Tag Archives: Indigenous Australians

The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Overview
The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti Laboucane-Benson

Title: The Outside Circle
Author: Patti Laboucane-Benson
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Graphic novels
Dates read: 31st July 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Graphic novel
Publisher: Anansi
Year: 2015
5th sentence, 74th page: Open Up!

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Synopsis

Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.

Thoughts

This is a seriously powerful graphic novel. Normally a graphic novel of this size, I’ll rip through in one sitting. One happy, intense and fun sitting. But, nevertheless, I don’t normally dwell over graphic novels as much. And I certainly don’t normally have to put it down at regular intervals to gain a better headspace because of intensity. It’s not just the storyline. The images in this are also incredibly potent, powerful and brilliant.

The colours throughout this graphic novel are absolutely gorgeous. I loved all of the natural tones that fill the pages and the way in which the different tones change. Particularly from beginning (more reds and angry colours) to end (natural, calmer colours). The imagery, partnered with the storyline and the colouring turned this from a story that I would have enjoyed anyway, but ended up being completely drawn into in an unforgettable way.

At the conclusion of this novel, I found out that the whole journey throughout is based on a real program that is available in Canada to their Indigenous Peoples. It seems like such a great program and I just loved the fact that this gave a nice level of realism to the story line. It also made me feel hopeful for the many, many, many Indigenous peoples who are in similar positions.

Not only did this make me seriously think about the Indigenous people of Canada and America, it also made me think about our own First Nations People. And the ways in which we could maybe have a similar program for them one day. Or… maybe we already do, and I’m just ignorant…

<- More Patti LaBoucane-BensonMore Graphic Novels reviews ->

Image source: Goodreads

Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

Overview
Truganini - Cassandra Pybus - 9781760529222 - Allen & Unwin ...

Title: Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse
Author: Cassandra Pybus
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Biographies, History, Indigenous Australians
Dates read: 2nd – 20th July 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: She was grieving the loss of their youngest son nine months earlier, and it was also time to reconnect with his five surviving children.

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Synopsis

Cassandra Pybus’ ancestors told a story of an old Aboriginal woman who would wander across their farm on Bruny Island, just off the coast of south-east Tasmania, throughout the 1850s and 1860s. As a child, Cassandra didn’t know this woman was Truganini, and that she was walking over the country of her clan, the Nuenonne, of whom she was the last.

The name of Truganini is vaguely familiar to most Australians as ‘the last of her race’. She has become an international icon for a monumental tragedy: the extinction of the original people of Tasmania within her lifetime. For nearly seven decades she lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than most human imaginations could conjure. She is a hugely significant figure in Australian history and we should know about how she lived, not simply that she died. Her life was much more than a regrettable tragedy. Now Cassandra has examined the original eyewitness accounts to write Truganini’s extraordinary story.

A lively, intelligent, sensual woman, Truganini managed to survive the devastating decade of the 1820s when the clans of south-eastern Tasmania were all but extinguished. Taken away from Bruny Island in 1830, she spent five years on a journey around Tasmania, across rugged highland and through barely penetrable forests, with the self-styled missionary George Augustus Robinson, who was collecting all the surviving people to send them into exile on Flinders Island. She managed to avoid a long incarceration on Flinders Island when Robinson took her to Victoria where she was implicated in the murder of two white men. Acquitted of murder, she was returned to Tasmania where she lived for another thirty-five years. Her story is both inspiring and herat-wrenching, and it is told in full in this book for the first time.

Thoughts

This was an amazing, must-read for all Aussies. It was one though that I would read a chapter and then pick up another, happier book. There is this tragic feeling that runs all the way through. There aren’t happy moments. This doesn’t give you hope for the future. Instead, it reminds you of the many atrocities which we really should be condemned for… but it’s well-worth the read. And impossible to forget.

The whole journey in this book is somewhat heartbreaking. But the very end of it… that was just a whole other level. Particularly considering Truganini feared her body being taken for science and begged someone to bury it in the deepest water she knew… only to find out that when she passed… her body was taken and mounted in a museum. I just couldn’t believe the horror of that and the cruelty. There was just something so incomprehensible and… just… no… about the whole situation.

