On Saturday Ms Forgotten Australian and I listened to Rhonda Collard Spratt, who, with Jacki Ferro has authored Alice’s Daughter: Lost Mission Child. Rhonda is Alice’s daughter and she is a delightful raconteur. She shared stories of her life, enlivened with music, poetry, and much laughter. Aunty Rhonda, as she is known, brings warmth and inclusiveness to a story of violence and separation.
Aunty Rhonda was taken from her Aboriginal family and placed on Carnarvon Native Mission, Western Australia. Rhonda grew up in a white world, separated from all that she would later seek out to build her identity – land, family, history, language, music and community.
Alice’s daughter sings
I didn’t expect the book launch to include performances by a choir but members of the Meanjin Voices entertained us with Aunty Rhonda. It was such joy to hear these woman put Aunty Rhonda’s words to music. Aunty Rhonda even got us singing along with her rendition of Bob Randall’s mournful song Brown Skin Baby.
In a native camp I’ll never forget
A young black mother who’s cheeks all wet
My brown skin baby they take him away
I’ve listened to Aunty Rhonda speak before and was keen for Ms Forgotten Australian to meet her. Although different, they are both fierce storytellers and share a similar history. Both were separated from their families as toddlers and placed in Australian religious-run institutions during the 1950’s. Ms Forgotten Australian and Aunty Rhonda from the Stolen Generations were both neglected and abused through this shameful episode of Australia’s history.
There were tears from the audience as Aunty Rhonda spoke of her experience of injustice, racism, and inter-generational trauma. Ms Forgotten Australian trembled beside me as Aunty Rhonda’s description of institutional abuse triggered her own sorrowful memories. Yet she was gratified that Aunty Rhonda named and honoured the pain of Forgotten Australians.
That Aunty Rhonda and Jacki had co-authored the memoir intrigued me as that’s how Ms Forgotten Australian and I have written her biography. Envy writhed inside me as I listened. While happy for their success I longed to promote our book. I hope Ms Forgotten Australian and I can host book talks, once we are no longer silenced.
The author talk was part of the National Sorry Day events. Since 1998 on 26 March we remember and commemorate the mistreatment of Australia’s Aboriginal People. And, at least some of us, say sorry for all they have suffered, and continue to suffer.
I was drawn into Aunty Rhonda’s world while reading Alice’s Daughter: Lost Mission Child. I travelled with her from the Mission in Carnarvon to an outback cattle station at Fitzroy Crossing and onto the streets of Perth. This raw and poignant story allowed me to glimpse the world through the eyes of an Aboriginal woman, at least for a moment.
Alice’s Daughter is an engaging and revealing read. You can get it from Jacki at Raw Memoirs.
Let me know what you think of Alice’s Daughter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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