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(generated from captions) and welcome to Talking Stick. Hello, I'm Miriam Corowa a central element Storytelling has always been of Indigenous culture, through oral histories. with traditions being passed on

have often been But while Indigenous people written about them, the subject of books that they've started it's only quite recently to put pen to paper themselves. At the heart of today's show of Australian literature we look at the changing landscape have made and the contribution authors characters and voices. in giving expression to Indigenous a published author and poet We're joined by Dr Anita Heiss novel, 'The Diary of Mary Talence', whose works include the historical children's fiction, the recently released 'Yirra and her Deadly Dog, Demon' 'Not Meeting Mr Right'. and the popular chick-lit book, It's great to see you again. Anita, thank you for joining us. You're working on a number of fronts It's good to be here, thank you. you are working on, and you've got a lot of projects but one of those you are working on Indigenous literature. is an anthology of Australian about what the scope is Can you tell us a little bit in Australia? in terms of Indigenous authors with Peter Minter Sure. I'm currently co-editing

'Anthology of Aboriginal Literature' The Macquarie PEN projects I've worked on and it's one of the most exciting in our history... because of the first time or in Australian literary history, of over 80 Aboriginal authors we have a comprehensive volume from Bennelong's letters that spans everything Miles Franklin award-winning novel, to the words of Alexis Wright's 'Carpentaria'. and poetry, So we have political speeches

play excerpts and social commentary. songs, short stories,

in Australia is, I think what it will do in this country, not only open up a dialogue about how we define literature, in the mainstream literary circles, academics and teachers, but it will also give and school students and readers to understand something to actually help them

in this country. how we have evolved as writers As I say, from Bennelong,

award-winning authors. right through to major international that surprised you Were there any materials in terms of what you discovered? the early work before the 1950s I think, particularly, the Yirrkala Bark Petition. and the letters and the manifestoes,

Peter and I wanted to expand You know, as editors, to be an Aboriginal writer. the notion of what it means evolution is how, quite often, I think, what we saw in the

are still very similar today, the things we talk about

is different but the way we talk about them so now we have more fiction writers. was narrowing down, The difficult task written work. an enormous amount of top-quality

over 1,200 individual Aboriginal We have indexed writers and storytellers there. and Torres Strait Islander So that will give you some idea we have, actually, in print. of how many people Can you explain to us a bit literary journey has been? about what your personal My belief has always been about Aboriginal people if you wanted to learn are written by Aboriginal people. you would read the stories that Um, and I say to my students, I'm going to buy a book by a farmer, if I want to learn about farming not a book by a stock broker. of looking at things. To me, it's quite a simplistic way essentially a tongue-in-cheek look So I wrote 'Sacred Cows' which was at Skippy, the backyard barbecue of white Australia. and all the cultural icons I wrote 'Token Kooris' I moved into writing. of observations. which was a collection because... I don't like to say it's poetry just words on the page I think they're more, really, line and they look like poetry. that don't go to the end of the of course And 'The Diary of Mary Talence' was about the Stolen Generations. in the classroom And that was about filling a gap a significant part of our history, for young Australians to learn about on Aboriginal people today. that is still impacting fortunate to release the book And of course, in 2007, I was really public school. with the students of La Perouse co-written And that was the first novel in Australia by any class of students about that. so I'm particularly proud and spent most of my life, but also because I have grown up "La Pa", living on Dharawal land out near 'Yirra and her Deadly Dog, Demon' And that was called the follow-up to that one. and we are in the process of writing

