The Burnt Stick is lovely, warm book that tells the chilling story of forced removal of children in 20th century Australia, now called The Stolen Generations. This was official government policy of the time and lighter skinned Aboriginal children were removed from their families with the aim of bringing them up in the way of the white community. I'd like to think that this was perhaps done with paternalistic yet altruistic intentions, but I don't really think that it was. This practice occurred up until the 1960s, I was quite shocked a few years ago to realise this, and that if my family had been different then I too could have been removed from my parents at any time.
John Jagamarra is living a simple, traditional life with his mother at a camp near a remote inland cattle property. John doesn't know who his father was, a white man, a traveller.
But it did not matter all that much. Within the camp John felt membership of a larger family, each one of whom looked upon him as part of their own. There were ties of blood and country through his mother and grandmother and his cousins.
John Jagamarra has light skin and is under threat from being taken away by welfare to be brought up far away at the Pearl Bay Mission.
It was felt to be best if those children with the light-coloured skin were sent to be taught in the white man's way.
The Burnt Stick was written by Canberra's Anthony Hill, and based on a true story told to him by an Aboriginal man who had been taken away from his mother as a young child. It highlights the forced removal of the children, and the rather incredible attitudes of the times.
'They are not like us. They soon forget.'
Mark Sofilas provides lovely charcoal illustrations that manage to be somber and moving at the same time.
I hadn't heard of Mark before either. He is Australian, but now lives in the UK and has moved more towards oil painting.