfast. Here we go. Now this is – and I would like to thank Marissa McDowell who put this together on behalf of Auntie Kerry Reed-Gilbert’s family. This is Aunt, I believe it may have been between April to May-June when she recorded this so I shall play it and I will say no more and let Aunt do the speaking.

Video starts

I would like to thank everybody for coming here today to this author’s event of The Cherry Picker’s Daughter. I would like to thank my special co-presenter that’s standing in front of you today representing me and who we are as Aboriginal people at this wonderful event.

I would like to thank all of the first nations Australia writers, poets and storytellers who’ve been on this journey with me since the very beginning. My special thanks to Anita Ice who was on my very, very first writing journey in 1993 if not before that in Sydney. I would like to thank Melissa, I would like to thank Jarrod, Kathy, Jimmy, there’s just too many of yous to name but I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing this journey. I’d like to thank my daughters, Lisa and Melanie, and my grandkids, I would like to thank my niece, Marissa, for being able to pull this video together so that I can share this event with you all. I’m sure you all know by now that I’m pretty crook. My father didn’t just give me his looks, he actually gave me his lungs so they’re a bit crook so that’s the reason why I can’t be with you today.

I would like to thank Wild Dingo Press, yeah, for sharing the journey and for publishing The Cherry Picker’s Daughter because I think it’s so, so important for that to happen.

People often think that when I say The Cherry Picker’s Daughter I'm actually speaking about my father, Kevin Gilbert, but I’m not, I’m actually speaking about my mother, Jaqueline Joyce Hutchings who’s actually Kevin’s sister who I call Mummy. Mummy reared me and my brother, Kevin, up. I was actually three months old when my father went to jail for the murder of my mother and so I became Mummy’s baby and here I am, 63-year-old woman and I’m still Mummy’s baby and I am still the cherry picker’s daughter. Even though Mummy’s not here to share this journey with me today she’s standing beside me in spirit and love.

So I hope that you take this chance and this opportunity to read The Cherry Picker’s Daughter. I hope you gain an understanding of what it was like for Aboriginal people in the 1950s and ’60s as we lived our life in humpies, in tents and in fruit paddocks. I hope that you gain that understanding that those lifestyles we take with us to the day that we die and that we as Aboriginal people, we have never given up our sovereignty and who we are as people, have always remained that. That’s why those journeys of tent, humpies, cherry-picking, all those years in the paddocks should always be taken and learnt. It should also be learnt so that they’re never repeated, that one day Aboriginal people do gain human and equal rights in this country. I know that that day will happen in the lifetime of my great-grandchildren and I hope that The Cherry Picker’s Daughter helps make that happen as we aim for a treaty as sovereign people.

I have a couple of things that I’d like to read for you today and then I might say a little bit more a little bit later. Thank you.

“Chapter 4, When the river floods. The river’s flowing, we all love living on the island. Sometimes when we get flooded we got to make a rock bridge so we can go to town or school. When the water starts to rise we need to carry rocks. The more it rises the more we carry. It takes a long time to build a bridge even when all of us are doing it. Patty, Lynnie and Mummy carry the bigger ones. Stacking the rocks on top of each other our bridge starts to take shape. Me and Kevin’s job is to fill up the gaps with the smaller rocks. We race to see who can fill the holes up the best. Making the bridge, searching for big and little rocks is such fun.

Hearing a groan we look over and see Mummy struggling to lift a great big rock. Her legs are buckling and the boys run to help. They each grab a part of that rock and help hold it in her arms. Taking dolly steps as they walk together soon it is in place. Every now and again we all try to carry the big rocks so that we can help more but Mummy tells us not to as we could hurt ourselves.

It’s taken several days but finally the bridge is all done and Mummy walks across a few times to make sure that it’s safe. Standing on different stones legs are firmly placed, rocking side to side she makes sure that no rock is loose so none of us can slip off as we walk.

Soon the river’s rising faster and the water’s flowing between the rocks. We wait now for the flood water to hit us. It doesn’t take long before we put our bridge to the test. So far we can walk across with our shoes on, the bridge is still higher than the water. Mummy reckons in a couple of days we’re going to have to build it up more and we do.

One day Patty runs down to the gutters before us and then he runs back saying the river has risen. The water’s starting to come over the bridge and we have to take our shoes and socks off so they don’t get wet. Mummy walks the bridge, testing as she goes. Lynnie carries my shoes just in case I slip and lose them. If I did I’d never see them again.”

I actually started this journey in 2006 over in America, won a fellowship from the Australia Council. It has taken me 2019 to get to where it is today. I thank everybody on that journey. I also thank the Australia Council for supporting me through the journeys of The Cherry Picker’s Daughters. I thank you all, all my friends, all my family, all you readers, all you sitting here, I thank you all for [unclear] 38:05. It was very, very hard, I cried a million tears with every page that was written because we had all that emotional turmoil in there. It’s not easy to look on the tragedies and deaths of your family every day as you write it between the pages.

