Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Maralinga's Long Shadow

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Maralinga's Long Shadow

Article excerpt

Christobel Mattingley, Maralinga's Long Shadow (Allen & Unwin, 2016)

From the moment you pick up Maralinga's Long Shadow, there is little doubt the book is something special. It has soft covers, with the added luxury of thick, glossy inner paper, giving it the extra heft it deserves. The back cover is decorated with beautiful Indigenous artwork, while the front cover features bright red Desert Peas overshadowed by a distant mushroom cloud. As with the outer covers, the title page is a visual feast of powerful Indigenous art, and this continues throughout the book, informing a narrative captured with simplicity and genuine empathy by the author, and adding another dimension to the colour, and black and white, photo plates.

I must admit it was impossible to resist flicking through the book before reading, to admire the intricate artwork and read the information on the picture plates. I am not suggesting, however, that this book is a lightweight table decoration. The artwork is detailed, and informed by the artist's deep love and knowledge of her subject, and the photos are a visual diary of the grace and strength of a woman and her family in the face of a shameful era in Australian history.

The story tracks the life of an Indigenous woman, from her birth at the Ooldea mission where missionaries name her Yvonne, and her mother names her Tjintjiwara; to her teenage years when her first baby was taken from her; onwards to marriage and unwitting exposure to radiation with her husband at Maralinga, and finally through an adult life spent giving to others through creativity and community enhancement.

It is hard to read Yvonne's story without feeling outrage at the treatment meted out to the traditional owners of the land surrounding Maralinga, because her story also involves a national story about the criminal disregard shown to our first people by the Australian Government in the 1960s. As the events of Maralinga unfold, there is no sense of consideration for the Indigenous people's rights, culture or humanity. To add insult to injury the 'newly formed Yalata Community Council was granted salvage rights to Maralinga' and when they enquired about the safety of the area, they were 'assured there was no cause for concern' (57). …

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