'Not Meeting Mr Right' And, of course, was... is chick lit... buy into the whole.... and I don't really I think we should just have fiction, of different genre categories, not a whole lot but that's done really well

about that. and I'm really, really happy television series. It's been optioned for a six part commenting about I've read from your interviews you have drawn, obviously, 'Not Meeting Mr Right' which influenced the book. on some of your personal experience It's true. Look, most of my writing poetry or social observations whether it's in fiction, is based on real-life experiences as a contemporary Koori woman, that I have with Westfield dreaming, unashamedly, concrete Koori, I have every day. um, who... in the conversations in the eastern suburbs, And I did grow up living on the eastern seaboard. there are lots of black fellas I was the only black fella there, I did go to a private girls school, in the classroom I did know more than the teachers in terms of Indigenous issues, anybody that I'm not. and so I don't try and be is make my readers understand But what I try to do of Aboriginal experience that there is a diversity is no more or less Indigenous and my experience than somebody that's from Yirrkala, or wherever. or Mt Druitt, or Walgett, an urban-based experience. It's just that I have So it's also about placing us... my stories... or the story of Alice Aigner, for example, is about placing us in Australian society every day. We function every day, in every element of this country. We're in the landscape, everywhere, and I think we need to be writing stories that reflect our personal journeys, that's all. I want to make some social change, I want to have fun while I am writing chick lit,

but I want the story, the journey of the narrator in the novel to actually speak to a reader to make them think about the way in which they regard or think about an Aboriginal Australia and indeed, the way in which they behave with Aboriginal Australia on a day to day basis. What do you think are some of the key messages, I suppose, that you hope people will pick up when they read some of these works? Um, the key messages I think... That we are... we need to be regarded as rightful citizens with social justice and an equitable place in society. That we are as talented and can mix it with the best as any other writer in Australia and even on the international stage. That we contribute to the arts soul of this nation every day. And that we need to be regarded with respect as human beings that we offer other people, generously, in society. So, really, I want people to have a laugh when they're reading

but I also want them to think about the words that I am putting on the page. I suppose literature is that, I suppose, a way of Australians who don't have an awareness of Indigenous Australia or don't mix with anyone who is Indigenous... Is that a way of introducing them to issues and ideas that they may not have been exposed to? I think, books are a fantastic way to actually do that, to reach massive audiences internationally, but also, obviously, in the classroom. Books are used to teach children literacy,

at an academic level they're analysed for their plot and their storyline and their characters... So, it's important for us to be writing a novels so they do get on curriculum. I think books are also a gentle way to speak to people who don't have that experience with Aboriginal Australia. Because even if they're not liking what they're reading they can put it down, they can come back, they can read it later. Books have a longevity that live performances don't have, and it's not a criticism, because I think they all work together, but I think people read books on the bus, the train, at the beach, they lie in bed, you know...

You can't do that with other forms of media. I think, all biases aside, that literature is a useful and valuable and economic means, of educating Australia about Aboriginal people. Anita, thank you very much. It's been great to have you here as always. Thank you. When Meme McDonald first saw Boori Pryor speaking to a group of school students in 1995, a great literary partnership soon followed. Drawing on her experience as an accomplished, prize-winning author, Meme encouraged Boori to take his storytelling from the schoolroom to the page, and in return, Meme's own writing took a new direction. Meme and Boori, it's fantastic to have you both on the program and to meet you finally. I just wanted to ask you first, perhaps you, Meme, to start with, what it was that brought you to want to be in a partnership, a writing partnership, with someone such as Boori? Well, it was in that moment when I saw Boori perform to students in a school that I saw he had this amazing capacity to speak generously about the history and the stories that affect all of us in this country. And he had the capacity to make people laugh and cry at the one time, including me.

And, I was with a bunch of other students that rushed down and said "Now, Boori, what about..." They were just eager to meet Boori, I was eager to say "Why don't you write a book?" and Boori said "Well, I'm too busy. "In actual fact, I'm wanting to get to every school in this country." And I think he nearly has. So I said "What if we work together? What if I help you?" Because I was very eager that the book that we'd collaborate on was a book I wanted my own children to be able to read. And for you, Boori? How was it being approached and having this idea thrust at you? Exactly like that. Yes. Um, It-it-it... it was a... 'cause I love writing... and, um, I taken a course in literature in TAFE, in the mid-80s, and I love poetry and so the idea was kind of there but I was really busy and "doing". and the literary sense was, you know, I suppose needed nurturing... and along came Meme... So you found the right combination, I suppose,

I think it was exactly that, the right time, the right place. It was a time when... our books, I think, could take things a step further. In that some of the early writings had dealt with the... the Dreamtime stories, traditional stories... and what we were attempting was to look at fictional contemporary stories, and how they connected with everyone's experience, every boy's experience and his connection with nature, and yet putting those in a very... in a context that was very Aboriginal.

