Wild Women and Rebel Girls

Originally published on Indigenous X 12 July 2018

NAIDOC 2018 theme Because of her, we can has put the spotlight on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. All around Australia, people are sharing stories of the strong, caring, resilient and successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in their lives – past, present and future.

There is strength in knowing that First Peoples have been refusing to sit down, be compliant, give up or be silenced since invasion. Below are a few of these inspirational wild women and rebel girls. It is because of them, that we can and we do.

Fight like an Amazon

Born in 1800, Tarenorerer (also known as Te Nor) was a Tommeginne/Plair-Leke-Liller-Plue woman that fought back. Tarenorerer was abducted as a teenager and sold to white sealers living on the Bass Strait Islands. They called her Walyer. Sealers kept Aboriginal women and girls as slaves, often subjecting them to rape and assault.

From a young age Tarenorerer witnessed and experienced settler-colonial violence, but she refused to become servient to the sealers, and other invaders. Tarenorerer escaped and returned to mainland Tasmania in 1828.

In the north, she gathered Aboriginal women and men from different groups. Tarenorerer showed them how to use firearms and guerrilla warfare tactics, including attacks on colonialists’ sources of food and economics. She then led this group of resistance fighters, which included her brothers and sisters, against the settler-colonists.

Tarenorerer soon became infamous. G. A. Robinson, Protector of Aborigines, called her the Amazon of Van Diemen’s Land, after he heard how Tarenorerer would taunt men to come and fight her. She is known for saying that she ‘liked a luta tawin (white man) as she did a black snake’.

Abducted by sealers again, Tarnorerer was taken to the Hunter Islands. On Bird Island she was forced to hunt mutton birds for the sealers. There, she hid her identity by taking the name Mary Anne.

She was then given to John Williams, who lived with a group of white men, and the Aboriginal women they’d taken captive, on Forsyth Island. In 1930, she was moved to Swan Island, where her true identity was revealed.

Robinson ordered her to be kept in isolation, as he feared she’d lead another revolt. Sadly, Tarnorerer, undoubtably a courageous young woman, died from influenza in 1831.

Badimaya artist Julie Dowling payed tribute to Tarenorerer in her painting Walyer(2006)

When enough is enough

Daisy Bindi (Mumaring), a Nyangumartu woman, was born on the edge of the Gibson Desert around 1904. Her early life was spent on a cattle-station near Jigalong Depot (later known as Jigalong Aboriginal Reserve). As a child she helped her mother, who was a domestic on Ethel Creek station. Daisy became an accomplished horsewoman and worked alongside the men.

Concerned about working conditions and lack of wages for Aboriginal station hands, as well as ongoing police harassment, Daisy stood up alongside others that led the 1946 Pilbara strike. 500 men, women and children walked off the stations south of Nullagine, making their way to Port Hedland.

Daisy’s contributions were also instrumental in the worker’s rights movement spreading to inland Pilbara stations. Despite push back from authorities and settler-colonists, including violence towards the Aboriginal strikers, Daisy and the other station-workers stood their ground for three-years.

After a fall from a horse resulted in a leg amputation in 1959, Daisy turned her attention to access to education for Aboriginal children. Finding support from the Union of Australian Women in Perth, she successfully lobbied for a school in Pindan.

Daisy passed away in Port Hedland in 1962. Noonuccal poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s (1920 – 1993) wrote a poem about Daisy Bindi in The Dawn is at Hand.

Uncaged birds sing the sweetest songs

Martu women Molly, Daisy and Gracie were well-known for the legendary great escape that inspired the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence.

Sisters Molly and Daisy Craig, and their cousin Gracie Fields, were forcibly removed from their families in 1931. For many decades, Aboriginal children of mixed ancestry were removed by the government to force assimilation into white society. The children were sent to government or church-run institutions to be taught basic skills, before being allocated to white households or stations as unpaid child labour.

In August of 1931, Molly (14), Gracie (10) and Daisy (8) were sent to Moore River Native Settlement, but quickly absconded. Following Molly’s lead, the girls used the rabbit fence to navigate the 2414 kms walk home to Jigalong. Sadly, Gracie was re-captured before making it home.

Nana Molly eluded authorities many times as a young woman, keeping herself and her daughters safe. She walked the fence a second time in 1941, after freeing her baby daughter from Moore River Native [sic] Settlement. She was forced to leave behind her four-year old daughter, in the care of a family member that was at the Settlement. By 1944, both daughters had been removed from her care.

Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed under these race-based polices, and they are known as the Stolen Generations.

Gracie Fields died in her early 60s, in 1983. Nana Molly (Craig) Kelly lived on Country, at Jigalong, until she passed away in 2004 at 87 years. Daisy (Craig) Kadibill lived most of her life in the Martu community of Parnngurr. She achieved her wish of returning home to Jigalong before she passed away on 30 March of this year, at the age of 95.

Molly, Daisy and Gracie’s escape inspired Molly’s oldest daughter Doris Nugi Garimara Pilkingtonto write Follow The Rabbit-Proof Fence(1996). Molly’s life also inspired the sequel Under The Wintamarra Tree(2002).

Auntie Doris passed away in 2014 at the age of 77 years, in Perth. Remembered around the world as a strong voice for the Stolen Generations, she was the matriarch of over 100 direct descendants.

Stand strong, like an ancient tree

The fight for country and kin continues, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman often taking the lead. The current Djap Warring Embassy in Victoria is one example of standing strong.

In the Ararat region over 260 ancient trees are marked to be bulldozed, to make way for the Western Highway project. These trees, including a culturally-significant birthing tree, are sacred to the Djap Wurrung peoples.

Young Aboriginal people, such as Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, are standing alongside Elders and community to protect these trees.

Because of her, we will

This year, NAIDOC has been a chance to honour the women that have come before us. And it is a theme that gives hope, as we look around us. Across Australia there are countless young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people speaking up to power, refusing to sit down. The future is in good hands.

Sorry for what

sorry day

Statue of the Grieving Mother, Colebrook Home memorial, Eden Hills SA. Photo taken by Karen Wyld

The twentieth national Sorry Day was held on the 26 May 2018. It’s now twenty-one years since the release of Bringing Them Home, the report and recommendations resulting from the National Inquiry into the Stolen Generations. Twenty-one years later, and just a handful of the fifty-four recommendations have been actioned.

Holding an annual day to commemorate the removal of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was one of those recommendations. And so was an apology from the federal government for those forced removals. That apology occurred ten years ago. So what still needs to be said?

There are three untruths that are collectively told when it comes to systemic injustice: It was for their own good. There was a higher purpose in mind. We didn’t know.

These untruths are told about the removal of Aboriginal children to mask the wrongs of the not so distant past. And the present wrongs.

Removal of First Peoples’ children is a core step in the process of invade and conquer. The British invaded a lot of countries over a fairly short span of time. Most of these nations remain under the Commonwealth to this day. This nation-building on stolen lands was achieved with the labour of stolen peoples.

For most of the twentieth century, Aboriginal children were removed for a number of reasons. ‘For their own good’ was not one of them. Children were mostly removed to be trained, before being allocated to settler-colonisers as unpaid labour. The state formed race-based policies to control the children, and churches managed the institutions that held them captive.

I’ve listened to many survivors share their removal stories and have read enough primary documents to have no doubt at all that what occurred was not altruistic. Using dehumanised language, these documents clearly show the intent of policies and actions that controlled First Peoples. Real and perceived relationships, and even fertility, of Aboriginal women and girls is recorded as meticulously as farmers documenting the breeding of their stock.

