Anita Heiss, My Australian Story: Our Race For Reconciliation, Scholastic Australia, 1 May 2017, 192pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760276119
Mel Gordon is obsessed with running, and with Olympian Cathy Freeman. Her twin brother Sam is all about cricket. So when the 2000 Olympics are held in Sydney, it’s one event the Gordon family will celebrate to the fullest. In that same year, however, Mel will travel to Sydney, not for the Olympics, but for Corroborate 2000 and experience the power of saying sorry firsthand as thousands come together to acknowledge their indigenous heritage.
As part of the My Australian Story Series, Our Race for Reconciliation highlights several important events during the year 2000 — Sorry Day and The People’s Walk for Reconciliation, NAIDOC Week and the Sydney Olympics — through the eyes of one ten year old and her Murri family. Mel’s father is a clever source of many tidbits of history weaved throughout the book. Written by Anita Heiss, herself a member of the Wiradjuri nation, readers get an authentic perspective, complete with cultural nuances and language, on these meaningful moments in Australia’s history. To be able to empathize with the Gordon family, especially Nanna Flora who was part of the Stolen Generation, is a unique opportunity that this book affords.
I certainly enjoyed the descriptions of major events and personalities of the time. Walking across the Harbour Bridge with so many supporters for The People’s Walk for Reconciliation is spine tingling stuff. However, I did get a bit bogged down on day-to-day details — road trip antics, family meals, sibling squabbles — that didn’t end up adding much to the story and slowed the pace a bit. And I would be remiss not to mention the surprising number of typos in this edition. Overall, Our Race for Reconciliation sheds a light on events that happened in our very recent past, prompting me to learn more by researching them further. And if this book can do that for upper and middle grade students, then it has done its job.
Written for readers aged 9 to 12, Our Race for Reconciliation is a historical fiction title that can be used to open discussions around Corroborate 2000 and Australia’s indigenous heritage, including many Olympians. Three pages of historical facts are included as back matter to facilitate further learning on these topics.
Reviewed by Stephanie Ward