Powerful and provocative, this is a beautifully written and very personal search to understand the men who were the protectors of Aboriginal people in Australia's north - their moral ambiguities, their good intentions and the devastating consequences of their decisions.
On 13 February 2008 Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson gave two very different apology speeches to the Stolen Generations. Rudd alluded to racism, eugenics and the immorality of past policies. Nelson spoke of benign intentions, goodness and the hurt felt by those accused of wrongdoings. Both cannot be true - or could they?
Powerful and provocative, this is a beautifully written and very personal exploration of a little acknowledged part of Australian history - the role and motivations of the administrators and patrol officers who carried out these 'protection' policies. The questions Stephen Gray raises about guilt, judgement and good intentions apply as readily to the complexities of black/white relations today as they did one hundred years ago.
This is an intelligent book that challenges how we judge the past and asks what exactly it was that the Australian nation said sorry for. It is a fresh contribution to white Australia's perennial search for national identity - an identity we need to now assert against the darker facts of our history on the continent.
Stephen Gray is a lawyer and winner of the 2001 Vogel Award for his novel, The Artist is a Thief. He currently teaches criminal law and Indigenous legal issues at Monash University and has written extensively on Aboriginal issues.