A O Neville’s writings come to mind. The calculated way he controlled Aboriginal women and children’s lives. And his pseudo-scientific fascination with the ‘breeding out’ of Aboriginality. There was no good intent or higher purpose.

In official correspondence, Neville stated that my grandmother caused the government much embarrassment and expense when she twice escaped capture. So it was only a matter of time before the government came for her daughters. If I had not been born across the border, I may have had a similar fate.

Once removed, Aboriginal children were given a very basic education. The girls were trained to be domestics, and the boys as labourers. Some of these children were sent out to work on stations and in non-Indigenous peoples’ houses when barely adolescents. Those who benefited from their services often payed government authorities for this labour, or the church-run institutions where the children had previously been held.

Babies born as a result of white men’s abuse of power or rape whilst Aboriginal girls were in these forced-working arrangements were themselves institutionalised. Becoming part of this cycle of captured childhoods and fractured families.

Holding unsavoury truths, it’s hard to muster the energy to assist non-Indigenous Australians to gain a better understanding of Sorry Day. Twenty years of Sorry Days and the conversations have barely shifted. And, too often, white people will centre themselves. The healing becomes driven by their grappling with white guilt, discussions are in defence of the ‘good intent’ of the churches who participated in this injustice, and those that truly matter are pushed to the side.

But we, First Peoples, continue to wrap the ageing stolen children in love and understanding. We feel the pain of their parents’ empty arms. We acknowledged the hurt and anger of the children and grandchildren of the stolen generations. We work towards healing.

And still we are expected to make space for non-Indigenous people’s tears, their thoughts on ‘progress’, and uniformed opinions of why the children were taken. This takes a lot of energy and hope and forgiveness and restraint. It’s exhausting.

Myths are also exhausting. Such as the notion that this all occurred in the distant past. Children were still being removed to be used as a labour force until the late 1950s. Children were still being removed under overtly racist policies in the 1960s. The language changed by the 1980s, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still being removed disproportionally.

Just as nearly every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person has family members who are part of the stolen generations, many Australians had contact with a stolen child. Did you grandparents have a child slave? Did your parents tell you stories about the children’s home at the end of the road, where all those black kids from the country lived? Did you have a child sleeping in your family’s back bedroom, who was not quite a sibling? Did you tease that ‘orphan’ at school, the one that did not look like you or your school mates?

Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed, to be forever known as the stolen generations. They were held captive in full sight. People knew.

It was not for their own good. There was no higher purpose. Enough white people knew to collectively stop what was happening – they chose not to.

Sorry Day commemorates loss, and is a day where untruths are not welcomed.


Edited version of article published on Indigenous X, 26 May 2018.

Road-trip for one

I’ve finally decided! I am driving to Canberra in the morning. My bags aren’t packed, but the CDs are. What is a road-trip without a soundtrack?


My Dodge Avenger is ready. After a year of being stuck in a garage, and the last few months of just local drives – she’s going to love this trip. As will I.

I really need to be on the open road. Sure, I could fly, but soaring is much better.


So why am I going to Canberra? To write. And to learn how to write gooder.

I recently received the inaugural FNAWN Hardcopy Scholarship. This enables me to participate in Hardcopy, a highly-regarded professional development program for writers. This funding will help me get to the two residential workshops. The first being this Friday to Sunday, with the welcome reception on Thursday afternoon.

I’ll be posting updates on this website/blog and on Patreon. And sharing photos of the trip there/back via Instagram. And, of course, twitter.

It’s 11 pm. I’d better pack! See you on the road 🙂





Put down your wounded
Open the windows
Let regrets fly free

Bring out your dreams
Tie ribbons to their talons
So they may frolic with sparrows

Touch the torch to the pyre
And watch your fears burn
Ashes to ashes

Stop the clock turn the mirrors
For nothing will ever be
The same again

What are we really celebrating?

Republished article. Original published on Indigenous X on 22 January, under the title of What kind of morality are they wanting us to celebrate on that day? as part of the Indigenous X Change The Date series. Support Indigenous media by becoming an Indigenous X patron on Patreon.

What are we really celebrating?


That Day was once Many Days, as each state held their foundation days at different times of the year. The cry for a national day on 26 January came from the Australian Natives’ [sic] Association. Being vocal supporters of the White Australia policy, this Association’s membership was exclusively Australian-born white men of European descent. Their vision was a nation of people that shared the same laws, politics, culture, and ancestry.

That Day was never meant to symbolise unity or fairness.

People have been critical of That Day since it was first proposed, because behind the current date is a story of conflict and shame.

That Day: Invasion Day, Survival Day, Day of Mourning, Australia Day. A public holiday. A day of bbqs, fun in the sun, overblown nationalism, sorrow, and a spreading uneasiness.

In the lead up to That Day many stories are told in the media, in homes and the public sphere. Some of these stories have drifted far from the truth. And little wonder, for this nation was also built on fiction. And, in the great Aussie tradition, yarns of nation-building become more fanciful with each telling.

That Day is the beginning of a story, but this Once Upon A Time is told from many points of view. For some, it is a boys’ own adventure, filled with explorers, new frontiers and strange hopping beasts. For others, it’s an epic tale of founding fathers planting a flag on the no-longer mythical Terra Australis Incognita, benevolently granting the natives ‘civilisation’ and a wrathful god.

And there are other versions of this story. Truths that many have tried to erase from both books and memories, and even the tongues of First Peoples. Accounts of invasion, waves of violence, loss and grief, and culturally-biased control – as well as resistance, self-determination, strength and survival.

This continent has always been a land of story. For over 60,000 years songlines have criss-crossed over the land, out to the sea, and up into the skies. The British invaders, and later settlers from all corners of the globe, brought with them their own stories. As colonisation spread out across this continent, new stories were etched into ancient grounds.

The first of the new stories were that of Invasions. Horrific stories of massacres, murder, torture, kidnapping, and rape. English invasion of this continent was not a one-off event as, over many decades, more than 500 territories were invaded.

Crops Sown in Blood is the next chapter. Again, more of the above violence, with the addition of using slaves to plant colonial roots on stolen lands. Both First Peoples from this continent and other oceanic nations were coerced, or kidnapped and forced, to work for the colonists.

Then came the stories of Cultural Genocide. As settler-colonisation took root, so did the drive to alter the social structures, lifeways and cultures of First Peoples. This chapter features expulsion from ancestral lands; segregation; forcible removal of children to be assimilated, often trained for servitude; the forced coercercion towards Christianity; incarceration on missions and in children’s’ homes, accompanied by bans on cultural practices, languages, and law.

And there were new peoples to exclude, control and oppress; migrants that had managed to evade the White Australia policy that enforced racially-biased immigration. In a settler-colonisation, some people are more equal than others.

The Great Forgetting is the part of the story in which we now find ourselves: government, media and white academia control the narrative and whitewash history.

Through putting social pressure on migrants and their descendants to assimilate, the settler-colonisation minimalises unrest. And if anyone questions the narrative, then they are divisive. Un-Australian. And are told to go back to where they come from.

Of course, First Peoples aren’t to go back to where they come from. No, we must move on. Forget 230 years of violence, loss & grief, theft, and inequities – just be quiet.

These are just some of the stories whitewashed by a public holiday on 26 January. And into these big stories are woven 24 million equally important stories. How we all came to be here influences how we see here.

