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Listening to Country; A journey to the heart of what it means to belong

Ros Moriarty,

Allen & Unwin, 2010,

RRP $32.99

Reviewed by Rev Dr Marian Zaunbrecher.

THIS IS a must read book for every Australian.

Author, Ros Moriarty, married an Aboriginal man of the lost generation who was taken from his mother when he was four.

After first visiting his country in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where his people now live, at Borroloola, they returned frequently to remind themselves of who they were.

In 2006 she again returned determined to write the stories of the Aboriginal women; keepers of the traditional Law inherited from the Dreamtime.

Instead she found herself travelling with the women to the Tanami desert to perform a ceremony with over five hundred women from the surrounding areas.

As she describes the journey and daily occurrences – she cannot reveal the women’s sacred stories and traditions – she intertwines this with her own story, her husband John’s and that of the Yanyuwa people. 

The story of a rich marriage emerges, as well as the history of the interactions between European and Indigenous people and the struggle of setting up their Indigenous design studio Balarinji, whose designs cover the Qantas planes and now uniforms.

In the current depressed state of the Yanyuma community one could end up feeling defeated, but instead her story is of strong, beautiful older Aboriginal women caught in systemic poverty, who protect the sacred ways, mourn the loss of their
traditions and yet embrace life with resilience, warmth, happiness and inclusiveness.

Ms Moriarty’s evocative descriptions mean you can almost taste the dust in your mouth as you read while you weep for the loss of a rich, vibrant and age-old culture.