Review Blog

Jul 01 2020

Living on stolen land by Ambelin Kwaymullina

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Magabala Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925936247.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Highly recommended. In these days of the Black Lives Matter campaign and discussions of white privilege, this book is a highly relevant reminder of Australia's violent settler-colonial history and the ongoing conflict between settler systems and Indigenous values. The title Living on stolen land sums it up; it is a history that many would prefer not to recognise. Kwaymullina's book sets a challenge: 'You are living on stolen land, What can you do about it?'
In simple prose, written like the lines of a poem, she explains the different concepts of sovereignty, time, Country, processes, and knowing. She describes the 'long con' where Indigenous knowledge is always seen as less, less important, less than the dominant culture. She challenges us to think about the different biases we hold: structural, explicit and unconscious. With unconscious bias even the best intentioned person needs to actively check their own behaviours, reflect and listen. There is a pathway forward; it requires humility and respectful relationships.
Living on stolen land is a slim volume, a deceptively simple looking book, but the ideas provide provocation for much thoughtful reflection and discussion. Each chapter is introduced with a design, a visual representation of the concepts being introduced. The cover shows a tree with deep roots but also shoots of new growth. This book could be read, and read again; it is an invitation to create a new future, together.
Kwaymullina has written a number of books for different ages, picture books to science fiction. Catching Teller Crow was 2019 winner of the Victorian Premier's Prize for Writing for Young Adults. This latest work of non-fiction is aimed at an adult audience.
Themes: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, Colonialism, Racism, Bias, Reconciliation.
Helen Eddy

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