The Cherry Picker’s Daughter explores the significant impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection laws. The story encompasses Aunty Kerry’s early life, heavily impacted by the loss of her mother, her father going to jail for her mother’s death, and the love of Aunty Joyce, known as Mummy. Mummy raised Kerry and her brother, along with other family members, in the fruit paddocks of Young and Orange in New South Wales. As seasonal workers, fruit picking was hard, back-breaking work struggling to earn enough to cover basic living requirements, but under Mummy’s guidance the children grew.
This book is a memoir focusing on Aunty Kerry’s life and family, as Aboriginal people surviving during the 50s, 60s and 70s, when the paddocks meant the difference between going hungry or having a roof over your head. In those days Aboriginal people were paid just ten cents a pound for cherries, while non-Aboriginal people were paid twenty. Aunty Kerry grew up in humpies, tents and run-down train carriages, working from a very young age to help our family to earn ‘an honest living.’ Their life was one of hard but determined work, and family unity gave them the strength and dignity to continue. Their greatest strength in surviving the Protectors, the White Australia Policy and the everyday racism that we faced, was Mummy and their identity as Aboriginal people.
The book will also talk about Kerry’s mother, her death and how that impacted the family. It will explore her father’s life as an Aboriginal man who survived and achieved against all odds, and the relationship they developed later in life, including those of his after-prison family, his second and third wives and their children. During the time of Kerry’s father’s imprisonment to his death in 1993 and today he is noted as a forerunner in the Aboriginal literary and arts world. He is the first Aboriginal playwright with his play The Cherry Pickers, and the first Aboriginal print maker. His work is still highly acclaimed both nationally and internationally.
Praise for Aunty Kerry and her previous work:
‘Like many adult children of first generation Australians, I have grown to appreciate more deeply the momentous decision made by my parents in leaving their homes, their families and everything familiar to come to a new land. I believe Australia has benefited in so many ways from the trust and optimism of those who migrated to our shores. Our richness as a migrant nation endures through the stories of our forebears, told and retold to new generations. This is one such story among many that make us who we are today.’
– Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development.