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Nona & Me by Clare Atkins.

October 27, 2014

nona & MeNona & Me by Clare Atkins.  Pub.Black Inc. Books, 2014.

After I finished this novel of relationships between Aborigines and Europeans in the Northern Territory, I said to myself “I am really glad a read this book”. It taught me things I never really knew about and it is uplifting.

Rosie is a15 year old European girl who is brought up in Aboriginal communities by her mother. They live in a community town called Yirrkala and are adopted by the aboriginal community. Rosie is particularly close to Nona who she regards as a yapa or sister. The feeling is mutual. Their story of growing up is told from 1995 – 2001 in every consecutive chapter of this novel looking back.

The novel is set in 2007-2008 at a time when the Howard Government  introduced a policy known as Intervention which looked into what they conceived as a serious problem of abuse in Aboriginal Communities.

Intervention is not the main issue of this novel but it did have the effect of polarising racial points of view particularly where Aboriginal communities were alongside mining communities, the source of all Australia,s economic boom.

Rosie and Nona separated when Rosie went to the school in the mining community and Nona went to live with family elsewhere but Rosie and her mother remained living in the Aboriginal community with Nona’s family.

When Nona returns and wants to go to the mining school with her yapa Rosie, things have changed. Rosie has friends who are racist in their actions which are not shown until Nona shows up. Rosie becomes the girlfriend of Nick a wealthy mine worker. Relationships are strained. Nona feels that Rosie has denied family and she moves away. Meanwhile the relationship with Nick starts going wrong for Rosie.

It is outstanding writing without getting maudling and emotional or slagging off one side against the other. It is told like it is as a clash between a community culture and a culture of the nuclear family and economic unit that is European. Will we ever understand each other?

Reminded me a Phillip Gwynne’s novels Deadly, Unna! and Nukkin Ya. Lots of good relationship stuff for high school students and young adults.


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