I am Yuwalaaray, from north west NSW. I am a writer. Where I come from we say we are “murrdi” which means “we are all one people”, and I am Aboriginal.
I worked for 30 years all over Australia, and then walked away to a quiet spot and sat down to write a book. My works are contemporary, my focus is social realism and I wanted to leave stories for my son’s son, and everyone who comes after me. And there was a list that I wanted to be on, a long list of Aboriginal writers who follow the tradition of thousands of years of storytelling. My manuscript won the David Unaipon Award in 2012.
I was fortunate there was a prize to win that year, following the Premier’s axing of the Literary Awards. Frank Moorhouse called his award that year “the most noble prize to win because it’s the citizens’ prize” and I’m also honoured because of the hundreds of supporters who value literature – books and stories – just as much as I do, to be awarded the Uaipon Award amongst the suite of the inaugural Queensland Literary Awards.
I recently turned my hand to screenwriting and producing documentaries; and I’m learning from some exceptional talent in the Indigenous arts world, who have inspired me to one day direct my own stories. My first published work is a short story in next week’s Review of Australian Fiction, alongside an eminent and multi award winning Indigenous writer I have long admired, and my mentor, Bruce Pascoe.
I am part of the emerging Indigenous social media presence – I tweet and blog – and new technologies and platforms for storytelling make it an exciting place to be. My interests are politics, the arts, and media, and I will be sharing resources, contacts and stories. My focus is Indigenous excellence, and I’m thankful that Luke Pearson had the vision to create this rotation account as part of a multi platform strategy, so many of us can join in the pursuit of that ideal.
Encouragement from people like Leesa Watego, who created @deadlybloggers, have enabled me to make connections all over the world, and I’ll be holding some “in Twitter conversations” with Indigenous people from the US, Canada and New Zealand, as well as anyone else who’s interested and welcome to join. And I will be sharing a yarn or two along the way.
I look for people to inspire me and the most significant of all has been my mother. My mum was a jillaroo. She was a young woman when she left an outback NSW sheep station, and worked on what I believe is Australia’s longest cattle drive – driving several thousand head of cattle – from Townsville to Millstream. If you don’t know where that is, it’s about the equivalent of from New York to Wyoming, on horseback.
I am the eldest daughter of the eldest daughter of a family of 18 children. That’s a lot of family who back me to try my hardest. My mother taught herself to read with a copy of Anne of Green Gables, took us abroad and all over Australia, and taught her children that they could be whatever they wanted to be.
I owe many things to another person who shares much of our mother’s humility, kindness, intelligence, guts and determination, my sister Kirstie Parker. Writers need someone to encourage them and she always has, even before I wrote my first word.
My motivation was always freedom, to go where ever and do whatever people before me were held back from reaching. But now I see that freedom is wrapped up in being free to speak. Everyone can point to circumstances, jobs, risks where they can’t speak freely – but Indigenous people face barriers more than most. I think we do better for ourselves and those who come after us when we are able to say what we think, share who we are and show what we see.
I’ve worked with and watched many hardworking talented people in every industry and sector, from one side of Australia to the other. I’ve had a lot of trust put into me to work alongside Aboriginal people to claim their land, look after their children, and heal their communities. I want history to include Aboriginal peoples’ place in this country’s prosperity. In writing for anyone who pauses to hear one of my stories, I’ve found my way to do that.
I am optimistic. I’d have to be, after seeing what’s happened just in my lifetime. There are things we need to talk about, some problems that we need to fix. But I’ve seen that people who are inspired and encouraged by others to set off and have the determination to go it alone if they have to, to be the first, have been to the advantage of all Aboriginal, and all Indigenous peoples.
My hopes are that everyone who comes after me has an interesting life, they see many things, go where they want and be who they want to be. So they will have stories to tell the ones who come after them. Stories that tell us even from the most humble beginning, any Aboriginal person can reach for the stars.