Friday, July 1, 2011


Title: Black Swan

Author: Eileen Harrison & Carolyn Landon

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9781742375533

Release Date: July 2011

Pages: 256


'It's bad luck to catch a black swan.'

Eileen Harrison grew up at the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Mission Station in the 1950s as one of eleven children in a tight-knit and loving family. When the new assimilation policy comes in, they are wrenched from the Mission and sent off to Ararat in the hope that they will become part of that community. Unable to build a stable life in the face of isolation and discrimination, the family is torn apart. Eileen must become the protector and the peacemaker.

As a child, Eileen set free a black swan caught in a hessian bag. Now the story of the magical black swan from her childhood provides an uncanny map for her life as she struggles to find her path. After many years she discovers her talent as a painter and builds a new life for herself.

Powerfully told in Eileen's words, her experiences speak eloquently of what has happened to Aboriginal people over the last half-century.

'Both heart-wrenching and hopeful, Eileen Harrison's story demonstrates that while policies of assimilation may have taken families from country and community, they could never take the memories that kept them connected.' - Dr Anita Heiss, award-winning author and activist


Eileen Harrison is a Kurnai woman and an artist. Carolyn Landon is an oral historian and author of the bestselling Jackson's Track.


Let’s get this out of the way right up; this book is not about the movie with Natalie Portman, not that that was why I picked up a copy either ;) Anyway, now that we’ve established that this book is not about ballet, let’s move on to what it is about and what my views on this book are.

Black Swan is the story about an Aboriginal woman growing up in the Australian Outback in the 1950’s. There are traces of mythology scattered throughout the recollections of Eileen’s life and how it was affected by policies and trends sixty years ago in our Great Nation.

The theme of the assimilation policy may be contentious and some may be appalled at the recounts of Harrison while others may have other views on this period of Australian history. Regardless of this, Harrison’s story is interesting and a good read.

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