My ancestors were colonists (English), settlers (Irish) and First Peoples (Martu). You could say that I embody a nation in conflict. I’ve reflected on the role that my non-Indigenous fore-bearers had in supporting a status quo that disadvantaged First Peoples. But the not too distant draconian and racially-biased actions of governments, and the culturally-biased paternalism of missionaries, have had a direct impact on my life. This connects me to the blood, sweat and tears of my ancestors – white and blak.

Do I feel lucky to have been born here? Absolutely. Am I proud to be Australian. No. Not when the government, the opposition, and far too many citizens, show a lack of humanity towards First Peoples, refugees, and others who suffer the blows of inequity, bigotry and greed.

Stories, from songlines to colonial tales, the macro (nation) and the micro (individuals), are embed in the soil that we all call home. The story of That Day began in bloodshed and theft. It began with an invasion of Eora country, with the First Fleet planting a foreign nation’s flag on the lands of the Gadigal people.

The past cannot be changed but the next chapter is yet to be written. We can choose to unite these conflicting story-threads. We can choose to tell a story grounded in truth, justice, and a shared vision for the future.

That Day does not allow this process to happen.

Australia needs to collectively stop disrespecting a solemn day of memorial, and remove the public holiday from 26 January. And then change the day. Not just the date. Change the day to tell the real stories of Australia. If we cannot even manage to tell truthful stories, we cannot address the ongoing injustices caused by colonisation.  If we continue to give preference to a whitewashed history, then what are settler-colonists really celebrating every Australia Day, regardless of the date? Attempted conquest.


Choices, alternatives, and giving corporate greed the finger

Note: Patreon have since announced that they will not be rolling out the changes in fees. I will stay on Patreon plus still offer the alternatives via this website. 
Dear Patrons,

Thank you for sticking by me, even if it’s just until I have made alternative plans.

Unlike some creators on Patreon, I’ve only said good-bye to a few valued patrons. And I totally understand why they have unsubscribed.

In response to messages I had about alternative ways to be my patron, I have set up a few choices. They are a bit rough, until I properly research free plug-ins for my website.Of course you are welcome to stay on this platform with me. I will continue to post updates here, and honour all the rewards.

Otherwise, alternatives ways to be my patron, where I carry the costs and not you, are –

For one off contributions to me as a creator, there are two choices:

  • A payme link (also found in my twitter bio) connected to my personal PayPal account.
  • A pay now button on my website, connected to my merchant PayPal account (with added customer protections).

Monthly subscriptions:
There is now a range of monthly subscriptions ($1, $3, $5 and $10) on my website.

These subscriptions are not linked to anything but soon I will add either a members only page or monthly e-newsletter via MailChimp. I will NOT add any one to a e-newsletter unless permission is granted, as emails can be annoying.

Eventually, I will offer patron/subscriber rewards and gifts.

And my temporary online clearance ‘store’ still has some great book bargains. All at cost price or lower, and free postage (Australia only)

Once again, I thank you for your patience and invaluable support. Some months, your contributions have been my only source of income. So I cannot thank you enough.

See you around – here, on twitter, on my website, and perhaps even in ‘real life’.

Much gratitude,

Terra Australis Cognitus

Hendrik Hondius Polus Antarcticus

Hendrik Hondius Polus Antarcticus

As usual for me, I’m already plotting and researching the next book, whilst still finishing the current manuscript. And, as usual for a writer drawn to magic realism as a socio-political storytelling device, it involves truth-telling of the macro (historical events, including injustices) through the micro (everyday life).

The next book comes from my fascination with the intersection of European superstition, religion and science during the 17 to 19th centuries, and the impact that has had on First Peoples (Australia). Focusing on the baggage that explorers, privateers and other pirates carried with them as they sailed the seas in search of fame, power and fortunes, I’ve delved back in to the history books.

Of course my envisioned fictional interpretation will include invasion, massacres, genocide, land/resource theft, and forced assimilation. It will look at the culturally biased reasoning behind these abhorrent actions. The foundations of systemic racism in Australia. In a way, this next story is an attempt to deconstruct racism and explore hope, through fiction as opposed to twitter rants.

Honestly, I am tired of talking about racism. I’d much rather we were at a stage of collective consciousness where it didn’t exist anymore. Or at least a critical mass working on mitigation of the harm racism causes. Instead, in Australia we are still having the ‘yes that is racist. And that. Can you at least listen? Urgh!’ conversation.

Delving in to Australian history, discussions about racism need to include facing up to theft. How can we talk about justice if we can’t talk about injustice? And as Australia was founded on a rolling-wave of robbery, then let’s talk about that.

In the seventeenth century, the legend of Terra Australis Incognita played on many a man’s imagination. The mythical unknown lands of the south were once thought to contain riches beyond belief, and perhaps a few scary monsters. The idea of Terra Australis came from a theory of balance – land mass/es of equal weight of those in the north must exist in the south.

Although scientific exploration was behind the searches for this unknown southern land, it was commerce that enabled the journeying. France, England, Portugal, Spain and Holland were all racing to find the best sources of spices, fabrics, wood, precious minerals, and more. And that meant finding the safest, most economical passages to these foreign lands. Wars were staged, pacts were made and unmade, unsavoury weather was endured, and new sea routes were opened. And still, the myth of Terra Australis Incognita existed.

Whilst it was England that first mapped the entire perimeter of the great southern land, documenting that it was indeed a separate continent, over a hundred years prior the Dutch were the first Europeans to set foot on this land. And the Spanish were the first Europeans to note that it was not connected to nearby land masses, such as New Guinea, as previously thought.

There were a few factors that stopped these other European nations from invading the territories of the First Peoples of the great southern land. And there was also the more ethical nations that came here to trade decades before the Europeans, such as the Makassans.

Of all the nations, it was the English who invaded, and set in place many decades of theft and violence. And they brought with them the seeds of systemic racism. Would things have been different if another European nation had ‘claimed’ this land? Probably not. Although, there is a slim possibility that they would have plundered the resources, and then left.

Terra Nullius was the lie that Australia was founded on. A culturally-biased belief that the land belonged to nobody. And this conclusion was reached by the English invaders’ believing that the First Peoples were not equal to them. In fact, they were not even seen as people. The earliest colonisers may have tried to justify their rationale with science, and even religion and economics, but at the very root of the violent occupation was racism.

And so the many decades of *Terra Furatus commenced. Theft of land. Which could not have occurred without Hominem Furatus. (attempted) theft of humanness. (*excuse the Latin via Google)

Racism is the denial of another’s humanness. This denial occurs on an individual basis (discrimination, antagonism, violence etc) and systemic (forced assimilation, inequitable services/treatment, police/custodial violence etc). Until systems of power (law, policing, governance, economics) and systems for people (education, health, commerce, social services) acknowledge inbuilt unconscious bias, then much needed societal change will be difficult to bring about.

The crimes of colonisation need to be acknowledged. The violence and theft need to be taught in schools and universities, and in workplaces/sectors. And this includes a more honest discourse on the world views of those who did the deeds – the explorers, the privateers, the missionaries, the pastoralists, the mavericks, the scientists, the politicians, the ‘heroes’ of history. Even if that is uncomfortable for those who now reside on stolen lands. There can be no justice until the past is acknowledged. And myths are debunked.

