Last night The First Australians dealt with Mabo. I will confine myself to a positive note, having already blogged this very significant contribution to understanding the past of all of us in Australia. I thought I knew this episode’s material rather well, having read much about it at the time, but there is always something to learn. Last night I learned a great deal more about the particular culture Mabo belonged to, and I learned a great deal more about the man. All honour too to those elements of the Catholic Church that played such a vital role at that time, and continue to do so.
Nice to see that crowd of Indigenous Australians in Sydney in 1988 when many thousands from all over Australia descended on the city for the Bicentennial. I was in that crowd.
a memory of 1988
An ideal companion to The First Australians is the recently published Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature edited by Anita Heiss and Peter Minter, with a preface by novelist Nicholas Jose. Check the link, as the site offers many extras.
A groundbreaking collection of work from some of the great Australian Aboriginal writers, the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature offers a rich panorama of over 200 years of Aboriginal culture, history and life.
‘This volume is extremely significant from an Indigenous cultural perspective, containing many works that afford the reader a treasured insight into the Indigenous cultural world of Australia.’ From the foreword by Mick Dodson
The cover picture is by Michael Riley, whose art I celebrated in August: Michael Riley: sights unseen.
In the preface Nicholas Jose writes:
This transformative survey of Aboriginal writing presents the stories and patterns of Australian culture and societies in new ways, foregrounding and celebrating Indigenous experience and expression. It introduces powerful and creative individual voices as it also reveals a history of struggle, suffering and strength. No doubt there are gaps and limitations. There are always more voices to be heard and other stories to be told. Yet in their gathering of literature the editors show that Aboriginal authors have created some of the best, most distinctive and most significant writing to come from this country.
That may seem hyperbolic, but to read this anthology is to be convinced of the truth of that, and to be encouraged that there is more to come.
I was taken with a final statement from the late Eddie Mabo, as reported in last night’s First Australians: the momentous events of the Mabo era not only set free Indigenous Australia, but also non-Indigenous Australia, because after that none of us ever again would be living a lie about who we are. That, I suspect, is the true spirit of reconciliation. Despite all the ups and downs of the last twenty years, despite all the problems that remain, that is, I believe, where we find ourselves and where we may find solutions for all of us.