But in amongst that was all the goodness, the happiness and as a family there was happy times. My love for Mummy and my brothers and sisters have always been strong. My love for my family, for all of us as an extended family has brought me to who I am here today. So yes, it was a hard journey. I’ve got to say I’ve always got to say and acknowledge Nita for who she is as my sister, as my [tidder] 39:01, as my best friend, as a fellow writer. Her strength and her unity made me drag my work out of the drawer so it’s only fitting that she actually was the one who actually launched my book.

My family I think you could say is like any other Aboriginal family in that time. Other Aboriginal families have had tragedies. They may not have been to the extent of my family but we all lived under the routine or the regimen of the welfare, the fear of the welfare, the fear of authorities. The idea, the concept of being black and knowing that you can be taken away any time. For us as state ward children that made it worse so that fear was 10 times more harder for us. But then again amongst all that we had Mummy and we knew Mummy would never ever let anybody take us away.

So this book is about Mummy, it’s about to honour her, it’s about to acknowledge this amazing woman who I call mother and I will to the day I die. Thank you all.

Video finishes

Applause

Y:        I feel so far away from you, Samantha. Join us. Our hearts are close, so close but seats were so far apart. So, Sam, one of my favourite chapters in the book is My Island Home. Aunt mentioned that I love the description of dollying across with bricks with her brother, with her brother-cousins, ensuring that Mummy’s legs do not buckle under the stress of weight, not just in the sense of units but I see it as elongated to what is carrying above her shoulders. The way Aunt has woven her creative language and her sense of being and belonging. May not fit with metrical systems in foreign currencies of literature but this is who Aunt was, this was her story, this was her storytelling. This is how she unfolded her quilt of memory so that’s my sense of belonging within the book. It’s definitely my island home. Being an inland sea person I have no traits with salt water, Yiman, Bidjara and Wakaman are solely locked into the inland seas of inner central Queensland.

But Samantha, you mentioned to me before lunch that you also held great tie-ins within the book.

S:         Sure and I think as Auntie Kerry mentioned in the video that it’s quite emotional, there’s a bit of drama there, there’s emotional turmoil but there’s family, there’s goodness and I think for me the chapter around Happy Christmas resonated with me and I think certainly Christmas is something that we all share. It’s about family, it’s about love – no, it might be a little bit about sharing or not sharing but if you bear with me I’ll just read you a little bit from that.

“It’s Christmas Day and all the family’s here. I’m so happy. Santa brought me lots of things, lots of clothes and I’ve got a doll’s cradle, my bride doll fits just perfect. Mummy and the big girls have been cooking real hard all day. They have been slaving over that old wood stove for hours. Perspiration was dripping off them and walking into the kitchen from outside the heat knocks you rotten. The smell of a baked dinner with lots of goodies has been teasing our noses all morning. We know a big feast is about to happen, Christmas. I love all the presents and all the tucker but I love the lollies the best. Mummy puts lollies out so us kids can have some whenever we want, even before dinner. There’s peanuts and chips and Liquorice All Sorts and Bullets and Cobbers, all our favourites spread out on the table waiting for us to eat, eat and enjoy. We’re so lucky. Mummy said we’re not to make ourselves sick from eating too many and we had to save room for Christmas dinner but she doesn’t know that the boys take lots and put them in their pockets ‘cause they’re pigs.

Mummy and the girls bring out all the food. There’s everything, a baked leg, a chook, baked potatoes and pumpkin and lots more. Everybody’s around the table. We’re a big family, we all pile around making sure we can all fit in but we didn’t have to worry, the table’s big enough to hold us all.”

So I think there's probably something for everyone in there.

Y:        Well when it comes to candy, when it comes to roasts, blackfellas, being how we are, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head and I'm about to hit the nail on another head. I would also like to say that Wild Dingo Press and I would like to acknowledge Cathy Lewis, the sole founder, the CEO and publisher of Wild Dingo Press along with what has been imprinted into the newest edition to that stable, Bentley Dingo Press with Tjanara Goreng Goreng and to acknowledge Alex, Chair Sally and Jessica Goertz for actually pulling this together. It wasn’t the easiest of gatherings to pull together.

Now is there anyone in the audience who has not read the book? Put your hands up. Great, fantastic. Well I invite you all to yeah whip out those credit cards or cash. I’m omitted from using a few adjectives so please, this is a part of Australian history, it’s been a various, laborious labour of love for Aunt and I can remember in 2006 her and I were exchanging emails – I think she was in Georgia on that Australia Council scholarship with Marie Servs and I was in Brisbane and she mentioned seeing some form of a very dark eagle as she was writing to me and she believed it to be a very good sign that she was flowing so it has been there, she has had many supporters behind her as noted also behind me in the video.

End of recording

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