New Internationalist

Full Circle

September 2002

There is no hint of defeatism in this title, no sense of merely ending up where you began. The full circle instead represents the unity and comprehensiveness of the rich, ancient tapestry of indigenous Australian kinship, land and culture and how this has survived decades of forced assimilation.

Edie Wright has compiled the stories of her family over three generations. She uses these oral histories to trace her family’s connection with the remote Kimberley coast and re-establish ties with her Cape York people. Biography fleshes out the daily realities of living as aliens in your own land and provides insight into indigenous history over the entire 20th century.

During three generations her family lived through no fewer than 40 different government acts and amendments, many of which were overwhelming in impact. Government policy dispersed indigenous families, bringing both grief and hardship, and included the forced removal of native children from their families: the ‘stolen generation’.

The scale of this tragedy of displaced lives is only slowly coming to be understood, especially in terms of how powerfully it affects indigenous Australians today. There have been huge disruptions in communities and culture. The tapestry has been scuffed threadbare in some patches and wantonly vandalized in others.

Edie Wright’s style is powerful and unpretentious. Reading these stories is like sitting in on a family get-together – but thanks to her openness and generosity, as a welcome guest rather than voyeur.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 349 This column was published in the September 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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