We Come with This Place is a remarkable book - as rich, varied and surprising as the vast landscape in which it is set. Debra Dank has created an extraordinary mosaic of vivid episodes that move about in time and place to tell an unforgettable story of country and people.
There is great pain in these pages, and anger at injustice, but also great love - in marriage and in family, and for the land. Dank faces head-on the ingrained racism, born of brutal practice and harsh legislation, that lies always under the skin of Australia, the racism that calls a little Aboriginal girl names, and beats and rapes and disenfranchises the generations before hers. She describes sudden terrible violence, between races and sometimes at home. But overwhelmingly this is a book about strong, beloved parents and grandparents, guiding and teaching their children and grandchildren about what country means, about joyful gatherings and the pleasures of eating food provided by the place that nourishes them, both spiritually and physically.
Dank calibrates human emotions with honesty and insight, and there is plenty of dry, down-to-earth humour. You can feel and smell and see the puffs of dust under moving feet, the ever-present burning heat, the bright exuberance of a night-time campfires, the emerald flash of a flock of budgerigars, the journeying wind, the harshness of a station shanty, the welcome scent of fresh water.
We Come with This Place is deeply personal, a profound tribute to family and the Gudanji Country to which Debra Dank belongs, but it is much more than that. Here is Australia as it has been for countless generations, land and people in effortless balance, and Australia as it became, but also Australia as it could and should be.