When a book as good as this is published, you feel it should be made compulsory reading for senior students and all others living in Australia. Amanda doesn’t focus on guilt, or blame, but wants to know the story behind her very happy childhood in Kalgoorlie, and the inequities of her Indigenous classmates and best friends, who lived in the Mission. Amanda was the daughter of the town doctor, a much respected man. She assumed as a child, that everyone had access to the same happy family life as she did.
Forty years later, after completing her medical degree, and raising a family, Amanda has begun writing. She is at a conference, when she is reminded by an American woman, that Australian Health Care has failed the Second Class Society. Amanda acknowledges the truth behind this, and begins to wonder what has happened to her school mates. This gradually becomes the subject for the book she is about to write.
Beginning her research, she finds very little is still on record of the Mission where her friends were living. She manages to track down one of the boys she remembered and finds he has recently published some work of his own. Greg is still living in Kalgoorlie. Amanda contacts him and asks if she could visit, with an aim to compile a book, rediscover her friends, and research the Mission where they lived. She needs to discover the truth about those times.
The quality of the writing and of the story is evident. It has the complexity of meshing memoir, analysis, and imagination into a voyage of discovery for Amanda. Greg introduces her to many of the people who had stayed at the Mission. They tell their story to Amanda, knowing that she will allow them to read the transcript, and make any alterations required Many sad stories emerge, and many tears were shed in recalling past events.
The people who ran the Mission were still alive and agreed to be interviewed. It seemed they tried to do the best job they could, seeing that the children were clean, fed and attended school. Separating family members was seen as a necessity. The children missed the close family network, and were never prepared in any way for life after the Mission. They never understood why they had been taken from their families, with some of them the second generation to be taken from their parents.
Ultimately, Amanda comes to meet Bron, who was her “go to “best friend” at school. Their lives have taken such different paths, but there is still a bond between them. How to help Bron, becomes an issue for Amanda. She wishes to respect Bron’s dignity, while helping her in a practical way. The subtleties of the situation are not lost on either of them.
With Greg acting as her go between, and keeping a slightly resentful eye on her, she uncovers more of the politics of the Mission life and the society in which it functioned. To her consternation, she discovers that her grandfather, also the town doctor, was Chief Protector of the Aboriginal People, and controlled their destinies.
Amanda has a positive outlook, and believes there can be a happy ending to these stories, but it is a way off yet. She will donate all the proceeds from this book to the Community at Kalgoorlie. Her great love of the country, the red earth and the blue, blue sky ensure that this should be a place with equal rights for all, and equal opportunities for all.
|Publisher||New South Publishers|
|Distributor||New South Books|