Posts Tagged ‘Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story’

Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story won the 2017 NSW Premier’s History Award – Young People’s History Prize. In 2016, it was short-listed for the Australian Christian Book of the Year.

Judges’ comments for the Australian Christian Book of the Year short-list:  This lavishly illustrated biography records the lasting costs of nuclear tests in Central Australia to an Aboriginal community. Displaced from their country, Yvonne Edwards and her people were moved from the soft sands of the desert to the hard stones of a strange land. Her firstborn was taken away and her life was dogged by tragedy. Christobel Mattingley tells the story of her friend Yvonne and how her warm Christian faith delivered her from bitterness and enabled her to inspire her community to maintain both their connection to the land through painting and to pursue justice and compensation for the effects of radioactive contamination of their country. A gem.


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Christobel speaking at the launch. Photo credit: Ben Searcy www.bensearcy.com.au

Christobel speaking at the launch. Photo credit: Ben Searcy http://www.bensearcy.com.au

Thank you, Tandanya, for hosting this very special event,  and Dr Roger Thomas for being the MC.  Thank you, Dr Alitya Rigney, for your warm and wise words launching Maralinga’s Long Shadow.  Thank you to the family of Yvonne Edwards for coming from Yalata, Amata and Tjuntjunjatjara to be here as we honour your mother and sister.  Thank you, Pam Diment, for your insights into Yvonne’s art, and Phoebe Azer in mounting the exhibition.  And thank you, Katrina Power, for your very moving Welcome to Country.

I also acknowledge that we are meeting on the land of the Kaurna People, the land on which I was born almost 85 years ago on the Tjilbruke Dreaming Trail.  But in those days there were no Aboriginal people on their lands around Adelaide.  They were kept on reserves, and it was not until I was 8 years old that I first saw Aboriginal people, at La Perouse in Sydney, and nobody could tell me why they looked so sad.  But their wonderful rock carvings in the sandstone cliffs of the Hawkesbury River and their mellifluous place names touched my spirit and began my lifelong respect for and commitment to the First Peoples of this great continent.

In 1984 when I was chosen by the Jubilee 150 Aboriginal Executive Committee to help them tell the Aboriginal side of the story of 150 years of European occupation of their country, a very important Royal Commission had just been set up to investigate the British nuclear tests at Maralinga.   Through Dr David Hope I obtained access to the findings and wrote a chapter in Survival in Our Own Land about the effects of those tests on the Anangu people, on whose lands the tests were conducted.  I always thought it deserved a book of its own, and in 2001 in Alice Springs at the Yeperenye Festival celebrating Aboriginal survival, publisher Erica Wagner, who had already published some of my books, offered to publish the Maralinga story.  There was no response to two approaches I made to the Yalata Council.  But later I was introduced to the next Community chairperson Mima Smart, by teachers, Geoff and Jan Willsmore, who remembered my visits to Yalata for Children’s Book Weeks in the 1980s.


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Maralinga's Long ShadowMaralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story has been shortlisted in the 2016 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award, from a field of 57 entries.  Christobel’s book The Miracle Tree (Hodder & Stoughton, 1985) was Highly Commended in the 1986 Christian Book of the Year Awards and received the Children’s Christian Book of the Year Award. It too is a story about the effects of nuclear weapons, in Nagasaki, Japan where the second atomic bomb was dropped in 1945.

See Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story.

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CRM and Keturah

Christobel with Keturah de Klerk, who gave her photos of malukuru (Sturts desert pea), Yvonne’s favourite flower, for use in the book Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story. Both are holding copies of the book.

See Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story.

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Maralinga's Long Shadow

Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story has at last been published, on 23 March 2016, which has proved to be very timely, with the findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission being released for discussion.  I have lodged submissions with both enquiries, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and the South Australian Royal Commission, and have been told that this book and Maralinga the Anangu Story  have been quoted in other submissions.

No nuclear dump on Adnyamathanha landFour generations of Yvonne’s family have been affected by the British nuclear tests at Maralinga from 1953 to 1963, when Yvonne was growing up as a young displaced person on the lands of another ancient Aboriginal people.  There have been five deaths in her family from cancer through three generations, and two of her grandchildren in the fourth generation suffer from genetic defects.

Yvonne herself died aged 61, and this book, beautifully produced by Allen & Unwin, filled with many of Yvonne’s wonderful paintings, archival photos, and superb botanical and landscape photos, is her memorial.  Malukuru, Sturt desert pea, was Yvonne’s birth flower, and the photo on the cover and those within the book were kindly given by Keturah de Klerk.  Other striking photos were provided by Bill Dowling of The Friends of the Great Victoria Desert, and Pam Diment, former director of the Tjutjuna Arts and Culture Centre.  Pam also helped in locating paintings and other photos.  I am grateful to them and all the other people who helped in any way with material for this important book and have acknowledged them in the text.  Royalties for this book go to Yvonne’s family, who are donating $1000 to the Hospital Research fund.

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Maralinga's Long ShadowMaralinga’s Long Shadow – Yvonne’s Story will be published by Allen & Unwin, probably in 2016, which is the 60th anniversary of the first British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga on traditional Anangu country.  Three generations of Yvonne’s family have been affected by these tests.  The book will be illustrated by photos and many of Yvonne’s paintings.

Update: Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story was published on 23 March, 2016.

Read the background to the book.

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