I’m always trying to find out as much as I can about Australian history. And for me, this was a fantastic piece of that. I knew next to nothing about the plight of Indigenous Australians in Tasmania when the settlers came. Although I still feel like I know next to nothing… I felt like there was so much more that was revealed in this novel. Alright, it probably wasn’t’ my favourite biography, Pybus has a slightly drier writing style than what I prefer. But overall, it was somewhat amazing and a great way to highlight the plight and true journey of one well-known Indigenous Australian.

I received this book at the beginning of the year. And my biggest regret? That I didn’t read it sooner. This is a book that I think all Australians should read. One that is amazing and impossible to forget. Definitely at the top of my suggestions pile…

<- More Indigenous Australians reviewsMore Australian author reviews ->

Image source: Allen & Unwin

Each City by Ellen van Neerven

Overview
Image result for kindred 12 queer book cover

Title: Each City
Author: Ellen van Neerven
In: Kindred (Michael Earp)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Indigenous Australians, LGBTQI, Music
Dates read: 13th June 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Walker Books
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: You’ll be like me.

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Synopsis

In a time and place not so different to our own, an Indigenous activist find that maybe her life and that of her lover are about to be irrevocably changed.

Thoughts

It turns out that I accidentally picked this up to read at a kind of perfect time – a time when the world is seriously starting to think (hopefully) about Black Lives Matter. So, reading a short story in which the focus in the lives and importance of equality and an acknowledgement of our privilege sat perfectly with me. Granted, this is in a world that is somewhat ahead of our time, and there are certain aspect which are both terrifying and intriguing. But definitely the perfect time for short stories like this to take centre stage.

This was a very powerful short story. It actually made me want to cry towards the end. I’m not entirely sure why, because it wasn’t as tragic as some of the other stories that I’ve read that have actually made me cry. It was powerful and intense. A reminder that it would be so easy to further marginalise those who are already living on the margins. And the traumas that this can inflict. Not just being part of a minority, but also the ways in which people can be governed due to this fact.

To further that feeling of wow and power that this short story lends, I found that the first person POV worked perfectly. It sunk you into the understanding and experiences of the narrative. You didn’t have to wonder about the feelings of marginalisation and fear that were being experienced – you experienced them alongside the narrative voice. Leaving you with this amazing, powerful and just… wow feeling once you turn that final page.

<- Laura Nyro at the WeddingAn Arab Werewolf in Liverpool ->

Image source: Bookdepository

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Overview
Image result for terra nullius claire g coleman book cover

Title: Terra Nullius
Author: Claire G. Coleman
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Adventure, DystopiaIndigenous Australians, Science fiction
Dates read: 17th February – 1st March 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: If only they would stay put – stay in the camp they had established for utterly mysterious reasons of their own – he would find it easy to beat a path around them and back to the road.

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Synopsis

‘Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.’

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to ahve a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, re-education is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.

This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history, This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.

This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.

Thoughts

I figured this would be a pretty good and intense book – it’s apparently won quite a few awards. Plus, Coleman is an Indigenous Australian woman. So she was probably going to write about things and topics which I am constantly trying to find out more about being a white Australian woman and all… I DID NOT realise how intense this was going to be… or how unforgettable. And well, kind of life changing.

For the first half of this book, I didn’t really get how this was a science fiction story. It honestly just felt like a retelling of the horrors that Europeans enacted upon Indigenous Australians. There were the Natives and the Settlers and everything they did was exactly what the first settlers did to our First Nation Peoples. There was nothing really fantastical about that. Mostly, it just gave a face and a personality to some really horrendous acts. But then you get to the halfway point… and everything changes.

I love that the beginning of this story feels very human, very typical and very expected. But then you reach that turning point, when the quotes start to talk about alien life forms, future dates and interplanetary colonisation. Suddenly the horrors are inflicted upon all humans. Racism seems incredibly stupid when the entire human race is fighting for survival – our differences apparently just aren’t so bad.

This is a book that everyone should read. It has a potent message, and a great storyline. It is especially important for Australians – we need to acknowledge and accept our past, so that we can find a way to begin to heal the wrongs of the past. It isn’t the kind of book that you will read through insanely quickly. At least, it wasn’t for me. Rather, it is the sort of book that you will mull over and consider as you digest it. Giving yourself time to absorb and understand the intensity of what Coleman is trying to say.

