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The ghosts swarm like angry bees…the early wars, the Stolen Children report, the devastating health statistics, the extravagant incidence of self-destructive acts among Aboriginal adolescents…There has also been a great deal of talk about ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’, and what precise mixture of each non-Aboriginal Australia should be feeling.
Inga Clendinnen believes that democratic people need true stories about their past. In this engaging essay, based on Clendinnen’s 1999 Boyer Lectures, she argues for the rejection of any single, simple account of the Australian past. The reader catches the experience of individuals through fragments—a woman being manhandled on a beach, an old man remembering the hard lessons of his boyhood in a Jesuit mission, an old woman urgently dancing the history of her country.
What whites have done to indigenous Australians has been described as the ‘locked cupboard’ of Australian history. Now, ‘the cupboard is locked no more’. This frank and challenging review of race relations in Australia helps us cast off prejudice and foregone conclusions and to look with fresh eyes. It enables us to understand better how this nation came to be what it is today.
‘She is an essayist from one of the high orders of the heavenly hosts.’
‘Clendinnen is a skilled interpreter of human behaviour. It is this psychologically astute and, ultimately, feminine approach that sets her apart as a thoroughly 21st-century historian.’
‘A kind of moral magnetic north in the middle of the chaos, brutality and terror.’