Last Friday Clara took a significant step towards publication. She went to Melbourne where her story will be read by the team at Allen and Unwin. Meanwhile, I am dealing with the vexed question of indigenous protocols.
Clara had very little contact with the original Wongai inhabitants of the Coolgardie area. But they were there. To leave them out of her story would not only be ridiculous, but would make a mockery of the tolerance and respect that both Aboriginal and European groups initially showed towards each other. As in other parts of the country, this tolerance deteriorated as time went on. The huge influx of Europeans put pressure on precious water and food resources and cultural differences not only became obvious, but often destructive. But no matter how much we would like to, we can not change history.
My grandparents arrived from Victoria as part of the enormous influx of people from all over the world that occurred with the discovery of gold. Without the Coolgardie gold rush of 1893, I would not have been born here and would not have become the writer of historical fiction that I am today. I grew up in country Western Australia. There were always Aboriginal students in the schools I attended and we played together after school. In the small towns where we lived everyone was accepted. Immigrants, or Displaced Persons as they were called after World War ll, were less common that Aboriginals, but were quickly absorbed into the life of the town. In many ways Clara’s story is also my story. If the gatekeepers of Aboriginal culture and heritage do not encourage people like me to publicise the positive contacts that did, and still do, occur between Aboriginal people and ‘white’ settlers, they do themselves and their descendants a disservice.