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Antonio Buti

A Stolen Life: The Bruce Trevorrow case by Antonio Buti & My Longest Round by Wally Carr and Gaele Sobott

August 2019, no. 413

Philip Larkin famously suggested that ‘they fuck you up, your mum and dad’, but the alternative is usually worse. Twenty years before Larkin wrote ‘This Be the Verse’, his compatriot John Bowlby published Maternal Care and Mental Health (1951), which described profound mental health consequences when ...

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These are parallel careers, and Antonio Buti’s biography of Ronald Wilson (1922–2005) is much concerned with the connections and contradictions between them. The book blazes into life whenever it touches on Aborigines: its framing device is the 1997 Reconciliation Conference in Melbourne, when delegates turned their backs on John Howard and what the Herald Sun called his ‘hectoring rant’. Wilson regretted their incivility, yet wondered whether Howard’s behaviour gave it justification. In 1969 a speech by ‘Nugget’ Coombs inspired Wilson to join the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship, and later to help establish the WA Aboriginal Legal Service. In 1985 he worked for three weeks as a builder’s labourer on an Aboriginal community centre. Four years later, he visited communities in Arnhem Land. Then there are the apology stories: Wilson’s ‘pilgrimage to Mapoon’ in 1990, to apologise for church acquiescence when the settlement was dispersed in 1963 to make way for bauxite mining, and his joinder with Dorothy McMahon in apologising for her momentary brusqueness towards Aborigines at a World Council of Churches assembly in 1991.

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