Review Blog

Apr 09 2009

Maralinga by Christobel Mattingley

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Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741756210. 72p
(Ages 10 to adult) When the British planned and executed a series of bomb tests in South Australia in the 1950's, both the Australian and British governments had little time for the people who occupied that land, the Anangu. With this book, both the Anangu people and Christobel Mattingley, South Australia's award winning author, tell the story of the Anangu, from their relationship with the land, their stories and customs, the taking of their lands for the bomb tests, to its being handed back, and onto their lives today. It is a riveting story, one which evokes sympathy for a group of people alienated form their land and so their stories and history.
Maralinga is full of unexpected pieces of information. Maralinga, which means loud and thunderous, is not even an Anangu word, but one used from the languages of the people near Darwin, to describe the land in western South Australia. That fact alone tells volumes about how the bureaucrats saw the people who lived there.
The book, written by the Anangu people, relates the history of European explorers traversing their land, the coming of the missionaries, who derided and undermined their culture, imposing a white god, to the rations and handouts, making these people dependent upon a government organisation, all resulting in their alienation and dispossession. The final straw, the bomb tests, tore the land from their grasp, making it uninhabitable.
This beautifully illustrated book will be well used in classes where indigenous stories are told, where the issues of land rights are discussed and the alienation of a minority group of people by a government organisation is looked at in detail. Teacher notes are available on Allen and Unwin website.
Fran Knight

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