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Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Release: Dreaming Inside: Voices from Junee Correctional Centre Volume 4, 2016 (132 pages)

Tonight I attended the Black Wallaby Indigenous Writers' Night at the Wollongong Art Gallery in which they released Volume 4 of Dreaming Inside which includes stories, poems and drawings by Aboriginal inmates in Junee Correctional Centre. The project was initiated in 2012 by the South Coast Writers' Centre and has been supported by a variety of organisations including Arts NSW, and more importantly, the prison authorities.

The first speaker of the night, Aunty Barbara Nicholson, states very clearly in the book's Introduction, the bold dual intent of the project:

"Embarking on this journey to bring Aboriginal inmate voices to an outside readership, the dream was to develop a project that would grow to become an important contribution to the burgeoning Aboriginal literary canon. Coupled with this vision was a passion to provide a medium where hidden voices would be un-silenced, would be inscribed permanently not only as literary, but also as historical documents; primary sources if you like."

The writing in this collection is raw, often highly personal. Nicholson admits that the Black Wallaby editors "do not ruthlessly edit the inmate contributions" and have retained the original spelling and grammar used by the disadvantaged Aboriginal inmates to add authenticity. She says bluntly, " It is not in our brief to conduct literacy training but to offer them an opportunity to experiment with the medium of creative writing, to get them thinking and writing creatively."

Despite the tragic personal circumstances of many of the Aboriginal inmates represented in this collection, there is a strong ray of hope, of one day positively reconnecting with family and community. Notable on a first reading are contributions by Dash, Shayne Wynne, Tevita Murphy, Dennis Gibbs, Tyson Little, Robert Taylor, Brad Jones, Robert Clark and Lance Strachan. In Part Two of the book you will also find work by five members of the SCWC Black Wallaby Indigenous Writers Group, headed by Friederike Krishnabhakdi-Vasilakis.

The key note address was made by the ex-NSW Labor politician Col Markham who praised the project but lamented that since the 1987-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Australia has gone backwards:

Unfortunately, the headline indigenous guest, Tony Birch of Melbourne was unable to attend the function due to personal reasons. On the positive side, I was able to purchase his first collection of short stories SHADOWBOXING which I found difficult in the past.

Buy Dreaming Inside here to support our indigenous brothers in prison:

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