Listening to Country: A Journey to the Heart of What It Means to Belong

Listening to Country: A Journey to the Heart of What It Means to Belong

Ros Moriarty, Allen & Unwin

In this intimate and deeply moving book, Ros Moriarty, an Australian of British descent, weaves together a number of narratives.

She tells her life story and that of her husband, John Moriarty, a man of Yanyuwa and Irish descent and a member of the stolen generations.

She charts the development of “Balarinji”, the indigenous design studio which she and John started as an expression of joy at the birth of their first child and of their desire to celebrate his mixed identity and heritage, and which is now a leading business with operations on four continents.

She gives a history of the Yanyuwa people of the Gulf of Carpentaria post European contact, and relates the testimonies of elderly Yanyuwa Law women — the last generation possessing full cultural knowledge.

And she tells of some of her experience of participating, as an adoptive member of the Yanyuwa with her own skin name, in a weeklong women’s ceremony in Central Australia.

In this book is a growing sense of desperation, injustice and outrage for the Yanyuwa and other communities that now live in poverty, dependency and violence.

There is grief for the loss of language and culture, for the cultural dislocation between generations, and for the middle generations and children who are all but losing their Dreaming.

Yet always present is the quiet dignity, resilience and generosity of the last generation of Yanyuwa Law women. These women continue to sing the land and are able to find happiness and purpose even in brokenness.

Moriarty expresses her gratitude for the love, hospitality and acceptance offered to her by these women and all her Yanyuwa family. She expresses a hope that the widespread yearning for reconciliation in Australia today will find a way forward, through practical expression more than symbol.

The need to recognise and grasp a common future for all Australians leaves her with a final question and invitation: what will all our Dreaming be?

Miriam Pepper

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