There was never a Terra Australis Incognita. It was just a myth that led to invasion and centuries of ongoing settler colonisation. To the First Peoples who’d been living on the great southern lands for 80,000 years, and to their neighbouring nations across the seas, this land was Cognitus > known. What was unknown before the arrival of Europeans was racism. And the many injustices that have racism at their core.

Justice is the logical next step. And justice can take many forms – treaty/ies, truth-telling, land rights, retribution, repatriation, plus more. But justice won’t be possible until the widespread unconscious bias is no longer denied, and the harmful impacts of racism are addressed.

The past can show us the way forward. Researching history leaves me in awe of the courage and achievements of those long dead. Imagine what future generations can achieve if we, the present, are committed to being brave, truthful, and empathetic. Many nations around the globe seem to be in a dark age, but I still have hope.

Illustration: Hendrik Hondius’s plate. Originally published in 1637. Above version is from Jansson’s Grooten Atlas, showing Tasman’s explorations of the western coastline of New Holland, ‘Nova Hollandia detect Anno 1644’, the southern tip of Van Dieman’s Land and an edge of New Zealand. Source: State Library NSW – http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/polus-antarcticus 

Support me to keep writing
If you like what you read on this site, please consider supporting me to keep on writing. There’s a PayPal button on this page (see top right-hand corner. Or drop-down box on some hand-held devices)

Or buy some leftover stock from my ex-bookshop – all heavily discounted.

And I am also on Patreon

You can also find me on
twitter @1KarenWyld

Instagram @meanderingwyld


When being a writer is no longer fiction

20170905_140449Spring is here – in theory. And August is finally over. Its my least favourite month of the year. Now that September has arrived, the weather might still scream winter but there are strong signs of new beginnings.

Post-bookshop, I’m finally getting back on my feet. I’m still in debt, but not as severe, and I’ve almost caught up with mortgage arrears.

There is a mountain of books on my dining room table, which I really need to clear. Now that I’ve mastered the set up of a basic eCommerce site, I am selling the leftover books at discounted prices. Shipping is set for Australia, but if you send me an enquiry I can give a quote for overseas shipping (note: it won’t be cheap).

If you were wondering – yes, that is a photo of me. For those that know me offline, you’d know how much I hate photos of myself. So this is a very rare photo. But this week I had to bite the bullet, do a quick read up on ‘how to take selfies for the middle-aged & ugly’, and then just do it! Because I had an opinion piece accepted by Al Jazeera, and they insisted on a bio photo. So the choice was to run and hide (like I usually do when the word ‘photo’ is mentioned), or to just do it. This time, I made the choice not to hide.

Talking about being published, I’ve had a piece published on the Indigenous X site. It’s about ongoing administration issues with government funding for First Peoples in Australia. This article was updated and republished on Independent Australia as Not ‘Closing the Gap’: Nigel Scullion and Indigenous Funding Failure .

Seems like I’ve become an accidental journo. Later this month I have a reporting assignment at the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association’s conference. In addition to being a great Indigenous-led organisation, its their 20th year, so I am really looking forward to their conference.

The conference reporting I am doing is in collaboration with Croakey news services. The first conference I reported on was for First Peoples Disability Network in June. I wrote two pieces on that event, including a conference wrap up, as well as tweeting and live video interviews.

I’ve had some consultancy and freelance writing work post-bookshop, but its not resulting in enough income to support a household. So I’ve started applying for jobs. I’ve had a couple of interviews, but not landed a job as yet. Looks like I need to keep promoting my consultancy services.

I recently started managing the newsletter, blog/website  and twitter account (@FNAWN_) for First Nations Australia Writers Network. FNAWN is a great organisation, and I’m pleased to be contributing to their growth.

And time for the really exciting news – last week I discovered that I had made the long-list for the 2017 Richell Prize! This was such an unexpected surprise. I entered the first three chapters of my work-in-progress, Where The Fruit Falls. The prize includes mentoring, to help shape a draft into a manuscript that is hopefully publishable.

The Richell Prize is presented by Hachette Australia, in memory of Matt Richell who passed away suddenly in 2014. Partners in this prize include The Guardian and Emerging Writers Festival. The short-list will be announced early October, and the prize winner in November. I’m not expecting to make it to the next stage, but that won’t stop me from feeling very pleased to have got this far.

And it gives me renewed inspiration to finish this manuscript. Its been put on hold for far too long, due to sorry business, family responsibilities, financial crises and, in general, the ups and downs of now being a member of the sandwich generation.

Anyway – onwards and upwards. And, now that spring is in the air, perhaps I can even dare to dream of getting back on a motorbike…….

Support me to keep writing
If you like what you read on this site, please consider supporting me to keep on writing. There’s a PayPal button on this page (see top right-hand corner. Or drop-down box on some hand-held devices)

Or buy some leftover stock from my ex-bookshop – all heavily discounted.

And I am also on Patreon

You can also find me on
twitter @1KarenWyld

Instagram @meanderingwyld

Lot 2: son of a basket


This second item in my Silent Auction of Stories is hand-made. By me. And it has a story.

First, what is it:

This basket has been made with natural and dyed raffia, using a pierce-and-sew method. It features two side-handles. It’s a fairly large basket, being 16 cm high with a diameter of 34 cm.

Its story:

Did you know that baskets are actually just stories in another form? Each one holds stories. And you can feel these when you pick them up. They have within them the story of their creator, and how they were feeling at the time they made the basket. And the stories of the land they were made on, and the conversations overheard as each layer of the basket was created. So no wonder I, a storyteller, weave baskets.

This basket is a replica of another basket I made. Both were made early in my weaving phase. I prefer the original but this son of that basket is okay. And has an interesting tale.

In 2007 I was selected to be part of a Womad artist in residence program, facilitated by Sandy Elverd. It involved a group of textile artist from around the world, working with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

There were about 20 women, and we worked solidly for about five days to create an installation that was a feature of Womadelaide 2007. We created a life-sized desert camp scene – fireside, utensils, people, camp dogs and fauna all made from grasses, wool and other fibre. The basket and fibre-bushfoods on my home page were made as part of that installation. That basket has it own story – but that would be too much of a digression.

Working with the Tjanpi Weavers on that installation was an amazing experience. I learnt some new weaving techniques from some of the most prominent Aboriginal weavers in Australia. And time spent in a weaving circle is full of laughter, cultural learnings, and lots of sharing of stories.

I’d recently started the Southern Weavers Group, as part of my role as a community development officer. This project provided a regular social activity for local elders, as well as a means to talk about health, diet and lifestyle (due to funding through an arts and health program). Younger women also participated in some of the activities, such as weaving camps. It developed into a social enterprise, which is still in existence, as the elders are paid to teach weaving in schools and community events. These sessions involve raising non-Indigenous people’s awareness through sharing of stories.

I used a train-the-trainer approach, by accompanying one or more members of the group to workshops and conferences, so we could learn both business and weaving techniques from other First Peoples around Australia. Some of the women had learnt sedge-grass weaving from their elders, as children, so the program was both a re-learning their own cultural weaving and learning new techniques from other regions.

One day, while making grass-sculptures and baskets with the Tjanpi Weavers, I felt a bit guilty that I was there and not any of the elders from the Southern Weavers group. So I asked if I could invite a few, and the next day Aunty Rose came with me. Aunty is now gone, but I still remember spending that day with her and the Tjanpi weavers. That is one of the stories that are within the baskets we made.

