As part of the National Year of Reading, the Our Story program set out to select one text from each state and territory to fly the flag for a reading campaign. Six titles were shortlisted for each; the winners were announced earlier today.
Queensland’s book is The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan, and it’s a cracker story. It riffs off the Mabo land rights decision and the incredible fear and uncertainty in rural Australia about the right to continue to live on and work land that had, in some instances, been in the same family for several generations. A lot of terra nullius talk, a lot of right wing clap trap, some very real concerns.
McGahan draws on his childhood in setting the piece on the Darling Downs, where a young boy and his widowed mother come to live on their grandfather’s property, there to see the politics of the era played out and to uncover some unsettling family truths harking back to the days of white occupation and settlement.
The other finalists in the Queensland selection were:
Affection, by Ian Townsend (Townsville, 1900, the plague, a social scandal)
Brisbane, by Matthew Condon (one in a series of capital city ‘biographies’)