Reviewed by Ian Lipke
A reviewer’s task is to ascertain the author’s purpose in writing a book and to make an informed decision about the extent to which the writer has been successful. This is particularly important in the case of Tjanera Goreng Goreng’s memoir A Long Way from Go Go. The author holds a high profile in many areas of Australia and is known to a large number of people at the local, national and international levels. She is highly articulate, feels strongly about various issues, and creates decided Positive-Negative responses to her points of view. There are no half-measures to Tjanera Goreng Goreng.
Tjanera alludes to the difficulties she has experienced in various institutions and has acknowledged both support and difficulties she has had in writing this book. She acknowledges one group in this way:
I want to thank all those people in my life who gave me reasons to face adversity, who bullied me and made it hard to live – you in fact gave me the greatest gift: the desire to overcome your judgment, your cruelty, and your misguided sense of who I was. I’m glad I didn’t listen to you and instead chose to rise above it all; thank you for the adversity, it made me stronger. To the members of my family who never cared, I hope you read this and feel ashamed (Acknowledgments Page).
A careful craftsman or woman has constructed this book. Whether this was the work of Tjanera Goreng Goreng or her ghost writer Julie Szego, or the publisher Wild Dingo Press, is immaterial. The final product is a very impressive piece of work and would occupy a place on my book-shelves with honour. The book cover design is an indigenous art piece adapted from an original design by the author. The credits for both the book and the cover come from representatives of both the white and indigenous communities.
A memoir will tell at least some of the life experiences of the subject. These are essential to this particular publication and are clearly articulated with no embarrassment or shame. We learn many things about Tjanera Goreng Goreng.
Life for Tjanera began on a station called Go Go in a remote part of Queensland. She is an aborigine who, like her race, has been called offensive names and subjected to all forms of harassment. The indigenous people have had many reasons to regret the coming of white settlers. It is therefore heartening to see that, despite desperate impoverishment, Tjanera’s mother managed to have all seven of her children educated. Tjanera tells her readers that her education was achieved in the midst of child abuse of the worst kind. Supplied by her father as material for paedophile priests, she found her path forward a very rocky road. Primary and secondary schools successfully negotiated she took a degree at university and found a satisfying career in policy-making at the highest level.
But when actions were taken by the Federal Government that appeared fraudulent and when the Australian public was told lies in order to prop up an ailing Government approaching an election, she became a whistle-blower. Vilified by Government members she was sacked and charged with various criminal offences that left her bankrupt. These actions were devastating to her health and she came to rely on unconventional healing practices to keep her problems under control.
Her story is a sad one, but in some respects it is a living record of what can be achieved, and the dignity that can be maintained, in the face of malign stupidity. Central to her memoir is the voice of the author. The impression she projects through her writing is that of a mature woman who does not seek to persuade but merely to inform. There is no grovelling servitude just as there is no arch superiority. There are occasions when someone tries to treat her as unworthy, whereupon she stands up for herself. She is courageous, a rational thinker, a lover of music, justice and her family. She is particularly impressive in taking paedophile priests to justice and is as appalled as anyone when the condemned men are treated lightly by the Courts.
Reading between the lines reviewers can usually identify people who are non-genuine. This particular memoir never once strays into dishonesty. In fact, epithets to describe this memoir and, in so doing the character of Tjanera Goreng Goreng and Julie Szego, are honest, reliable, balanced and genuine. The book is a fascinating read. It comes highly recommended, with the wish that all Australians would read it, and so learn an alternative view to that foisted on the public by wealthy political parties every four years.
By Tjanera Goreng Goreng (with Julie Szego)
Wild Dingo Press