<- More Australian authorsMore Indigenous Australian ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Born to Run by Cathy Freeman

Overview
Image result for book cover born to run cathy freeman

Title: Born to Run
Author: Cathy Freeman
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Australian authorsBiographies, Indigenous Australians, Inspiration, Sport
Dates read: 20th – 22nd November 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Puffin Books
Year: 2007
5th sentence, 74th page: We pressed them together to signify that we were blood brother and sister forever.

Synopsis

Hi guys,

Ever since I was little I only had one dream – to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

When I was twenty-seven years old, my dream came true. I’ll never forget that night at the Sydney 2000 Games – as I crossed the finish line, it was as if the whole of Australia was cheering for me.

Sometimes I still wonder how it happened. When I was growing up, I felt no different to anyone else. I lvoed having fun with my brothers, sleeping over at Nanna’s and going horse riding with my dad. But I especially loved to run. With the help of my family, coaches and teachers, I became the best female 400-metre runner in the world.

I hope you enjoy my story, and that it inspires you to chase after your dreams, too!

❤ Cathy

Thoughts

I remember watching the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a kid. Remember watching Cathy Freeman light the torch, remember when she won her golds. Although I didn’t understand what the “big fuss” was, I did feel that same national pride as everyone else. What I had never realised was that she wrote a biography seven years later. I only discovered this because I happened to be looking for a book written by a female athlete. And I’m really glad that I did…

This is one of the easiest biographies I think I’ve ever read. It is open, honest and fun. there isn’t a lot of detail throughout the pages, but rather, an outlining of each piece of information as you progress through the years of her life. And it was a far more interesting journey than I was kind of imagining. Freeman not only talks about her love of running and freedom, but she also discusses her thankfulness for her family and the support that she’s received.

Not only is this an inspiring story – it’s also one that is very much about family. There is not a chapter in the novel that doesn’t mention her mother and step-father, father and siblings. Anne-Marie her deceased sister is specifically talked about throughout. It’s not just about the journey and the hard work that Cathy Freeman had to put in to her passions to get to the Olympics. It’s also about the fun, the family and the journey. Something that I can’t forget and will definitely flick through again when I need a reminder that YOU CAN DO THIS!

My biggest regret with this story is the fact that I didn’t know about it until recently. This would have been a phenomenal book to read when I was younger. This is a good insight into a very well known Indigenous Australian and some of the hurdles that she had to overcome because of Australia’s racism.

 <- The Diary of a Young GirlBreathe: A Life in Flow ->

Image source: Penguin Books Australia

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington

Overview
Image result for follow the rabbit-proof fence book cover

Title: Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence
Author: Doris Pilkington
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Book to Film, History, Indigenous Australians
Dates read: 8th – 12th June 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Year: 1996
5th sentence, 74th page: It was at that moment this free-spirited girl knew that she and her sisters must escape from this place.

Synopsis

This is the true account of Doris Pilkington Garimara’s mother Molly, made legendary by the film ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’.

In 1931 Molly led her two sisters on an extraordinary 1,600 kilometre walk across remote Western Australia. Aged 8, 11 and 14, they escaped the confinement of a government institution for Aboriginal children removed from their families. Barefoot, without provisions or maps, tracked by Native Police and search planes, the girls followed the rabbit-proof fence, knowing it would lead them home.

Their journey – longer than many of the celebrated walks of our explorer heroes – reveals a past more cruel than we could ever imagine.

Thoughts

I watched the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence years and years and years ago. But I only recently found out that it was actually a book. Written by the daughter of Molly, the girl who made all of the strong decisions in their journey. Which of course meant that I had to buy the book straight away. And sink my teeth and brain into this amazing journey. Something that made me uncomfortable to read about, but not as bad as I thought it would make me feel.

This is a must read book for any Australian. It’s a part of our history that is just touched upon, but by Doris writing of her mother’s plight, her family’s history and the colonisation of their country, you suddenly become far more aware of what the First Nations people went through. Although the movie tends to be something that is watched in high school, the book gives a lot more background on the family structure and relationships of the girls. The past and the history of their families and peoples’ before they were even conceived.

I was expecting a lot of angst out of this story. I was expecting a tale that would make me feel guilty, because the movie kind of does. But it isn’t like that. The facts are simply laid out and the determination of Molly is highlighted again and again. It makes you admire her and wonder what would happen if you were in that situation. How you would deal with something that was so unfathomably horrible, and find a way to fix it.

