Australian historical fiction "Benevolence" - a first story of contact from an Aboriginal perspective  

[by Anna Abignano]

Burruberongal woman, Julie Janson, and Benevolence book cover. Images: supplied

For perhaps the first time in novel form, Benevolence presents an important era in Australia’s history from an Aboriginal perspective.

 

Through the voice of Darug woman, Muraging (Mary James), Benevolence is a compelling story of first contact.

 

Born around 1813, Muraging is among the earliest Darug generations to experience the impact of British colonisation – a time of cataclysmic change and violence, but also remarkable survival and resistance.

 

At an early age Muraging is given over to the Parramatta Native School by her Darug father.

 

Fleeing the school in pursuit of love, she embarks on a journey of discovery and a search for a safe place to make her home. Spanning the years 1816–35, Benevolence is set around the Hawkesbury River area, the home of the Darug people, in Parramatta and Sydney. J

 

ulie Janson’s intensely visual prose interweaves historical events with detailed characterisation – she shatters stereotypes and puts a human face to an Aboriginal experience of early-settlement.

 

Julie Janson’s career as a playwright began when she wrote and directed plays in remote Australian Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. She is now a novelist and award-winning poet. Julie is a Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal Nation. She is co-recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize, 2016 and winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, 2019.

 

Her novels include, The Crocodile Hotel, Cyclops Press 2015 and The Light Horse Ghost, Nibago 2018. Julie has written and produced plays, including two at Belvoir St Theatre – Black Mary and Gunjies and Two Plays, published by Aboriginal Studies Press 1996.

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