25 September 2023

Tracker: Stories of Tracker Tilmouth

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Alexis Wright, Giramondo Publishing, $39.95.

Winner of the Stella Prize for 2018, Wright returns to non-fiction in this book, which is a worthy legacy of an extraordinary man.

It’s a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth. He died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

It is also a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them.

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Having known him for many years, Alexis interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together.

This Miles Franklin Award-winning author’s tribute to the visionary Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth is considerable.

“ It takes the voices of many to tell the stories of country, the story lines … This because stories are powerful and must be handled carefully, as when they are sung by many men and women from their parts of the long song travelling over country.”

How do you do justice and tell an impossible story. “Tracker the phenomenal life force with great intelligence, quick recall, plenty of vision operating on multiple fronts, had a precise insight into whatever political or commercial states of play were happening in the Aboriginal world across Australia. He had it all in his mind, and being anywhere near Tracker in action was like James Joyce once saying, of Finnegans Wake, this was “going to take them a hundred years to figure out”.

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