Westerly Issue 61.1 launched last Wednesday, with guest editor Stephen Kinnane expressing gratitude to both honoured guests and esteemed contributors.
We are thrilled with the work printed in this special issue, which speaks powerfully to Indigenous heritage and culture. We are also very grateful to Steve for his efforts as guest editor! Westerly looks forward to seeing his work carried forward by our new Editor for Indigenous Writing, Elfie Shiosaki.
Here are his words…
Westerly Issue 61.1 – Stephen Kinnane
I’d like to acknowledge and thank Len Collard for his welcome. I’ve been acknowledging Lennie now as a friend and mentor for well over 25 years, and he is one of only two people allowed to call me Stevie. I would also like to acknowledge the Whudjuk Noongar Traditional Owners of the country we’re meeting on tonight.
I would very much like to acknowledge Caroline Kelly, one of our authors and the daughter of Mrs Bella Kelly, who has travelled all the way from Albany for this evening’s launch and who’s mother’s beautiful artwork adorns our cover. Many other works by Mrs Bella Kelly are included in the essay ‘Bella Kelly’ within this issue.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank Kim Scott for his heart-felt and generous reading tonight of his beautiful work for this issue, ‘Both Hands Full’. Thanks.
Firstly, I would like to thank Catherine Noske, Westerly’s General Editor, for inviting me to participate as a guest editor for Issue 61.1. Catherine’s commitment to publishing works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors in Westerly has driven the development and creation of this issue, as has the generous support of Westerly subscribers who contributed donations to support this issue as well as purchasing advanced copies on what was originally, just an idea.
Their faith in the value, creativity and power of Indigenous narratives, written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, completed as collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors, or non-Indigenous authors exploring their interactions, imaginings and relationships with Indigenous story, is greatly appreciated.
Without their support, and without the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, this issue, in its current form would not have been possible. Every ounce of available resources was invested in the authors, in the production of the issue, and in creating a platform for the engagement of an ongoing Indigenous editor within Westerly’s esteemed ranks. Dr Elfie Shiosaki, one of our authors in this issue, has gracefully accepted the responsibility for this exciting new and ongoing role.
Secondly, and very importantly, I would like to thank all of the contributing authors. Without their efforts, imaginings, creative drive and commitment to writing, we would be the poorer for the missing of their work for this issue. We thank them for their long investment in their craft, their investigations, their questioning, their honesty, their compassion, their darkness and their humility.
Within these pages are stories of the enduring vibrancy and resonance of country, history and culture. There are stories of loss, and in confronting this pain, ‘the yield’ of the accumulation of love and belonging, as our older generations begin to fall away, leaving us to carry on.
There are examinations and reflections on the creative power, but also the often initial intercultural terror of crossing boundaries unknown until acts of respect and shared making create something fresh, revealing and challenging.
There are stories of coming to terms with colonial, segregationist and assimilationist pasts, and the lingering social trauma that these have left as a legacy for many; the impacts that besiege and also divide our communities.
There are also stories of ‘the legacies’ that our old people have left us, and how we take responsibility for these and work over time to hopefully create legacies of our own.
When confronted and shocked by stories of systemic and cyclical trauma inflicted in places such as the Don Dale Detention Centre in the Northern Territory, it’s important to create spaces for stories of young men such as Stevie Micheal Hill-Kopp Junior about ‘his life in Mulan’, or to hear the thrill in Dermot Neach’s words as he describes his ‘first game on the Mulan Oval.’
When narrow minded thought bubbles about our shared, often conflicted and complex histories shout across the airwaves of shock-jock radio, or fill the columns of short, poorly researched op-ed pieces online, it is wonderful to have authors such as Clint Bracknell speak of ‘singing to the archives’, using his knowledge of Noongar language and song to re-interpret from older glimpses of this unique cultural heritage, and from this work, singing the legacies of our old people anew.
And when confronted by overt histories of dispossession and recurring trauma, Elfie Shiosaki chose to ‘write from the heart’, and in doing so, chose not to be bound by the weight of the archive, but to treat it as a site of working for ‘historical justice’ by revealing that, ‘the past reverberates inside our bodies as a second heartbeat,’ and the need to ‘feel the reverberation of these histories of resilience.’
In the works of Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Mary-Anne Bin Sallik (shared by the good graces of Magabala Books with the authors agreement), we hear of the names of Noongar royalty as well as Noongar wisdom, and of legacies passed from mother to mother to child, and the ‘truth and consequences’ of such solid foundations.
In Tom Stephen’s work of reflection and shared memories of his long connections with Aboriginal communities of northern Australia, ‘Naming Rights’, we are reminded of the power of naming; the absurdity of others casual naming of our people, but also the reclamation and ownership of names, of people, of places, of communities and beyond reclamation, the creative observance of avoidance of names around death, skin and law. We are also reminded of how younger generations transform this space across face-book, embracing different influences, and yet with a constancy bound within law and culture.
In closing I would like to thank Bruce Gorring (Marrugeku) and Rachel Bin Salleh (Magabala Books) for convening the earlier launch of this issue in Broome at the Corrugated Lines Writer’s Festival, and the authors, Edwin Lee Mulligan, Dalisa Pigram, Wayne Barker and Jacqueline Wright, who read from their works at this event.
In the spirit of Tom’s article, I would love to say the name of every author within this issue, and the important and very different contributions that each has made to what we believe is a wonderful collection of writing. But, instead, I’ll leave that to each of our readers as they make their way through issue 61.1.
Finally, I would like to thank all the readers and subscribers, and all those who attended this launch tonight in this wonderfully gorgeous Winter’s night in Noongar Boodjar.