The powerful story of Yvonne Edwards, artist and community leader, who lived on or near the Maralinga lands, and the cost of the fall-out for herself and her family from the nuclear tests in the 1950s.
Christobel Mattingley has been writing since she was eight and her first pieces were published in the children's pages of magazines and newspapers. Her first book, The Picnic Dog, was published in 1970, when she had three young children. While they were growing up she worked as a librarian in schools and a college of advanced education. Self-employed as a writer since 1974, she has travelled widely in Australia and overseas, speaking in schools and libraries. Christobel has published 46 books for children. Some have been translated, into 13 languages altogether, some have won awards in Australia and USA, several were filmed for ABC TV. Working with Aboriginal people for decades, Christobel wrote the landmark history Survival in Our Own Land, and Maralinga: the Anangu Story. She has received many awards for service to literature and commitment to social justice and cultural issues, including the Advance Australia Award (1990), the Ekidnas Lifetime Recognition Award (2004), UNESCO (Adelaide Chapter) Award (2009), Alice Award (2010). She was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of South Australia (1995), a Member of the Order of Australia (1996), and an Honorary Doctor of Letters of the University of Tasmania (2015).
Yvonne Edward's story is simply and eloquently told by Christobel Mattingley and is illustrated by Yvonne's own artwork and photographs of people and places that were special in her life. Mattingley captures and describes the Anangu people's special connection with the land and contrasts this with the greed of the whitefellas (walypala). She effectively describes the displacement the Anangu experienced when they were forcibly resettled in the country of another Aboriginal people and their distress at having their traditional land declared a Prohibited Zone.
The impact of the series of atomic bomb tests on Anangu lands is reflected in the title of this book. The tests have an immediate effect on the old and frail in the indigenous community and later cast a “long shadow” over the Anangu people – with repercussions for current and future generations. These tests have a tragic effect on Yvonne Edward’s family; her husband and children. Yvonne Edward’s art is a way she expressed her connection with the land, her people and the tragedy that was Maralinga. Mattingley’s book is more than a biography, it is a unique perspective of a series of historical events and their significance for the land, people and Australia as a nation.
Maralinga’s Long Shadow has many applications in the classroom. It forms excellent support material for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture cross-curriculum priorities in the Science (Environment), Humanities and Social Sciences, Health and the Arts areas of the Australian Curriculum. It is immediately accessibly in the style of writing and excerpts of this book could be used with primary as well as high school classes. Maralinga’s Long Shadow Yvonne’s Story is highly recommended as an addition to any school and public library collection.
Lyn Pritchard, Teacher Librarian, Hunter Valley Grammar School, NSW