Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: I, The Aboriginal (Douglas Lockwood)

Lockwood, Douglas - I, The Aboriginal

★★★★★★☆ 

Title: I, the Aboriginal
Author: Douglas Lockwood
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
First published: 1962
Edition: Paperback, published by Rigby Limited, Adelaide, in 1973

I found this book in an old box with books that had sat in my parents’ loft for at least ten years. I have always been fascinated by Australia, its animals and its indigenous people and I must have gotten this book for that reason. I never got round to reading it though.

This is the story of an aboriginal man called Waipuldanya or Phillip Roberts which is his ‘white-feller’ name, written by Douglas Lockwood, who spent a lot of time with Waipuldanya getting his story right.

The memoir was first published in 1962, so it was never going to be politically correct, but having read it, I do not really think it matters. It gives a frank picture of Aboriginal life in  the 1950s in the remote bush in the Northern Territory and how contact with white people changed one man’s life.

Overall I found this book a joy to read. I loved reading about aboriginal culture (even if it’s a highly sexist one!). Tribal life was explained, matter-a-factly, without making excuses and you could almost taste the kangaroo meat and barramundi, and hear the feet dancing and voices singing. I felt sad reading about the diseases white people brought that ravished the natives and amazed at how the narrator embraced western medicine to help his fellow aboriginals.

This is largely a positive story of change. This is an account written by a white man, but told by an aboriginal, and I would hope it is true to the stories he told.

I have been to Australia, and I have seen forlorn aboriginals sitting by the side of the road, smoking and drinking. The Western world has treated them harshly, forcing change upon them.

Years ago I stood on the banks of the Roper River, where large parts of this book are set, and it reminded me of the magic of the bush, of the great big skies where the milky way shines bright.

I would thoroughly recommend this book if you’re interested in different cultures, because this is a fascinating look into a culture that is rapidly disappearing…

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