Tennant Creek and Australia’s Unresolved Past
The tale of a town, and of a nation
Returning after fifty years to the frontier town where he lived as a boy, Dean Ashenden finds Tennant Creek transformed, but its silence about the past still mostly intact.
Provoked by a half-hidden account, Ashenden sets out to understand how the story of ‘relations between two racial groups in a single field of life’ has been told and not told, in this town and across the nation.
In a riveting combination of memoir, reportage and political and intellectual history, Ashenden traces the strange career of the great Australian silence – from its beginnings in the first encounters of black and white, through the work of the early anthropologists, the historians and the courts in landmark cases about land rights and the Stolen Generations, to still-continuing controversy.
In a moving finale, Ashenden goes back to Tennant Creek once more to meet for the first time some of his Aboriginal contemporaries, and to ask how the truths of Australia’s story can best be told.