By KIERAN FINNANE
Who better to launch their book than the story-tellers? Not all 127 of them, but many got up today at the Telegraph Station to help send Every hill got a story out into the hands of readers.
As the title suggests, it is a book about country from the perspective of central Australia’s Aboriginal people. But it’s “not only hill” that’s got a story, said Harry Jakamarra Nelson– it’s all the features of country.
And if it’s about country, it’s about the people who live in it and their law and histories, told in their own words and illustrated richly with photographs.
Many of the speakers at the launch looked back – to their languages and learning, to searching for bush foods and to memories of young days, with family, or sadly for some, without. This could be down to the misfortunes of life, such as the loss of his mother when she gave birth to him and his twin brother, as recalled by Patrick Oliver. It could also, of course, be down to the government’s removal of the Stolen Generation to distant missions, as recalled by Zita Wallace and Harold Furber.
Left: Sammy Butcher presents story-teller Jean Mack with a copy of the book. With him is chairman of the Central Land Council, Francis Kelly.
Some looked forwards. Tommy Kngwarraye Thompson talked about “our young people” growing up with two cultures – “from our side and they go to school”. He referred to the many problems Aboriginal people have experienced but, he said, “We’re going to beat all that with our young people behind us!”
Harry Nelson said he felt “overwhelmed” by the publication of the book. He said everybody should be proud of it, including non-Aboriginal people: “A lot of us are closely connected. We work together, we play sport together, we want to keep our relationship very close.”
Helen Kantawarra said the book should be in every school library. Some work has already gone into ensuring this, with a study guide to help teachers incorporate it into the curriculum. So not just school libraries, but classrooms: the stories in the book can become part of the curriculum in history, geography, legal studies, English, science and health, said Josie Douglas.
Chairman of the Central Land Council, Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, made a point about how the stories of country are still unfolding. He referred to the recent rediscovery by Warlpiri people of Kurlpurlunu, an important ceremonial site in a remote corner of their country. It had been unvisited for decades until earlier this year.
Sammy Butcher Japanangka helped Mr Kelly give each of the story-tellers present a copy of the book. He saw a metaphor in it for life’s journey, which is “like a book, turning from page one to 100.” A major experience in his own life had been music, especially playing with the Warumpi Band, but alongside it, always, was “going back to country”.
Every hill got a story was produced by the Central Land Council and published by Hardie Grant Books as an SBS book.