Richard Flanagan, ‘The Guardian’ 5th August 2018
When my father died at the age of 98 he had largely divested himself of possessions. Among what little remained was an old desk in which he had collected various writings precious to him over the years: poems, sayings, quotes, a few pieces he had written, some correspondence. Among them my elder sister found a letter written by one of my father’s cousins many years before. In it she told my father that his mother, my grandmother, was of Aboriginal descent, and that in her family she had been brought up to never mention this fact outside of the home.
My father loved discussing interesting letters with his family. He never discussed this letter. Yet he kept it. The story of covering up Indigenous pasts was a common one in Tasmania, where such behaviour was for some a form of survival. There is no documentation to prove my father’s cousin’s story is true, but that doesn’t make it untrue. It leaves the story as an unanswerable question mark over my family.
The theme of this year’s Garma festival is truth telling. My father’s story is about the questions truth raises, and where the truth takes us. I don’t tell this story to claim I am an Indigenous. I have too much respect for Indigenous people to make such a claim.
More from Richard Flanagan at The Guardian