Strangers on Country


Dave Hartley and Kirsty Murray (text) and Dub Leffler (illustrator), Strangers on Country, NLA Publishing, April 2020, 124 pp., RRP $29.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780642279552 

Strangers on Country describes the experiences of six Europeans who were taken in by Indigenous communities of eastern Australia between the 1820s and 1870s. The shipwreck survivors and runaway convicts stayed alive only through their hosts’ care and generosity. 

For each of the five episodes in this book, Dave Hartley writes a fictitious account from the Aboriginal perspective while Kirsty Murray follows with the events from the survivor’s point of view. After the two accounts, a factual section recounts what is known from the historical records about both the tribes which were involved and the rescued, both before and after they returned to Western society. 

The stories in this book are largely based on the 2016 publication Living with the Locals, by John Maynard and Victoria Haskinsalso published by NLA Publishing. The illustrations include historical photos and paintings as well as original artwork by Dub Leffler. 

Dave Hartley is descended from the Barunggam people of the Chinchilla/ Darling Downs areas of Queensland. Dub Leffler is descended from the Bigambul people of south-west Queensland. 

This is an interesting and fascinating account of largely unknown castaways taken in by various local indigenous tribes on the east coast of Australia in the Torres Strait and Queensland. The use of the dual narrative approach is innovative and insightful, and the overall presentation is excellent.  


Reviewed by Lynne Babbage 

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