So they're both universal, and very specific at the same time. I don't say we did that deliberately, we were just trying to enjoy ourselves writing good stories, really. I think now, when you look back at it, you can see, where we fitted in a sequence of time. And how is it the two of you were able to bring your different backgrounds and, obviously, your different cultural experiences and make that work in a collaborative process? I just did as I was told. That is so untrue. Um, I think... you've mentioned that before... it's a good story, not a black story. It is a story, it is a good story, so the Aboriginal bit comes after so that kids read it and go "No, that's me there" instead of going "That's the black kid", you know? And can you explore with us, I suppose, some of the different works you have been involved with together? I think the first book was 'Maybe Tomorrow'? And you have moved on with books like... I hope I say this right... 'My Girragundji.' And 'The Binna Binna Man'. There's been five now altogether, hasn't there? And then you've had your book, Meme, which is 'Love Like Water' which has, sort of, come, I guess, from a lot of the experience of the both of you working together. Can you share with us what the process has been like in terms of the books you have actually written. Well, I suppose, in any form of work that you do... with, television or writing, you always delve into your bag of life.

and whatever comes out of that is part of your life... is... is...you know, you use in your craft. and I think that's what we did in 'Maybe Tomorrow'. It actually started out as anecdotes from children. You know, all the kids were "How long have you been black?" "Oh, a fair a while now." So, it's like, they come up with... "You got hair up your nose." "It's really long... and there's a booger up there, too." 'Cause they'd be sitting on the floor looking up your nose. So, and it's kinda... and I tell these stories... So, it started as, sort of, anecdotal feedback from children. And then we took in, and they said could you make it stronger? And what happened? For me, it was an opportunity to listen and to educate myself

in a culture that really I felt in my education at school here there's a whole big gap. And I know that's improving, but I still don't think it's anywhere near adequate enough to understand the land, really, on which we live, and the culture of that land. To understand that land, of course, you need to understand, or make some contact, with the culture that's been here the longest. So that first book 'Maybe Tomorrow' which was non-fiction was an opportunity to do exactly that... listen, educate myself, know the country that I live in, know its history and therefore be able to stand up with some dignity, with realising, okay, I can stand tall knowing this, with the knowledge. The great thing of working with Boori is like he just demonstrated. Just when you think you're getting very earnest about something and sometimes that knowledge of the history of our country can be painful, he'll throw in something that just has you laughing and moves you on. And I think that's a great feature of his whole family. And what I learnt from Boori and his family was the importance of humour and the power of humour. But then we moved into fiction. I think sometimes non-fiction you can only get so close to the truth and it's really when you start to write fiction, that you can tell it closer to the bone, if you like, because you're not limited by exactly how you're impacting on actual people's lives. Fiction certainly still impacts on the people's lives, but you have a kind of freedom within fiction and I feel that's where our collaboration moved on as well that we could both bring together our own... understandings. Again, of something that goes deeper than culture something that offers a possibility of how both our cultures can live here. I suppose it's like a starting point for some people to be able to look at other issues. I feel a great responsibility, as a... ..as an Anglo-Celt that I am, to get it right. I actually, even though 'Love Like Water' is the story of white woman in western Queensland and moving further west to Alice Springs and it really is a love story so I'm in a perfect position to, kind of, write it, a love story between two cultures. The only way, I feel, that I can get it right as a writer, is to check back with the material that affects another culture,

with someone of that culture. It just is first base

in terms of wanting to create great writing work. So 'Love Like Water' owes a lot to Boori and collaboration before that. I have to say I actually read 'Maybe Tomorrow' and then immediately read 'Love Like Water' and I could immediately see some similarities obviously between your personal story, Boori, and with the experiences you've been through and little parts of the character Jane in 'Love Like Water'...