This is one of those books that I’m going to make my children (if I have any) read. It won’t leave my shelf and isn’t one that I’m going to give away. It is an incredibly easy book to read and one that when you close the last page, you just lie there kind of stunned. Stunned at the strength and resilience of one small girl. Filled with admiration of her strength and power. Seriously. Just read this book.

<- Rosa Parks: My StoryThis Will Only Hurt a Little ->

Image source: Wikipedia

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Overview
Related image

Title: Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?
Author: Bruce Pascoe
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authorsIndigenous Australians, Non-fiction
Dates read: 14th – 19th May 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Magabala Books
Year: 2014
5th sentence, 74th page: Sturt climbed one final dune and peered down onto the plain.

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Synopsis

“If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely we will admire and love our land all the more.” – Bruce Pascoe

Pascoe puts forward a compelling argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticed plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.

Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to get to this book for ages. Good intentions and all that. And once I picked this up… wow! It completely changed my outlook on Indigenous Australians and their culture – pre Europeans. Alright, I already had a lot of respect and fascination for these peoples, but after reading all of the different aspects of their daily lives and existences… just, wow.

Pascoe brilliantly sets out his arguments for an agricultural and sedentary existence in Dark Emu. Each chapter is set out into different aspects of this lifestyle and filled with examples, quotes and so many different forms of proof. Unlike a lot of books I’ve read which use quotes to back up their evidence, Pascoe provides some great background information before imparting the words of others. It feels less like information has just been spewed forth, and more like the quotes were adding to his information, instead of just complementing it.

When Dark Emu came out, it was highlighted as a great outlook on a forgotten group of people, or at least a group of people who, in Australian history are normally overlooked and forgotten. But for me it was almost something more… it was a great way to immerse myself in the ways that we use the land around us. I’m an ecologist and reading about species and plants which I see in the field all the time, just not in the same quantities. It gave me a much greater appreciation for the land and the soil that I step on all the time. A greater appreciation for the world I live in.

<- More Australian authors reviewsMore Indigenous Australians reviews ->
Image source: BookDepository

Yami by Yami Lester

Overview
Yami

Title: Yami: The Autobiography of Yami Lester
Author: Yami Lester
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Biographies, Indigenous Australians
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Jukurrpa Books
Year: 1993
5th sentence, 74th page: Tjitji kungkatja.

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Synopsis

This is Yami Lester’s story: from stockman to stirrer. Beginning in the heart of the Western Desert, Yami tells of his early years learning the country and the Law from the Ones Who Know. Of his years as a stockman, learning his trade on the vast, unfenced cattle stations of the Centre. Of this years living in the world of white people. And of the childhood memories stirred by a voice on the radio – memories of the day when the ground shook and a black mist came up from the south and covered the camp. Of the sickness that followed, and the blindness that changed his life for ever. Yami’s is a unique life of challenge and change, courage and humour. From the remote Centralian outback to the handback of Uluru, from bomb tests at Maralinga to the Royal Commission in London, Yami’s memories are aout the making of modern Australian history.

Thoughts

It was suggested that I read this because of my course in Indigenous Australians in environmental management and my interest in what our First Nation people have experienced. And let me tell you, I am so incredibly glad that I did. This story is just awe inspiring and fascinating. It not only entails part of our history, but also shows the strength, compassion and drive of people who have, quite frankly, not been treated as they should have been.

If you’re interested in Australian history, and more specifically, Indigenous history, this is certainly a book that is worth reading. I was kind of expecting a story that highlighted all of the many negative things that happened when white man decided to declare terra nullius, but this story was nothing like that. Yami’s love for the country and his people is clear. His experiences are told across the board and there is this really beautiful hope and care for the country and its people. All of its people.

The main reason that I decided to buy this story was because of Yami’s presence during the Maralinga bombings. What I didn’t realise was that he was instrumental in the fight to find out what truly happened there. Actually, he was very involved in a few moments in our past that I hadn’t expected – land rights movements, Indigenous education and health… he fought for a lot of things and, in many cases, he succeeded (or at least, he did mostly).

