26 September 2023

Daughter of the River Country

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Dianne O’Brien with Sue Williams, Echo Publishing, $32.99.

Daughter of the River Country, Aunty Di O’Brien, tells of a stolen childhood and noteworthy accomplishment. It’s an extraordinary memoir of endurance and victory.

From a victim of the ‘stolen generations’ comes a remarkable biography of abuse, survival – and ultimately hope.

When your world crumbles around you after discovering that nearly everything about your family life had been a lie, including your name, feeling devastated is putting it mildly.

“I was actually Aboriginal and part of the Stolen Generation. I was a daughter of the river country and, as everyone who knows just a small part of my story says, it’s a miracle I’m still alive today.”

It took Dianne a long time to write this book. It felt quite “traumatic reliving many of the events of my life and doing all the heart-searching necessary to share my story with others.”

Since she spent nearly half her life completely unaware that she was a member of the First Nations people, “it felt right to me that I choose a writer equally at home in both non-Indigenous and Indigenous cultures.” It was Sue Williams – who helped shape her story – and Dianne was “thrilled” with how the book came to life.

Born in country NSW in the 1940s, baby Dianne is immediately taken from her Aboriginal mother. Raised in the era of the White Australia policy, Dianne grows up believing her adoptive Irish mother, Val, is her birth mother. Val promises Dianne that one day they will take a trip and she will ‘tell her a secret’. However, Val tragically dies before they have a chance to get away.

While raising six children on her own, Dianne, aged 36, learns she is Aboriginal and that her great-grandfather was William Cooper, a famous Aboriginal activist. Miraculously she finds a way to forgive her traumatic past and becomes an exceptional leader in her own right, vowing to help other stolen people just like her.

How many children did Dianne raise on her own? If the answer is correct, you could be one of two winners to get a copy of the book. Entries should be sent to [email protected] by Monday, 21 March 2022. Names of the winners will be announced in Frank Cassidy’s PS-sssst…! column on 22 March 2022.

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