Life was tough and poor as an Aboriginal kid in No Go, in remote Queensland.
Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng navigates the treacherous waters of her childhood, immersed in the legacy of 200 years of brutal treatment of her mother’s people that has left its suppurating scars deep in their psyche. Tjanara’s parents believed that education was the only way to break through systemic poverty, and found ways to send all seven children to school that were at once desperate and fraught. A disempowered people are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse – in her case, by the Catholic clergy.
A strong-willed, successful student and athlete, after graduating from university, the times were ripe. She found her place in the new era of federal policymaking: land rights and self-determination, initiatives on health, education, and social justice that were spearheaded by Charlie Perkins and his bright young people. Tjanara was at the nerve centre of Australia’s political life, shaping policy during the most exciting and innovative period in Australian politics.
But she struggles to escape the dark side that leads straight back to her heritage – her experiences as an Indigenous Australian: the abuse, the daily acts of cruel racism, the despairing plight of her people, the addictions to numb the pain. Rising to a management position in Social Policy within the Prime Minister’s Department, the ideological landscape has taken a tectonic turn under the Howard government. When fraudulent claims are cooked up to give the government an excuse to send the military into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, she courageously blows the whistle, and is sacked, charged and convicted for breaches of the Crimes Act relating to disclosure of confidential information; and is bankrupted for her actions.
Always the professional, engaged in numerous ways to help her people, her own damage leads her on a search for healing: from psychotherapy to Aboriginal knowledge to Indian meditation and spirituality.
Szego is captivated and captivates us with this extraordinary Australian whose irrepressible, playful wicked humour leaps off the pages, even as we glimpse the personal and communal pain and despair at times in a life that sweeps across the breadth of the land and its history.
About The Author
Tjanara is a Wakka Wakka Wulli Wulli Traditional Owner from Central Queensland who was born in the outback at Longreach in central western Queensland. Tjanara is an academic teacher and researcher who is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Indigenous Studies at the University of Canberra whilst completing her PhD at ANU full time. Tjanara taught and researched at UC prior to coming to ANU as a full time scholar. As an Adjunct, Tjanara is involved in the UC CIRI (Collaborative Indigenous Research Initiative) as an Executive Committee Member and Researcher. Tjanara is also an Associate Member of the National Indigenous Research Knowledge's Network based at QUT.
Tjanara has taught at Southern Cross University, University of Queensland, Charles Sturt University, the Australian College of Applied Psychology, University of Sydney, the University of Tasmania as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer. Tjanara has also been the Director of Aboriginal Education Units at Charles Sturt University 1990-1994 and the University of Melbourne 2005-2006 and was a member of the NSW National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander State Education Policy Committee under the Keating Government (NATSIEP). Tjanara has been a Ministerial Appointee to the SAAP (Supported Accommodation) and HAAC (Home and Community Care) National Programs Ministerial Committees in the 1980's and sat on the Queensland Disability Council Board and the NSW Housing Appeals Tribunal during the 1990's.
Tjanara has had a diverse career as both and academic researcher, community development worker and senior policy Director in the Australian Public Service in particular at the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet and in the Australian Foreign Service. She worked for many years in the Australian Public Service in a range of mainstream departments and rose to a Director in the Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination prior to leaving the government for full time academic work in the mid 2000's.
Tjanara has also worked in corporate Australia as a transformational leadership senior consultation at Zaffyre International working with overseas and national Australian companies in the energy, insurance, finance and mining sectors. Tjanara has been a psychotherapist in private practice, has trained other therapists in Non Shaming Therapy and worked at the Los Angles Rosemead Hospital's John Bradshaw Centre for Addiction and Abuse Recovery in the mid 1990's.