Yami takes you on an adventure through his life. Starting with the early years in central Australia and his work as a stockman, he took me on a journey through his life. One that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

 <- Scar Tissue ReviewThe Blind Side Review ->
Image source: Black Mist Burnt Country

Reports From a Wild Country by Deborah Bird Rose

Overview

Reports from a Wild CountryTitle: Reports From a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation
Author: Deborah Bird Rose
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Anthropology, Australian authors, Indigenous Australians, Non-fiction
Pace: Slow
Format: Non-fictional text
Publisher: University of New South Wales Press Ltd.
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: The history of colonisation is a history of cattle and horses as well as people.

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Synopsis

‘Captain Cook was the real wild one. He failed to recognise Law, destroyed people and country, lived by damage and promoted cruelty.’

Reports from a Wild Country explores some of Australia’s major ethical challenges. Written in the midst of rapid social and environmental change and in a time of uncertainty and division, it offers powerful stories and arguments for ethical choice and commitment. The focus is on reconciliation between Indigenous and ‘Settler’ peoples, and with nature.

Thoughts

I loved, loved, loved this book! It is a great insight into not only the past of Indigenous Australians, but also the process of colonisation and how we can begin to right these wrongs. Rose doesn’t take a negative tone when writing this reflection, whilst making sure that it serves a great reminder that Australia has a long way to go before we can begin to heal some pretty horrible wounds.

The structure of this book is fantastic – it starts with the past ethical considerations and practices of colonisation in Australia, specifically how this impacted on the Indigenous peoples of the Daly River. Then, it moves into the present practices of not only colonisation, but also those of decolonisation. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect, and the smattering of quotes and anecdotes really helps to bring this alight. Finally, Rose looks at the ways in which we can all begin to move forwards. After all, it’s about the ways in which we can all move forwards as a nation and recognise the past.

I loved the way in which this text was set out, and the way that a sensitive topic was approached. It takes something that is quite intense, and makes it approachable and understandable. After all, I’m a white Australian, and I want to understand the emotions and needs of our First Nation people. Although this is still an academic text, it is written in a far more approachable manner than many other texts, especially anthropological ones. Often they are a little too dense and heavy.

<- More anthropology reviews More indigenous Australian reviews ->
Image source: Amazon

Book of Dreams by Traci Harding

Overview

Book of DreamsTitle: Book of Dreams
Author: Traci Harding
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Fantasy, Indigenous Australians, Spirituality
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Voyager
Year: 1999
5th sentence, 74th page: Party!

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Synopsis

Welcome to the Book of Dreams

It has been brought to our attention that you seem to be completely lost. If you wish to come to know what it is that constantly eludes you in life… I am your transport to seek within.

Kyle is a young man with no future, and no past. Orphaned from a young age, he uses tough upbringing as an excuse for his lack of direction in life. But a mysterious parcel is about to change his view of himself, his parents, and the world in which he lives.

An old leather bound book, intricately embossed with creatures and strange beings, is left on Kyle’s doorstep with no card or note attached. The book issues Kyle a personal challenge – to finish reading the book and face the innermost truth about himself, or forfeit any chance of finding his true destiny.

If the book was left on your doorstep and you had nothing to lose, could you resist reading on?

Thoughts

I often find it difficult to find a good, solid story that has an Indigenous Australian lead. In fact, Book of Dreams has so far been the only such story. I’m constantly searching for new ones, and the fact that Harding was able to write a tale that paints a minority group in a good light and highlights some of their daily difficulties was amazing. Yet, although the Indigenous aspect of this writing is phenomenal, it is also the spiritual knowledge that is imparted throughout that has made me fall in love with this novel again and again and again.

Harding writes some very subtle, yet insightful tales of our own power to govern change in our lives. The overarching tale within Book of Dreams is about taking your past, present and future and gaining control over it. Although Kyle is dealt an incredibly crappy hand in life, he is able to (eventually) understand that these experiences cannot be a basis on which to build a horrible existence. Bitterness and anger at the past is not a way to continue to live, and it isn’t until he accepts the past for what it is and begins the process of healing that he is able to find a new life, love and reason for being.

I’ve studied Native Title in Australia through a few of my University courses, and it is always a fascinating area and discussion. Harding’s grasp of this legislation is great, and her bibliography at the end of the story attests to the fact that she has done her research in regards to this sensitive topic. Yet, it is the fact that she is able to find a way in her happy ending to re-grant rights to traditional lands when native title has been extinguished that is most enjoyable. After all, who doesn’t love a happy ending?

<- The Alchemist’s Key Review Ghostwriting Review ->
Image source: Booktopia