The necessary history lesson for Australia’s future

By Pia White

Talking to My Country | Harper Collins

In his second book, Talking to My Country, Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri man and journalist, writes powerfully about his family, his history and his Australia.

Released around the time of his speech on racism and the Australian dream at an IQ2 debate going viral, the launch of news and current affairs series, The Point with Stan Grant, and interest and speculation about whether he will enter politics, the book feels purposeful. It reflects a shift in focus, away from the global conflicts and international reporting that defined the previous phase of his career, and onto home soil – the soil with which his people share a 60,000-year history.

“Grant maintains an incomprehensibly measured tone
while describing a lifetime of fear of authorities and interventions.”

Throughout the book, Grant describes with eloquence the violence, injustice and oppression of the last 200 years of that history. He uses the stories of his own family members to map out the exclusion and dispossession experienced by Aboriginal people at the hand of white Australia. He tells of his grandfather, who fought in a war for a country that didn’t recognise him as a citizen; his great-grandfather, who was jailed for speaking the language of his people with his son; and many more relatives forcibly removed from their families.

Grant maintains an incomprehensibly measured tone while describing a lifetime of fear of authorities and interventions, and many more lifetimes of inherited intergenerational trauma. He explains with dignity how the booing directed at Adam Goodes was a racist chorus intended to disempower and humiliate, heard and felt by all Aboriginal people, and recognised by them for what it was.

As a white Australian it is hard to hear these truths. It is hard to reconcile our complicity in the oppression of Aboriginal people with our desire to see ourselves as those that Grant describes in his speech as “better that that”. Part of being better involves facing the violence and oppression of our history. It involves accepting the powerful reverberations of that history felt by Aboriginal Australians today, and letting go of the lie that the past is in the past.

Stan Grant, like many others before him is talking to his country, and non-Indigenous Australians must truly, finally start listening.