Told in the child’s voice and in the vernacular of her Mob, activist, artist, poet and author, Aunty Kerry, tells her story of love and loss, of dispossession and repeated dislocation, and the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection Laws.
The strength of family ties in Aboriginal communities is clearly evident when three-month-old Kerry and her brother lost both parents. Her father, Kevin Gilbert––later to become a famous activist, writer, painter and actor––killed their mother and was jailed for many years. Her father’s sister, whom she always called ‘Mummy’, raised Kerry, her brother––also called Kevin––along with her own children and others within the extended family. The book is a tribute to this truly remarkable woman: their tower of strength, love and selflessness; who worked tirelessly to support all the children; who during fruit-picking season, made sure they attended school wherever it took them; who managed to keep them from being taken/‘stolen’ by the ‘Welfare’.
For so many Aboriginal people surviving during the 50s, 60s and 70s, fruit-picking 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 corrugated tin huts, tents and run-down train carriages, working from a very young age to help her 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 they faced, was Mummy and their identity as Aboriginal people.