This book is shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards (Australia) for the Premier's Award for a Work of State Significance. The judges said:
"This historical memoir recounts Barbara Miller’s involvement with the aboriginal people of Mapoon on Cape York where the community was forcibly removed from their lands by the Queensland Government in 1963.
The Aboriginal story is a first-hand account of their heartbreaking departure and then triumphant return to their lands 11 years later, aided by Barbara and her friends. Barbara recounts that she was inspired to campaign for the Mapoon people by a meeting with Aboriginal elder, Burnum Burnum, who told her, ‘you may be a white woman but you have a black heart’, and in this book describes not only the Mapoon community’s (Aboriginal Australians) decade-long struggle but her own homecoming in finding her place in a loving aboriginal family.”
Barbara often found herself saying, “the stork dropped me at the wrong house’ only to find she was repeating her mother’s words. In this riveting historical memoir exploring race relations and social change, Aboriginal elder Burnum Burnum, told her, “you may be white but you have a black heart, as you understand my people and feel our heart.’ He suggested to IDA that she take on the Mapoon project and played matchmaker by introducing her to Aboriginal teacher and Australian civil rights movement leader Mick Miller."
The Mapoon Aborigines were forcibly moved off their land by the Queensland government in NE Australia in 1963 to make way for mining. With an effective team behind her, Barbara helped them move back in 1974 to much government opposition which saw her under house arrest with Marjorie Wymarra. It also saw Jerry Hudson and Barbara taken to court.
In helping the Mapoon people return to their homeland, she found her home as part of an Aboriginal family, firstly Mick’s and later Norman’s as she remarried many years later, now being with her soulmate Norman about 30 years. It is a must read for those interested in ethnic studies and political science as an isolated outback community whose houses, school, health clinic, store and church were burnt to the ground rose from the ashes and rebuilt despite all the odds. It is a testimony to the Mapoon people’s strength over social injustice.
This is a highly engaging and inspiring memoir. At its centre is the story of Mapoon which has all the elements of a great drama with the violent expulsion of the community in 1963 and their triumphant return eleven years later. As the author explains she came almost by chance to be at the very centre of the drama which in turn dramatically changed her life. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in political and social change over the last 50 years.
Professor Henry Reynolds, FAHA FASSA University of Tasmania, eminent historian & award-winning author
The author shows great sensitivity, respect and understanding and manages to convey the petty-fogging autocratic paternalistic control of Indigenous people, which pervaded the period of the Bjelke-Petersen era. One can see what Aboriginal people had to contend with and how, with the re-establishment of Mapoon, that a most positive success story has finally been achieved. This is an engrossing and compassionate memoir of an extraordinary woman who through her actions demonstrates what can be achieved through persistent commitment and faith.
Dr Timothy Bottoms, author of Conspiracy of Silence, Queensland's frontier killing times (Allen & Unwin 2013) and CAIRNS, City of the South Pacific, A History 1770-1995 (Bunu Bunu Press 2016).
Barbara Miller has written this book, a continuum to the trilogy of the Mapoon books. It is a testimony to the endurance and resilience of the Mapoon people and their determination to return to the land of their forefathers.
Ricky Guivarra, former Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Councillor
About the Author
Barbara is an intriguing combination of pastor, social justice campaigner and researcher and her memoir is fascinating because of it. Passionate about people being free from the chains of oppression, her sociological training means she has a focus on changing structures in society that hold people groups back. As a pastor and psychologist, she has helped many people break free of mindsets that have prevented them reaching their full potential. From her background in a poor working class white family in urban Australia, Barbara, with Aboriginal husband Norman, who is also a pastor, travel the world. They have a calling to heal groups from the wounds of history through the Centre for International Reconciliation and Peace they co-founded in 1998. This work has taken them to Israel, Jordan, Turkey, England, Zimbabwe, Canada, USA, PNG, Vanuatu and many other places. Barbara has worked at the coalface of Aboriginal affairs in Australia from her involvement in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy demonstrations in Canberra in 1972 to helping the Mapoon people move back to their land in 1974, to co-founding the North Queensland Land Council with former husband Mick Miller in 1977 to being CEO of the Aboriginal Co-ordinating Council (ACC) in the 1990's and much more. The ACC was the only statutory advisory body to the Queensland government on Aboriginal affairs at the time and represented local government Aboriginal councils who had a land base. From someone who grew up avoiding conflict in her family of origin because of different beliefs, she seems to have put herself in the way of it confronting government policies which harmed Aboriginal people. Also she has become a professional mediator who helps others face and resolve their conflicts at work and at home. She has found her voice with the publication of her fourth solo book.