Kunyi June Anne McInerney, Kunyi, Magabala Books, June 2021, 60 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925936575
From Australia’s oldest independent publishing house of First Nations voices, this debut autobiographical work is dense with informational vignettes and rich, matching artwork. The narrative arc around the stolen generations impact and experiences is sensitively told and conveyed in these pages.
The author presents in detail her childhood experiences as a child of the Stolen Generation, living in the Oodnadatta Children’s Home in the 1950s. Despite the trauma of family separation, the style is quite unemotive, with the pure facts conveying the reality of being taken from family. The information is detailed and vivid, with personal anecdotes providing relief from the difficulties and harshness and a balance and gentle humour to the life portrayed. The author’s voice is clear and strong in this recount of life on the mission, both in the selection of stories and choice of language.
Accompanying detailed illustrations are well placed in this text, providing a treasure trove of memories that reveal the fear, courage, and loneliness of children of the Stolen Generations and life in the homes. Language is clear and accessible for the readers, beautifully complementing the narrative and providing additional insight into the realities of the text. The palette is vivid and colourful, effectively capturing the colours of the dry Australian landscape, the end papers being a clever collage of the internal images. The photos in the final double-page spread “bring home” the truth behind some of the stories.
A beautiful and engaging yet haunting text, designed to educate about the realities of the lives of those taken but also one of healing and reconciliation.
Reviewed by Sheryl Cootes (Eve Pownall Judge 2022)