Peter Ward’s stunningly inadequate review of Passenger in the Weekend Australian has at least the virtue that it compels a reply. The first came from Keneally himself, who finished his account of the novel’s favourable reception in other English-speaking countries by saying ‘I just don’t want people to avoid Passenger because of any antipodean twitches. So don’t miss it. Believe me.’
A little puce head slipped out, followed by a rush of blood and water. Jerra saw it splash onto the gynaecologist’s white boots. Across Rachel’s chest the little body lay tethered for a moment while smocks and masks pressed hard up against Rachel’s wound. He saw a needle sink in. Someone cut the cord. Blood, grey smears of vernix. The child’s eyes were open. Jerra felt them upon him. From the little gaping mouth, pink froth issued. They snatched him up.
Tony Austin and Rosalind Kidd are nonindigenous Australian scholars whose special contribution to the history of black-white relations in this country is to have researched the policy detail, culture, and interpersonal intricacies of the white bureaucracy that dealt with Aboriginal affairs in a large part of northern Australia. As each of them documents over and over again, the white males who exercised government power over indigenous Australians went to great lengths to avoid consulting those they governed or to include them in the decision-making process. The present books therefore do not claim to represent an Aboriginal point of view; their object of study is white policy and malpractice. Never Trust a Government Man and The Way We Civilise are each the outcome of archival research using government departmental documents, beginning at roughly the same period – from the time early this century – that a newly created Australian Federal Government first began to face its responsibilities towards indigenous people.
Rites of Passage qualiﬁes for a notice in ABR because, although it is written and published in Britain, it is among other things an account of the adventures of one Edmund Talbot who has taken a passage to Australia sometime during a lull in the wars with France, towards the end of the eighteenth century.