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Guugu Yimidhirr Traditional Owner and Red Earth

partner publishes new book On a Barbarous Coast




Harold Ludwick, one of Red Earth’s partner Traditional Owners has recently released a book, On a Barbarous Coast, along with Craig Cormick, which tells a fictionalised story of Captain Cook’s interactions with the Guugu Yimidhirr people of Cape York. Based on the historical record of Cook’s shipwreck and experiences on Yimidhirr Country and the oral histories passed down through generations of Yimidhirr people, the novel is a story of a past and future that could have been. 

Rocky Bath, Red Earth’s Cape York Operations Manager recently spoke with Harold and his mother Irene about the release of the book and the impact stories like it can have on the popular narrative of the arrival of Europeans on the Australian continent. 

Rocky: So what made you want to write a book? 

Harold: I have always thought of writing a book from the age of sixteen but was always daunted and talked myself out of starting because I believed I lacked the capability with my level of schooling. So when Craig Cormick arrived in Cooktown he visited Hopevale and soon realised the Indigenous narrative is not only complex but needs to come from an Indigenous person, and after digging around for a person to Co-Author the book he stumbled across me. Fortunately I had already started digging into the Indigenous narrative in response to Cook’s arrival and his journals as well journals from the crew such as Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson.

Rocky: Do you think your book will have a positive impact on the current education system?

Harold: It’s a very small step, but I hope people in the wider community realise that Australia’s historical stories need Indigenous perspectives or it just becomes a story from the view of the author, and in most cases their explanations are assumptions from a vivid imagination of what they perceive of First Peoples. Quite often in Australia great emphasis is placed on journals and diaries of early explorers, but to really embrace the whole story in its entirety, the Indigenous narratives have to be included which can better explain what is written about them.

Traditional histories delineate the imbalance of historical narratives of this great country, and the need to be inclusive is great.

RockyIt seems language, learning and storytelling is a big part of your culture.Who do you have to thank for those skills?

Harold: Yes! These are very important to us as Indigenous groups in Australia. My mother says it’s a ‘Keycard’ to our identity as the oldest continuous culture in the world. Our language in the Guugu Yimidhirr Nation is an identity to where we’re geographically from in some 1.5 mill hectares which encompasses our Language Nation.

I give credit to my Mother and Grandfather for instilling in me the importance of literacy and numeracy, and to never forget my cultural obligations to carry it forward and teach our future generations which I have through traditional dance and stage plays of our Dreamtime Stories. 

Rocky: How are you keeping the Guugu Yimidhirr language strong within your community?

Irene: I’ve been writing children’s stories for the local schools for a while now. They have recently asked me to translate their school songs and lessons from English to Guugu Yimidhirr. Sometimes it’s hard to do because everything is on the computer these days, but I do find it very enjoyable and rewarding.

My daughter, Tracey, comes out to the schools with me and we run language workshops together for the little ones. It’s fun! Every now and then we also run a lesson at the Indigenous Knowledge Centre in town. Harold’s gone on to do amazing things – working with the state library
and assisting various organisations to keep language strong. I am very proud of him!


October 12 2020  |  Posted by Rochelle Bath

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