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Recently I was sent a copy of Living with the Locals by John Maynard & Victoria Haskins. The book comprises accounts from white people “who lived and worked closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities over months and years”. While the stories contain biases and sometimes “sensationalist additions”,  they can still be regarded as valuable sources of information. Here’s the blurb:

Living with the Locals comprises the stories of 13 white people who were taken in by Indigenous communities of the Torres Strait islands and eastern Australia between the 1790s and the 1870s, for periods from a few months to over 30 years. The shipwreck survivors, convicts and ex-convicts survived only through the Indigenous people’s generosity. They assimilated to varying degrees into an Indigenous way of life and, for the most part, both parties mourned the white people’s return to European life. The authors bring fresh insight to the stories and re-evaluate the encounters between Indigenous people and the white people who became part of their families.

I have not read this book – my preference at the moment is for fiction, and my time limited. Nevertheless, looking through the book, and noting the pictures, sketches (some realistic, some cariacture-like, and others idyllic) I admire the work of the authors in compiling the accounts and the accompanying images. I had to give it a shout out because, visually, it’s a great looking book. While my reading of the text has been limited to snippets as I flicked through the pages, they are interesting snippets, full of details about life living in Indigenous communities. How were tools made? How was food caught? What happened when cultures clashed? For a greater understanding of life at this time, this is a recommended read.

Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of NLA Publishing.


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