Top positive review
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The longest walk
on 22 March 2004
It's an insult to Doris Pilkington and to the children's endeavour alike to race through this book. Still, circumstances dictated [the film was waiting] and the deed was done. Which merely led to a re-read. This real-life story of three young girls escaping from the looming slavery of a Christian mission to return home is another entry on the balance sheet of imperialism. With immense forces arrayed against them, the three evaded all pursuit, even expert Aborigine trackers, to cross half a continent to rejoin their families. The distance covered was likely the longest walk in Australian history.
The roots of this story lie in the opening chapters which recount the actions of European visitors and settlers against the indigenous Australian population. Women were raped, murdered or abandoned. Men were killed, imprisoned, led into slavery as they watched their traditional lands overrun by cattle, sheep or grain. The ease with which firearms overcame spears added to the European's attitude of "superiority". By the time of Molly Craig's capture, killing had been mostly abandoned in favour of "assimilation" - a mild word for indentured servitude. Molly, recognised the fallacy of being forced into an unwanted life. She took steps to avoid this fate - many steps, as it turned out. Enough to hide from pursuers, do some elusive backtracking and arrive at home. At least 1800 km of mostly barefoot walking.
There were adventures enough along the way, and some ironies. Although alerted to their escape, the wives of white selectors fed, clothed and sheltered them briefly. Then dobbed them in to the police after the trio had again gone bush. The girls lived on donated food, captured rabbits, birds' eggs or whatever else the bush provided. Each contributed as best they could. It was enough. Seven weeks after their escape, two of the three were reunited with family. Yet, nine years later, Molly Craig, this time carrying her infant daughter, had to repeat her incredible performance.
This is an Aborigine tale told in an Aborigine manner. It doesn't examine the lives and motivations of such people as A. O. Neville or Const. Rigg. It doesn't delve into the psychological foundations of Molly or Gracie or even Mrs Flanagan. The book presents the tale as it occurred without ostentation or enhancement. There are numerous works on the conquest of Australia and its "White Only" policy and its implications. This story, stark and simple, stands on its own merits. Don't read it too quickly. There is too much to learn. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]