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Riding the Black Cockatoo

John Danalis tells his personal journey toward understanding Indigenous Australians in Riding the Black Cockatoo. As a mature-aged student studying ‘Indigenous Writing’, Danalis mentions the Aboriginal skull christened ‘Mary’ that his parents kept on the mantle-piece while he was growing up. Painted yellow to keep it from cracking and used occasionally as a cigarette holder, the skull was one of many artefacts his father collected as a keepsake. The expressions of shock that this revelation causes amongst the students in his writing class, gives Danalis cause for reflection. Determined to return the skull to its rightful owners, the Wamba Wamba tribe of Northern Victoria, Danalis undertakes some serious research which forces him to confront his own stereotyped thinking. He becomes acutely aware that his knowledge of Indigenous life has actually been a limited, white man’s view of history. As Danalis uncovers the bleak reality of black-white relations in this country, he also comes to appreciate the richness of Indigenous culture and spiritual life. While this journey ends in the physical return and burial of the skull, it also takes Danalis to a nadir in his life, fuelled by despair and depression. Ultimately, Danalis emerges with greater insight, new friendships and a profound sense of connection to the Indigenous people of this country.

Suitable for ages:  14 - 18

Riding the Black Cockatoo

Author: John Danalis

$19.99 Add to Cart

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