Greatly influenced, I would say. It's not me in the book, OK? I just want to sort that out right now. He's just black, like me, but that's it. Right? Plays basketball too. I forgot that bit, OK. Doesn't it say he's handsome or something? That bit is true, the rest is just made up. I think Boori, in the end, when he got sick of me asking him to read bits and all that he said

"Just make me look good. "If anyone thinks it's me just make me look good." And she did, so that's OK. But seriously, about writing love stories, because I think all of the stories, in some sense, are about love. 'My Girragundji' I think, is about higher love. About love that is beyond family or relationships. With the natural world perhaps... symbolised through the frog.

I think there's a really important place for love stories that do serve a greater purpose. Politics gets us, perhaps, to the front gate of being able to see into another culture and there's a very important step in that but actually to get in the front door, I think love does that. See, like, that's a really good point "place"... because in 'Maybe Tomorrow' it's about searching for that place. That's what you need, is that sense of place so that you can start to love yourself. and that's what I think, I suppose, we all work into it when we write. all the books, and anything else I do, and Meme does, it's about that trying to get the place first. And I think you can talk about all the other stuff about, you know... about what's been taken away, wages, and all those things, and people don't... non-Aboriginal people... don't want to look at that. Not so much, not look at it, kind of, they're not bothered.

But if you do a way through stories and, kind of, make it fun that's kind of like a starting point and then... that's what I found...

through teaching, is that they can move on to other issues and stuff

and not feel threatened and that's the whole point. If... if... if things are threatening to someone then they'll stay the same place. Don't you agree with that? That's what I find working with children. And sharing. You see, when I... When I do stories at schools I don't tell them, I give them to the children, and they take them in here... and this is teachers as well, and they take them in here, and it helps them grow inside. Because, let's face it, Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous living culture in the whole world and we've got it right here and its... Hindsight is a great thing, but why don't we just grab it now? We've all got to fight to save these things. And so in the contemporary form, what we've done with the books is... has opened the gate to that, to the traditional stories,

And, I think, that's a really important aspect, I suppose, of literature now and also stories, in general, that relate to this country. And it's a fun way of doing it. What are some of the stories you think we might still be waiting to hear about? Or read about? I think more...

..there is a real need for more contemporary... stories, you know, written... and, like, even for TV, but mainly written because they're really looking at high school, as well as primary as well as picture books. You know, someone from preschool, I do a lot of preschools, and they said more picture books for the preschoolers, you know? You know, can we have some more? I think the demand is getting much... and everybody's really wanting to know and I think that's the healing effect that's starting to happen now

and that's what I talk about before that - about not being afraid to ask. A lot of the time people wanted to ask but they've gone "Oh, look... is it OK?" And not being afraid to laugh. I think there's a lot more to be written yet in the area that lets us laugh at ourselves. Because it has been quite earnest and it's needed to be earnest, perhaps. but I think there's works coming out now that are really quite exciting, around humour... and being able to laugh at that hard stuff. What do you think? I agree. I mean, just with my experience with 'Not Meeting Mr Right',

I have e-mails and women accost me in the toilet and say, "That's me and I'm reading books with stories that are about me." You know, contemporary, Aboriginal women in the 21st century. And I think, I think our... ..places like Magabala books do sensational children's books and we have a wonderful catalogue throughout the country of young readers... books for young readers with colour illustrations that are essentially creation stories, or dreamtime stories, or Altjeringa, or whatever terminology you want to use. We can, actually, be assisting this notion of that the dreamtime is something of the past, and that we are a people of the past. But that's not the case, and we are allowed to evolve. We don't remain static. Like every other society and community, that they're allowed to evolve and change and become cosmopolitan and we need stories that reflect, that as a people, a diverse people, that we change and evolve and adapt

