The rock by Aaron Smith

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The rock starts with a rant; it is meant to shock, shake people up. It demands that people open their eyes, open their minds, to recognise the dark heart of Australia, its harsh history, and the ongoing schism between the privileged whites and the First Nations custodians of this Country. Smith’s book is a memoir of his six years as editor of the ‘Torres News’ whose primary readership were Torres Strait Islanders, a people he became determined to know better, as mates, as community.

The Rock is the familiar name for Thursday Island drawing connections with Alcatraz prison, and the Earth as the third rock from the sun. The Torres Strait Islands are a focal point for so many of the widespread struggles between Indigenous people and oppressive bureaucracy, issues of identity and culture, native title, stolen wages, climate change, Closing the Gap, and racism. It was Australia’s failure to address these issues that led to poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal returning her MBE, highlighting the ongoing suffering of her people.

Smith is blunt, in your face, but the issues he exposes are important and should have more exposure in our media. How could a Sydney airport, in a ‘sky-high moment’ be named after an aviation icon, Nancy Bird Walton, yet her family be denied Australian citizenship? How could Aboriginal Australians be told they were ‘aliens’ under Dutton’s revised citizenship laws and be threatened with deportation?

These are just a few of the many anomalies, and injustices, that Smith turns a spotlight to; his  articles winning him the Indigenous Issues Reporting mantle at the 2014 Queensland Clarion Awards. I would recommend his book to senior secondary students for a critical perspective on serious issues that do not get attention in mainstream media. Also worth a listen, is the Good Reading interview with Smith on Australia’s cultural and moral divide. Highly recommended.

Themes: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australian citizenship, Aboriginal culture, Indigenous issues.

Helen Eddy