As an artist in resident, we were provided with weekend passes to Womad, where we ran weaving workshops for attendees. I’d never been able to afford to go before, and had always been curious, so this was a little bit exciting. Until – guilt set in again.

The arts-patron that had funded the Tjanpi Weavers project at Womad popped in to check on our progress. Speaking with her, I mentioned the group I’d started and how good it would be if they could go to Womad and see this installation. So she gave me a few day passes for them.

Grateful, I gifted her with a basket. It was the original of the one pictured above. But much better. I loved that basket, but it felt right to give it away.

A few days later, I escorted a group of local elders to Womad. There wasn’t enough tickets for everyone so, as usual, I let them choose who got to go. A younger woman, who is a talented artist, missed out. She, like me, had never been able to afford Womad tickets, so she was a little bit disappointed. But it worked out ok, as all the elders got tired quickly and chose to go home. So I rang her and arranged to meet outside the gates, to give her the wrist-band that I’d asked one of the elders for. We had to take it off very carefully, to not damage it or her wrist. (shhh don’t tell Womad).

In the meantime, the group of guest artists were preparing to leave the installation tent and go see a performance. It was a singer and choir from their Country. Ahead of me a young girl was struggling to push an elder in an old wheelchair with flat tires. I jumped in and gave her a hand. Once we got to the stage, the sun was setting. The performance was amazing. And I felt privileged to have watched it in the presence of elders who were related to the performers.

As soon as it finished, I got a text to say that my friend was nearly at the gate. So I walked out to find her. Sitting under a huge fig tree was an old man. He beckoned me, so I went over there. He told me, proudly, that his son was going to perform inside the gate. He couldn’t afford a ticket, so he’d sat outside, hoping to hear the performance. The performance I’d just witnessed. I told him that his son had just been on stage. I noticed his look of disappointment at not hearing his son sing.

So I told him the story of his son’s performance. How beautiful his voice was, and the choir backing him up. I told him some of the names of the elders I’d watched the performance with, and he said they were related. I told him how some of the elders had been crying with pride. And as I told him this story, he had tears running down his cheek.

I then saw my friend, and said good-bye to him. As I walked back inside the magical space of Womad, I was a bit emotional. Firstly, because I just had an emotional interaction. And secondly, I was damn angry. Pissed off at the exclusiveness of Womad. Annoyed that even when Aboriginal people are included on the stage, we are still excluded from the audience because of those damn overpriced tickets. And deeply sad that this proud father did not get to see his son perform, in front of his kinsfolk.

Anyway, I digress once more. Later, missing the original large orange basket that I had gifted, I made this replica. Which is why it is a son of a basket. This basket might not have been at Womad, but it has been infused with the joys, creativity, sadness, and connectivity of my experiences of participating in the 2007 Womad Tjanpi Desert Weavers program.

Let the silent auction begin!

A refresher on how this will work:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the contact form on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I’ll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

Also see Lot 1: The Maiden

Lot 1: The Maiden

This is the first item in my Silent Auction of Stories. If this item could only be explained in three words, those words would be: hope, strength and resilience.

Item description:

Rose-coloured glass with gilded designs. The handled-jug is 25 cm tall. It features what could probably be called a wood nymph. She is leaning against a tree, playing a wind instrument. The six glasses are 14 cm tall, and are decorated in gold ferns. The set is in perfect condition.

Its Story:

This set was given to me in 1985. I was 21 years old, moving into my fourth accommodation after leaving the family home. It felt more like my first real home since moving out. Which could have partly been because I was in the nesting stage of my first pregnancy. Almost all of my income was going into rent, but to have a place of my own felt good. Who needs fancy furniture? Or food? Luckily, I vomited throughout that whole pregnancy, so I didn’t really feel like eating anyway.

I digress. So I had just moved into this old shack on a cliff, overlooking the sea. Surrounded by nothing either side of me, with the sea out the front, I could easily ignore the other houses some distance behind me. The place was haunted, but that is another digression.

My sister’s friend gave me this jug and glasses as a house-warming present. She’d found it in an antique shop – she’s always had an eye for pre-loved treasure. It was my very first house-warming present, so it was indeed treasure. I put it in a place of honour, and admired not only the lovely pink glass and fancy gold design, but the woman on it. She symbolised me, a young woman – free, single, and alone. Well, as much as one could be with a baby on the way.

Once that baby arrived, I was still young and single. But not alone. In addition to my daughter, my sister’s friend moved in. She had the second bedroom, whilst I had the bedroom over looking the ocean. Our lifestyles were a little bit in conflict – I had a baby who wouldn’t settle, and the housemate had parties and boyfriends. And parties there were. An isolated house on a cliff is soon filled with young people, and bands, and more people.

Luckily, I had a baby who didn’t like sleeping. She did like people. And playing with the musical instruments whenever a band came over to practice, with an audience in tow. Oh my! How did we survive!

And how did this lovely jug and glasses survive that? I had it tucked away safely. Which was a good thing, as my daughter was walking by the time she turned 10 months. And climbing on chairs, up onto shelves, or out the door by the time she was 11 months.

By the time she’d turned 2 years old, we’d moved to the country. Where it was quieter. In an old farmhouse, in the middle of a vineyard. My rent would be reduced every row of vines I tied, which was a bonus. But working in a vineyard with a stubborn toddler is near impossible. We lived there for a while, but had to move out when someone broke in and stole my rent money and lots of belongings.

This nymph jug of course didn’t get stolen. It has lived in twelve other houses with me. I moved often not because I wanted to, but because that is what the rental market was/is like. Which is why I really don’t want to lose my house; the one I built and am paying off.

This glass set survived parties, an adventurous toddler and many house moves. It’s also survived a house fire, two boisterous boys, and numerous cats. It some how didn’t get targeted by my abusive ex-husband, who had a thing for hunting down items that meant something to me and making me watch as he destroyed it. Which is how I developed a non-blinking poker-face. But I digress again.

I’m no longer The Maiden. I am fast approaching my Hag stage – and have the grey hairs to prove it. I have loved, treasured and protected this jug and glasses set, but its time for this gilded wood nymph to find a home without me.

Like me, she is strong and resilient. I hope someone likes her enough to bid on her. And will treasure her as much as I have.


Let the silent auction begin!

A refresher on how this will work:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the contact form on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I’ll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

Silent Auction of Stories


I can’t believe its nearly four months since I had to shut down my bookshop! Time does fly. Financially, I wasn’t doing too bad post-shop. I finally caught up with overdue mortgage payments, and was able to pay bills (mostly) on time. And I was still living frugally but without the high-level stress every time I answered the phone or opened a letter.

As much fun as working from home (aka in my PJs) has been, the freelancing work has dried up. So I have amped up the job hunting…..right in the middle of financial year end/start. Not great timing.

That (new) pile of bills isn’t going to magically disappear. So its sale time!

Here’s how this will work:

  • Every few days, I’ll do a blog post featuring an item that’s on offer via silent auction.
  • Each item will have a short write-up on its ‘story’. ie where it came from, what it means to me, etc. I’ve always been fascinated in the stories behind belongings, so hopefully I can also tell such tales.

Silent auction:

  • If interested in the item, you can send me your confidential bid via twitter DM (@1KarenWyld) or by using the contact form on this website.
  • Remember to factor in packaging and postage when you are bidding.
  • Once at least one bid has hit the reserve level, I’ll close the auction and contact the highest buyer.
  • Bidding is restricted to people residing in Australia only, due to delivery costs.

