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Stranger Country

Monica Tan is an ABC, (Australian Born Chinese) woman who grew up in a comfortable and loving family in a Sydney suburb. When she left university, she was employed as a journalist for The Guardian, interviewing and meeting many interesting people. Being raised in a middleclass community, she was sheltered from the worst aspects of racism, although she always felt she looked not quite Australian.

Leaving her job, Monica decided to travel to China to meet her overseas family. She embraced their culture and traditions, as they still lived away from the big cities and worshipped the way they had for generations. After a year Monica arrived back in Australia – her country – and realised that she knew very little about the history of the Indigenous people, their land, traditions and customs. It was as though Australian History began with the white settlers and the land had no story to tell.

With this thought in mind, Monica bought a 4-wheel drive and planned a 30,000 kilometre trip around Australia. She had a few contacts from her journalism days but hoped to learn and meet people as she travelled and camped in the outback. She had some issues regarding her Chinese/Australian background and wanted to see where she fitted into her country. Monica hoped that by understanding the History, cultures and stories of the outback she would gain a sense of identity more clearly.

As she began her trip, it became apparent that the Indigenous people she sought were friendly and happy to share some of their belief systems. She walked the tourist trail and spent time in the North with a family. They fished and ate traditional food and included Monica in their stories. Beginning from Sydney the journalist travelled to Mildura on to Adelaide then to Alice Springs. From there she went to Pt Headland, Broome Darwin, Mt Isa, Cairns then back down the east coast of the continent. As she travelled, she showed great respect for people’s privacy and informed them she was writing a book and they were welcome to change or delete anything they wished.

Among the many fascinating pieces of history that Monica confronted, were the Chinese/Indigenous people in the North West of the country. The Chinese had come for the Gold Rush and the pearling. They had intermarried and become market gardeners and merchants. She met some Indigenous people with Chinese names who told her many stories of hardship and death in a harsh land. These people were well settled by the time that Politicians decided Chinese and Asian people had too much influence in the country. It was at this time that the White Australia Policy was formed.

By confronting the true History of the land and the people, Monica found her place in Australia and the belonging that she had always sought.

AuthorMonica Tan
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedMarch 2019