The literature on Australian Aborigines is vast, but much of it is strangely silent about the experiences and activities of women. This collection of stories of the eventful lives and strong characters of a number of Aboriginal women offers a more intimate and personal view. Their lives span a century of history in fifteen communities scattered from Cape York Peninsula, Arnhem Land and East Kimberley to the Western Desert, the Centre, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
One of these stories is an autobiography and each of the others contains transcriptions or translations of a woman's own reminiscences, with additional details given by the author. Some women recall the first time they saw a European in their land, others tell how Europeans had influenced their communities generations before they were born. While the authors lived in Aboriginal communities in order to study some particular aspect of the society, the women they describe here became their close friends, companions and helpers, and this book is a record of friendships formed against differences of background, experiences and age.
Allegiance to family and familiar territory shapes the personal histories of Aborigines in ways scarcely appreciated by people reared in nuclear family households in cities. The strength of family and community ties can be better understood through reading about the women who contribute so much to the maintenance of these communities.
Table of Contents
'Two Dreamtimes' - Judith Wright
1 Topsy Napurrula Nelson: Teacher, Philosopher and Friend - Diane Bell
2 Mondalmi: One of the Saltwater People - Catherine Berndt
3 A Teacher's Life - Pearl Duncan
4 Utopian Women - Jenny Green
5 Eileen McKenzie - Luise Hercus
6 I Was a Drover Once Myself: Amy Laurie of Kununurra - Amy Laurie and Ann McGrath
7 Lorna Dixon - Janet Mathews
8 Emily Margaret Horneville of the Muruwari - Lynette Oates
9 Inyalangka - Helen Payne
WC 10 My Sister Who Mothered Me - Janice Reid
11 Running Free: Three Kugu-Nganychara Women - Diane Smith
12 Two Women of Jigalong - Myrna Tonkinson
13 Aunty Ellen: The Pastor's Wife - Diane Barwick
14 Bandeiyama: She Keep Going - Betty Meehan
15 Mangkatina: Woman of the Desert - Isobel White
ISOBEL WHITE is an anthropologist who has lived with Aboriginal people in South Australia while studying women's social and ceremonial life. Since her retirement from Monash University she has been a visiting fellow in the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University. DIANE BARWICK is an anthropologist who has done years of research on the history of Aboriginal administration in Victoria and New South Wales, described in many articles and the forthcoming book Rebellion at Coranderrk. BETTY MEEHAN is an anthropologist who has lived at intervals over the last twenty years with the Anbarra community in Arnhem Land. Her book Shell bed to shell midden describes some of her experiences with the women of that community. The other contributors to Fighters and Singers represent a group of writers who combine a distinguished list of publications with deep first-hand knowledge of the Aboriginal way of life.