If you aren’t interested in owning the item, but you did like its story, then feel free to contribute to more stories. There is a PayPal pay now button in the upper right-hand of this page. Or you can use my PayPal payme account.

Time to go searching for an item, and share its story. Stay tuned!


I have patrons for my writing!

The last couple of weeks I’ve been peeking through the growing pile of debts, at my computer screen – reading arts grants, job pages, and other sources of potential income. And, as usual, spending too much time procrastinating on Twitter.

As is often the case for me, it was on Twitter that a potential solution was found. A means of managing the practicalities of living AND pursue my long-time dreams of writing. Another artist I follow on Twitter, Alysha Herrmann, was promoting her page on somethings called Patreon. What is this……

Curious, I did some research: starting with a read of the official blurb on the Patreon site. Ah, another crowdfunding platform. This one is aimed at linking arts patrons/supporters with creators. So they can do what they do best – create! There is a choice of per project, similar to other crowdfunding platforms, or monthly contributions, which sounded a bit different.

I’ve read a lot about crowdfunding, but have not gone there before. Some sites and projects are great, some not so. So I did some more looking into Patreon. I searched for reviews exposing the darkside of Patreon. Scam or not? And other than people saying how hard it is to attract patrons, supporters or backers, I didn’t find anything too worrying.

Having self-published my debut novel, I know it takes nerves of steel to promote yourself as an indie. But I’ve also learnt a fair few social media skills along the way. Why not give it a whirl? Nothing to loose, and perhaps something to gain.

First up, the platform is really easy to use. Very similar in usability to Google+ or Yammer. Setting up a creator profile takes about the same amount of time and skills as designing a WordPress blog. My newbie tip: have at least basic skills or find someone to help you.

The most time consuming part is what to say. So do some thinking about your goals, rewards, creator needs, and capabilities before you start. It will make it easier. Look at accounts by artists/writers/designers similar to you – what are they wanting, what are they offering, what tone do they use?

Patreon recommends using videos to attract sponsors, but that’s not my thing. I have a morbid dislike of putting my image and voice out there. Many introvert creators are the same. So I had to make sure my written words could do a good job of promoting me. Luckily, I’m a writer so could manage this without too much stress.

Setting up the financial side of a creator account was fairly easy for me as I already had a PayPal account, and had my financial details nearby. I’ve been selling my book online for three years, so the USA tax forms weren’t daunting. It was great that they have the form ready to fill in electronically. Many other US-based platforms don’t give users as much help and information.

Links to commence promoting my page was not too difficult for me, again because of my experience as an indie author. I already have a fairly strong author platform (i.e. social media presence) so it was fairly simple to link these accounts.

Coming up with goals, rewards, background, intended use of funds etc wasn’t too daunting for me, as I’ve years of experience working in project management, grants writing, research and policy. All I needed was to downplay the corporate speak, don’t overshare, and write a clear plan for potential backers. I’ll go back and tweak these sections, once I get the hang of crowdfunding.

So I set up my creator account, wrote embarrassing things about myself, invented some rewards, and clicked the launch button. Simply by posting on Twitter, I had three patrons within the hour, and reached six by the next morning. For a newbie, and having peeked at other accounts, I think that’s a promising start. I still have to do a proper launch, but its a good start.

And something that surprised me – although very grateful to my first patrons, I didn’t suffer from my normal feelings of not being worthy, guilt of taking other peoples’money or other forms of self-doubt. This is an important milestone for me. And a massive step to overcoming my dislike of being too visible – as well as my fear of success.

If interested, my Patreon site is here. I just used my real name to make it easier for people to search for me, as I read that Patreon’s search engine is one of its weaker points.

Feedback is welcomed. I see typos every time I look at the page. So its still a work-in-progress. I won’t mind if you point out more typos.

Would you like to support me to develop my career as a writer, but the thought of monthly payments put you off? You still can. Simply use the PayPal button on here (ie WordPress blog) > over there in the right-hand sidebar (not visible on mobile devices). I also have a PayPal button on my Wyld Words bookshop website, for people who’ve expressed an interest in helping me keep another local bookshop from closing.  I love book lovers   🙂

Okay – time for me to get back to being a bookseller / writer.

Such as it was…..


Here is another snippet of what I’m currently editing. Its some years past the previous piece I shared. Its from a work-in-progress, which will hopefully become my second novel, called Where The Fruit Falls. Its a rough draft, but I hope you enjoy the read.

As the last plutonium-loaded cloud settled over the red sands in the south-west, many miles away three strangers emerged from a sister-desert; seeking rest from a road seldom travelled. Even though they had entered town cloaked in dawn’s light, news of their arrival had spread before the last rooster finished crowing. This flurry of curiosity was not because it was unusual on the gibber plains for people to suddenly emerge from out of nowhere; others have arrived in such a manner. Nor was it unusual to see strangers, even though the town was in the middle of nowhere; as the train, in passing, often spewed out adventurers, government officials, wayfarers, those of a missionary-bend, and other lost souls. And it was not the shock of seeing a young woman unaccompanied by a man; for strong, independent women were a familiar sight in the desert terrain. No, the inquisitive stares behind curtains and the gossip that raced at the speed of wild-fire was fuelled by the peculiar guise of the two girls that walked alongside the woman. For even in this era of fast-tracked social change, it was still unheard of for one of her kind, for the woman’s bloodline was unmistakable, to be travelling unaccompanied with a white girl.
And such a pretty little girl, a precious rose – many would add to their recounting of the tale. Obviously cared for, loved dearly, despite the marks of a long trek clinging to her clothes – others would remark to their neighbours later that day. Such flawless, milky skin – sighed many behind sun-withered hands. And what eyes, they pronounced, like precious opals – they all pronounced. Even though, in all reality, her eyes were more akin to a less precious but equally enchanting gemstone: malachite.
Once they could tear their attention from this child, they took in the other girl; reluctantly at first. They openly appraised this child, and not with kindness in their eyes or truth in their hearts. This other one, wearing the trials of the road so well, brazenly strode into town; or so they thought. With the steadied gaze of a sun-browned cameleer from days long gone, this girl kept her bright blue eyes focused on the road, ignoring the crescendo of disapproval. Clearly she hasn’t been taught her place in the world – some muttered. She needs to be knocked down a peg or two – grumbled others. Such arrogance, but what can we expect from the likes of them – verbalised a few. Giving them the vote will ruin this country, mark my words – others predicted.

That last comment drifted down the street, carried by the wind, towards the town’s edge, where it floated over the unseen boundary and fluttered around a gathering of makeshift homes. Those still trying to catch a few moments more of sleep tried to shoo the words away with the flick of a hand, not at all concerned about being bitten in exposed places. Others took a broom to the nonsensical declaration, sweeping the air until that unwanted opinion was encouraged to move on. As smiles of redemption began to brighten sun-toughened faces, they soon realised that there was now an unpleasant smell in the air. One by one, the fringe dwellers gathered outside, trying to locate the source of such a rank odour. An old man caught the eye of another, and then another, and another, Until soon they were walking away from the town, carrying only the essentials. They hadn’t needed a second whiff, for they had smelt this unpleasant odour many times before. Younger kin, refusing to follow, instead walked closer to the main part of town, allowing curiosity to be their guide.
Standing unseen, in the shadows cast by the rising sun, they saw the town-dwellers staring at a trio of travellers. The new spectators were also taken aback by what they saw, even if their comments were vastly different than those already dying in the dust or floating off on the air. For rather than seeing what was different, they had immediately noticed the similarities. Eventually, everyone began to see. It’s something in the bone structure, some thought – such high cheeks. No, it was the way they both moved, the way they hold themselves, certain aura. They could see that those girls had shared secrets, for they speak in a clandestine language only known by twins. Those young ones were the mirror images of polar opposites.
Never before had the townsfolk seen such non-identical twins; one white and the other brown. Only the fringe dwellers could see the truth of the matter, even though it was so very obvious: both girls were in fact black.

