Monday musings on Australian literature: Reading for Reconciliation

Funny sometimes how Monday Musings topics suddenly appear to me. I was researching for a future post, when I came across a site called Reading for Reconciliation – and couldn’t go past it for today’s post.

However, the site’s Home Page needs a bit of unpicking. It has a heading, “Finalists in 2012 Queensland Reconciliation Awards”, followed by text which reads “More than a ‘book club’ – we celebrated our 10th Anniversary in August 2014.” At first, I thought the page was going to list the 2012 finalists, but then I realised that they were saying that their bookclub was a finalist in the 2012 awards? Duh, silly me! Anyhow, the accompanying text tells us that the group:

  • is diverse in background and age, and has no political or religious affiliations; and
  • seeks “to expand our knowledge and understanding of current issues impacting on Australia’s First Peoples by reading and discussing works in an informal, friendly setting”.

They are a Brisbane group, which meets every 6 weeks or so – and they welcome new readers. The way they work is for members to take turns in leading discussion of the chosen book, with this leader being expected “to provide some extra background or context, focus the discussion, etc.” I’d be there if I lived in the Brisbane area. A bit more Googling uncovered the fact that they seem to run under the banner of Reconciliation Queensland Incorporated.

Paul Collis, Dancing homeAnyhow, next on the home page is the list of books they’ve scheduled for 2018:

  • John Newton, The oldest foods on earth
  • Damien Freeman & Shirleen Morris, The forgotten people
  • Anita Heiss, Barbed wire & cherry blossoms
  • Mark Tedeschi, Murder at Myall Creek
  • Mark Moran, Serious whitefella stuff
  • Mark McKenna, From the edge
  • Nonie Sharp, No ordinary judgement
  • Paul Collis, Dancing Home

A varied list, and one that contains some titles and authors I don’t know. However, the best thing about this site is that they also have a page listing every book they’ve discussed since they started in 2004. That’s a great resource for anyone else wanting to read for reconciliation (or start such a group!) It’s worth noting that the books they read aren’t all by indigenous Australians, and they include fiction and non-fiction. They’ve read books by indigenous authors like Kim Scott and Anita Heiss, Bruce Pascoe and Jeanine Leane, for example, all of whom you have met here. Non-indigenous writers they’ve read include novelist Kate Grenville and historians Henry Reynolds and Ann Curthoys.

Understanding the past to comprehend the present

Rosalind Kidd, The way we civiliseAnyhow, I kept Googling, as I wanted to find out how this group started, and up popped an article titled “Six Books for Reconciliation Week” on an Amnesty International site! The article is by the group’s founder Helen Carrick. She starts:

In a Brisbane suburban lounge room in 2004, a diverse group aged from their 20s to 70s gathered to discuss Ros Kidd’s ‘The way we civilize’, which Professor Marcia Langton has described as a “ground-breaking history in the lives of Aboriginal people.”

They may have been diverse but their reason for meeting was not. They “all wished to learn more about Australia’s shared history – all regretted this hadn’t been learned at school.” They believe that they need to understand the past, in order to comprehend the present.

Carrick then describes the group’s history to date – including moving its home from members’ lounge rooms – and lists some of its highlights, including:

  • being a finalist in those awards I mentioned above!
  • establishing their website
  • having authors attend some meetings to discuss their books
  • the establishment of similar groups in Logan City (still Qld – you can see their 2016 list here) and Lismore (NSW)

And with this, I’ll end, making it a short Monday Musings for us all. I’ll just say that it’s great seeing a group like this – and not just seeing it, but seeing it survive for more than a decade and seeing the idea copied by others. Meanwhile, if you’re interested but can’t join a group, there’s always Lisa (ANZLitLovers)’s Indigenous Reading Week. From little things, big things grow – hopefully.

Do you take part in any reading for reconciliation programs?

14 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Reading for Reconciliation

  1. What an interesting group!
    And thanks for the mention:)
    BTW I’ve reviewed Dancing Home, and Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms. Two very different books, and an intriguing departure for Heiss into historical fiction…

  2. Hi Sue, I haven’t heard of the site of Reading for Conciliation. I do engage in Lisa’s Indigenous Reading Week. The book club I belong to have read this year, Stan Grant’s Talking to my Country, Taboo by Kim Scott; and the we enjoyed the most Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.

    • I guess it’s just a local Brisbane group Meg, so it’s not surprising – though given it appears quite quickly in online searches I also wouldn’t have been surprised if people had heard of it.

      Good for you reading group. I’m trying to encourage mine to read at least one indigenous writer each year. We did Terra Nullius this year, and Stan Grant and Bruce Pascoe in the last couple of years too. We’ve done Kim Scott, but a while ago with That deadman dance, and also Anita Heiss. But, I think we haven’t quite made one a year. It’s important I think.

  3. We won’t achieve Reconciliation until it is generally accepted (a) just how bad things were at the ‘frontier’; and (b) just how deeply rooted systemic racism is today, in the justice system, in employment, in welfare and in education. The only answer is self-education and the dissemination of information. If some people are doing that through their reading groups, good on them, especially in Queensland, which has a long way to go.

    • True Bill … but we have made strides since my youth when we were taught nothing. I think self-education is AN answer but I think schools have a BIG role to play and are starting to.

  4. This sounds like a great book group. I have never participated in such an in person reading group. I would love to. Maybe some day when I have more time. It is also a good thing that the group is reading indigenous authors.

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