Mothering, Resistance and Survival in Kathleen Mary Fallon’s Paydirt and Melissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby

Victoria Brookman


The systematic removal of Indigenous Australian children was officially exposed over two decades ago, and the Australian Federal Government made an official apology for the practice in 2008, yet the removal rate of Indigenous Australian children by authorities remains disproportionately high. Child removal, inequalities in health, educational, and financial outcomes, and the pervasive ongoing cultural and systematic hostility against First Nations Australians, combine to create a hostile external culture for Indigenous children to grow up in. This article examines how the struggle to raise Indigenous Australian children within this hostile external context manifests in contemporary Australian literature, with respect to two texts: Paydirt (2007) by Kathleen Mary Fallon and Mullumbimby (2013) by Melissa Lucashenko. Both novels have partially autobiographical elements and feature women mothering teenage Indigenous Australian children. In each novel, the threat of child removal is used as a framing device, and reconnection to traditional Indigenous Australian culture forms both a remedy and an essential component of the survival of the children concerned. This article provides a close reading of the themes and narratives of these novels in relation to the Australian political and cultural context in order to examine how it is that the texts’ authors integrate their characters’ maternal practice with their essential resistance to hostile external forces and cultures.

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We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for its ongoing support of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.