While all this was unfolding, the woman kept moving, oblivious and quite accustomed to the astonished stares and whispers of strangers. As she walked down the main street, such as it was, the woman took no notice of fingers clasping at almost-closed curtains, nor did she acknowledge the slack-jawed affliction that her progenies left in their wake. Steadfastly she walked up to the veranda of the general store, such as it was, dropped her bags and shook the red dirt from her skirt. Leaving the uncanny twins sitting on a pile of road-worn bags, she walked into the store, with her head held high enough for trouble to find her.
A short time later, the three of them turned a rusty key in a dusty lock, entered a pre-loved shack and set to turning it into a home; such as it was.

Work In Progress: chapter one


This is an extract from a manuscript I’m currently re-working. Its just a rough draft, so don’t expect too much. And formatting is even rougher. Despite its many flaws, I hope you enjoy reading it.
(I found the above image on Pinterest, I don’t know the original source)


As the door closed, pushing back spring’s last attempt to invade the eventide cottage, Maeve heard a fluttering of tiny wings. Instinctively the corner of her lip rose slightly, just enough momentum to displace wrinkled skin. That sound took Maeve back to a forgotten moment, when she had intimately known such wings beating against her own chest. Back to a time when the younger Maeve had not yet discovered corporeal yearnings. However, that was then, this is now. Maeve Cliona Devlin had slowly and surely shed all sense of innocence but, as life tends to be cyclic, carnal matters had long since been replaced by a more ascetic view. Nestled in a wrought-iron bed that had seen better days, Maeve did not have a sense of nostalgia for the distant undulations of a life lived well, as she was more than content with the uncomplicatedness that ageing granted.
Brigid entered the room quietly, not wanting to disturb her grandmother. She was obviously unaware of the fluttering wings that had caught the attention of her grandmother. It could perhaps be said that the young woman was generally oblivious to many nuances, both the everyday kind and the extraordinary. Still, Brigid shuddered unconsciously as the coldness of her grandmother’s house hit her. Brigid didn’t notice that shudder squeeze through just a sliver of a gap, as she shut the door closed. Her grandmother did but took no offence, as she was had the good sense to know that not even a shudder would willingly spend time in a space where light was fading.

Maeve patted a space beside her, ‘Birdie sit down. Tell me about your day.’
Brigid walked towards the small kitchen table, placing upon it a well-laden basket, ‘Let me catch my breath first, Mamó. And I should open a window, let some fresh air in.’
The older woman nodded, as a few moments more of waiting were of no consequence. It was enough that someone had arrived, fleetingly bringing sunshine to the gloomy space Maeve had entombed herself within. She felt no animosity towards family, not really, but sometimes it felt as if they had already executed their final good-byes. Only the granddaughter willingly remembered the old woman at the bottom of the garden. Numerous times a day, Brigid brought her Mamó distractions from the outside world; to dilute the endless hours of waiting. The others, when they remembered, came out of a habitual sense of duty. Those strapping children on the brink of manhood, that physically reminded Maeve of beloved male kin left behind on a distant shore, rarely stepped over her threshold.
In the bluntness of age, Maeve no longer felt any attachment to the sons of her daughter. Unlike the familiarity she had for the oldest grandchild, Brigid: her Birdie. The grandsons didn’t know of Maeve’s sense of disconnect. Even Margaret, her daughter, was unaware. Perhaps those bonnie boys reminded Maeve too much of home; of love lost, and lands never to be seen again. Or perhaps the way they filled a room simply reminded Maeve that she was shrinking.

Opening the window, Brigid caught sight of a small black and white bird. Maeve raised her head seconds before the bird broke out in song. It was a cheeky tune, alluding to promised embraces and stolen hearts. At least it was to Maeve’s well-travelled ears. Birdie didn’t hear the same tune. She heard spring blossoms and warm afternoons. And had a sudden longing to hide in the long grass, to watch wispy clouds make patterns in the blue.  Maeve smiled, as the bird-song had brought back cherished memories. In cahoots with an old woman’s fancy, the wind floated through the open window to kiss Maeve’s paper-thin skin; bringing lost whispers of forever and ever, and then some. It had been decades since her husband had passed, but some things are never forgotten. Kisses on yesterday’s skin last forever.
If her eyes had not grown milky, Maeve might have cast them over the room she now lay in. Not much more than that one room, Maeve had practically built this cottage with her own hands. The room she now lay in served as lounge, kitchen and bedroom. Later a small bathroom had been added by her son-in-law. Not an inside laundry though, as Maeve had insisted on using the tarnished copper tub in the detached laundry out the back; right up until her sight had completely gone. If she had the ability to look around the room now, she would have found more than a few shadowy memories lurking in corners, but none of her husband. He had never set foot on this land that Maeve had built a home on.

Setting sail as a young bride, Maeve had disembarked as a widow. The grief of leaving behind her family, knowing she would never again see the emerald island of her childhood, was overshadowed by the loss of her first and only love. His body had been sent to the bottom of the sea mere days before land was sighted. Having recently returned from war, he had been far from robust. He was certainly no match for La Grippe’s frenzied tango; this unwanted dance partner had barely raised a flamed hue on the other passengers’ cheeks, before dancing him to the end of time. Stepping away from the rail, having witnessed their shared dreams become entangled in the shroud that floated from sight, Maeve turned her thoughts to staying afloat.
Fortuitously, before his fated journey, Maeve’s husband had the foresight to secure a modest slice of land in the country they had chosen to sow their marital future. When Maeve arrived alone, heavy of heart and womb, she took comfort in the realisation that her love’s legacy was a patch of good earth. Using coins that had weighed down her hem during the ocean-crossing, Maeve purchased timber and set to work. Ignoring strangers that scoffed at her determination, she welcomed extra hands when offered. Unable to pay for their labour, Maeve acknowledged her new neighbours’ kindness with lovingly prepared food, resulting in full bellies and warm laughter. This did not gain her any friends among the women in the small town by the coast. Not to begin with. Once word had spread that Maeve was not only recently widowed but expecting, primly downturned mouths became welcoming smiles. Maeve soon had a one-roomed home and caring neighbours to shelter her for decades to come.
With her bridal trousseau finally unpacked, Maeve made her acquaintance with the land. Removing a sea of stones, she put them aside for a future wall. She imagined a simple wooden gate sitting between low stone walls, opening to a path that led to her front door. On either side of the path would grow an abundance of fragrant herbs and flowers; familiar plants from her homeland. These pleasant images made time pass quickly as she tilled the land, building callouses on her long-fingered hands.
First Maeve planted the sprouting potato eyes that she had kept damp all through the ocean crossing. Unbeknownst to her husband, who had sworn that his bride would never have to eat another potato for as long as she lived, Maeve had hidden precious peelings in her luggage. She had listened attentively at the feet of her elders, and knew that there are times when the most humble of vegetables makes the tastiest meal. Reassured that a good future-crop of potatoes nestled in the Spring-warmed earth, it was time to prepare her modest home for the little stranger’s arrival. Having been so intent on grieving, building and planting, Maeve had put off pondering the child she was growing. Until mild pains in her lower back reminded her that time could not be controlled.