And so, I agree with Boori about that, as well. And Meme mentioned this notion of writing fiction as an element of reaching the truth and it's so true, because I can write a character that is not Anita, and have a character saying an enormous amount of things Anita Heiss could never say publicly in the black community without being flogged, or isolated, or ostracised or whatever. they are things that necessarily need to be said and things can be done with humour and I think what I found in the books that I read that are engaging and page-turning, and the books that I like to write, is, particularly, to reach readers who don't have a knowledge or an understanding, or experience of Aboriginal Australia, is to hook them in with humour... and then hit them in the guts with the reality. But I think there's lots of ways to do it. You know, I do workshops with Aboriginal people in writing, and the thing I hear all the time is "Oh, I can't spell. I'm worried about grammar." And Boori mentioned this notion of a good story, and these fellas working on a good story. I say to students it doesn't matter how well you spell it doesn't matter how good a writer you are, you can be the best writer in the country, if you haven't got a story, it doesn't matter. The story is what matters, really. Of course, it's a bit of a cliche but they do say 'The pen is mightier than the sword.' So, I guess we are wanting to see real change in this country and, I guess, to create a better understanding between the different cultures that make up Australia there is no greater way than to be able to get people to read about it and open their minds to who we are as a people And you know, what that made me think of, is you can't control your readership, or how somebody reads your work.

Someone can read your book, or a poem, and think it's quite political and it might be a love poem, or it might be something else... which is a good thing. As long as everybody gets something I don't mind how they interpret it. But what it means, is we do need to be providing a whole range of stories across genres. We need our Romaine Moretons, the Samuel Wagan Watsons in poetry, we need the Tara June Winchs and Alexis Wrights, we need kids books and... because there's an audience that don't... they all read a different way, and they all want to read different things.

That's... for me, that's really exciting.

It means we still have this whole audience to nurture and speak to. On the other side of that, we really need to develop an Aboriginal audience which is also linked to literacy, but also linked to lack of literacy. It is also linked to Aboriginal kids needing see books with stories about them in there. You know, they didn't have that when I went to school. There weren't books with brown kids. It's not rocket science. Boys need books with boy stories, girls need... And brown kids want to see books with brown kids in them. And fair enough. Well, Anita, Boori and Meme thank you very much for being on the program. It's been great to meet you all, and we certainly look forward to seeing more of your books in the bookstores very soon. ALL: Thank you. Through the power of the written word

Indigenous stories are now being told almost with an urgency to preserve culture and also reflect the reality of current experience. But there are many more stories to be told. That's all for this week, thanks for joining us. If you'd like more information please check our website: See you next time.

This program is not subtitled

MAN: We were all granted about 10 days' leave for our final visit to our homes. This was around the middle of April 1944. So I went up to Luverne to see my parents and my brothers and sisters.

It was a very difficult time because I knew,

I had the orders in my possession that would be sending me to the European Theatre of Operations

and I knew that we'd been assigned to fight this terribly dangerous type of combat mission. So, when I was leaving, and saying goodbye to my mother and dad, we went to the train station in Luverne to catch the midnight train. My sister, Mavis, was with me and I took her aside and we walked down the platform for a whiz and I told her what my assignment had been.

And that the odds were pretty great that I would be killed. So I had told her to be very much aware of this possibility and that she should be prepared to help my parents.

THEATRE MUSIC MOVIE NARRATOR: This immense piling up of war supplies in Britain is massed for the giant blow designed to knock out the Nazi. An astounding panorama of everything that you can think of, and more. HEROIC MILITARY MUSIC Invasion shipping massed in British harbours along the English Channel. Barges and boats. Imagine those stacked-up amphibious craft when they stream in swarms for the landing. Bombers which in the ground invasion, must keep on hammering. Gliders for air-borne troops. And myriad fighter planes for the monster air battles

of the offensive designed to be the final phase of the European war. Acres of planes reaching far into the distance. SLOW JAZZ MUSIC By the late spring of 1944, on both sides of the world, there were signs that the tide of war had begun to turn. The Allies had stopped Japan's expansion in the Pacific. They had taken Guadalcanal in the Solomons and Tarawa in the Gilberts, had savaged the enemy fleet at Midway and had begun the long climb from island to island towards the Japanese homeland.

In the European Theatre, the Allies had cleared North Africa of Axis forces and taken Rome.

Allied war planes were still bombing Germany night and day. The battle of the Atlantic had been won. The sea lanes were now open and men and weapons and supplies were flooding into Britain.