At first sight, her daughter’s resemblance was confronting – dead man’s eyes on a healthy cherub. Later Maeve fond comfort in these bluest of blue eyes. The midwife, and female visitors, had laughed at the inexperienced mother, before kindly informing her that all newborns have blue eyes. Maeve knew her daughter’s eyes would never change.
Maeve named the child Margaret, a moniker an expectant-father had chosen. And even though she knew it to be foolish, she conferred her with Boudica as a middle name; as she felt her daughter might one day need strength from the homeland. There was no saint’s name given, for grief had caused Maeve to question, and then abandon, her once ingrained faith. Shortly after her milk was flowing, Maeve had returned to the field. And with help from her neighbours, she brought in the first crop of potatoes.

‘Mamó, are you alright?’
The old woman startled. Dragged from days past. It took her a few moments to recognise the voice.
Maeve coughed, ‘I’m fine. Quit your fussing.’
Brigid moved away from the open window, and perched on the edge of her grandmother’s bed.
Maeve reached for her granddaughter’s hand, ‘How are the apple trees?’
‘Father managed to get rid of those woolly aphids. He made up something smelly, to wash them away.’
‘That man was born with a green thumb. You mother did right finding him.’

The apple trees, and other fruit trees in the orchard that surrounded the cottage, were important to Maeve. They connected her to many people, and the home of her childhood. Maeve and her husband had brought cuttings of fruit trees from home, wrapped carefully in dampened moss and cloth. With careful coaxing, Maeve had got those trees to adapt to a new climate, and to bear fruit for generations of offspring.
In addition to creating this orchard, Maeve had made preserves, pies and other treats. She sold the excess to neighbours, and then later at the local market; where she had been selling potatoes and other vegetables for years. This had enabled her to live modestly, and to support a child.
Those earlier years were tough. At first she was lonely, far from family and widowed so young. Although devoted to her daughter, Maeve was never without affection of a different type. There would only ever be one true-love for her, but that did not stop her from taking a lover here and there. In her cottage on the outskirts of town, Maeve was able to be discreet.
As Margaret grew taller, it became apparent that she had not inherited her mother’s green-thumb. Instead she had her father’s wanderlust. She left home too soon, travelling north-west to follow a young man. A few years later she returned, causing quite a stir.  Having children out of wedlock was considered wicked, but not uncommon. Still, the colonialists could not fathom what Margaret had done. Maeve did not see things the same way as her neighbours. Instead, she was instantly besotted with her grand-daughter. She marvelled at her curly dark-brown hair, so like her own, and eyes of deepest brown. The first time someone had dared call her little Birdie a piccaninny, Maeve had flashed them such a look of contempt that no one ever said that word again. At least, not when Maeve was in ear-shot.
Not everyone had ostracised Margaret. It wasn’t long before she had fell in love again. And soon, perhaps too soon, she was expecting another child. This time as a married woman. Maeve accepted Frank into her home and family, even before she had discovered he was skilled in horticulture. Frank’s presence in the home also provided Brigid protection from the Protector.
With the cottage now overcrowded, Frank built his wife a house of her own just before their son was born. Three years later, Brigid had three blue-eyed brothers. Although it was a nice home, and her brothers were nice enough, Brigid spent most of her spare time at her grandmother’s cottage.
Maeve and Brigid shared many things. Like those soft curls of the deepest brown. And they both had wide-awake eyes, although Maeve’s were hazel and Brigid’s brown. They also shared a love of birds, believing that birds talked to them. Which is why Maeve called her granddaughter Birdie.

‘How peculiar,’ remarked Brigid.
‘What is it child?’
‘That bird that was singing just now has perched on the window sill.’
Maeve shifted in the bed, ‘What does it look like?’
‘Small. White on black.’
Nodding sagely, Maeve replied, ‘Ah. It’s already that time.’


Before the tale of the little white on black bird can be told, other birds must be heralded.  Three, to be precise. For a conspiracy of ravens was taking place just outside the small cottage at the bottom of the garden. The first one had settled in the tree out the front of the cottage. Then two. Maeve knew it was only time before the third would appear, but she was ready.

These large black birds did not frighten away the smaller bird. A willie wagtail goes where it will, does what it wants. And what it wanted was Brigid’s attention. It had first appeared at her bedroom window, on an unmemorable morning a few weeks past. It took a few days before Brigid noticed it; first by its cheeky song and later by its persistence. That bird sang at her window every morning, greeting her as she woke to a new day. The novelty soon wore off for Brigid. She’d open the window, to swoosh it away, but that cheeky bird just hopped around a bit, before recommencing its song.
Her brothers also tried to get it to go away, rushing at it with flailing arms, but still the bird sang. On the third morning of the third week, that willy wagtail was at the door, waiting for Brigid. When she walked to the washing line, it followed, chirping away. When she went to the shop, it hopped down the road in front of her. She couldn’t go anywhere without that bird.
In the fifth week, sick of its carrying on, Brigid’s stepfather chased it away with a shovel. Not with malice, just frustration. It made the family laugh to see a tall man yelling at a tiny bird. By the time Frank had shut the door, that bird was already out there again, singing even louder than before.
That bird was beginning to annoy the whole family, so it was time her grandmother told Maeve what that little bird was saying.

Maeve knew the secret language of birds. She had learnt it from her grandmother, who had learnt it from her grandmother. Surprisingly, these local birds weren’t that much different from those in her homeland. For example, Maeve knew that those ravens were waiting for the third to arrive. And once it had, it was time for her to leave. Although she’d miss her Birdie, Maeve knew that her granddaughter had a journey of her own to go on. Who would be leaving first was still undecided.
Maeve told her that small bird had a message for her. A message that needs to be heard in a faraway place. So that willy wagtail would not be going away anytime soon. Instead Brigid must follow it. Brigid had no plans on going anywhere, ever. She laughed at her grandmother, and laughed even harder when she was told about birds and destinies.
There are two types of birds: those that lead you to good fortune, and those that lead to trouble. And it’s often too hard to tell the two apart, until it’s too late. Maeve had a feeling that this bird was the type that would escort a young woman to find love, but she had no idea if that would end up as being fortunate or trouble.

The day the third Raven appeared Maeve didn’t need to be told. She had already felt its presence.
‘There’s now three of them,’ Brigid said, as she closed the door.
Placing a warm plate on the bedside table, Brigid removed the cloth that covered her grandmother’s dinner. A pungent but pleasant aroma hit Maeve.
‘Leave it,’ she said.
‘It will go cold, Mamó.’
Maeve shifted slightly, letting out a pale sigh. Brigid helped her to sit up, fluffed the pillow, before re-settling her grandmother. With sightless eyes, Maeve looked towards the window.
Brigid lifted the fork, ‘Have just a little. Its roast lamb, peas, and mashed potatoes with gravy. I made it for you. Please Mamó.’
‘Just the mash, then.’
Brigid carefully lifted the fork, and placed it on her grandmother’s tongue. Maeve thought of potatoes and ships. And a husband resting on an ocean floor. Suddenly, she longed for his embrace. The memory of his strong arms around her shoulders was still vivid as if it was only yesterday.
Yes, it was time.