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Book Review: All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga

Book Review: All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga

Book Review: All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga

7 November 2020

Writer and researcher Tanya Talaga travelled around the globe to complete her research, speaking to people in Canada, Australia, Brazil, North America and Norway.

Reviewed by Rachel Morris

All Our Relations: Indigenous trauma in the shadow of colonialism, is a confronting yet essential read about how colonialism continues to affect suicide rates of First Nations peoples across the globe.

Written and researched by Tanya Talaga, of Obijwe and Canadian-Polish descent, it is easy to understand why Talaga is a well-respected lecturer, journalist and award winner in her own right.

Talaga is able to captivate the reader by inviting them into the story she and every First Nations person lives and breathes – a story of incredible pain, trauma and disparity, but likewise full of culture, beauty and incredible resilience.

This book is to be read as a wake-up call. Talaga has journeyed throughout the world, living and interviewing countless First Nations people to research the ongoing effect of colonisation across the world.

From the lands we now know as Canada, to North America, Brazil, Norway and Australia, the similarities of pain and trauma faced by indigenous peoples is startling – incredibly high suicide rates among young people; poverty; inequality; lack of access to basic needs; experiences of trauma and abuse at the hands of colonisers (many parading as religious leaders); lack of recognition of human rights; racist policies; removals of children; excessive incarceration rates; and torture and deaths in custody.

As a white Australian, I use this book to reflect on my own biases and beliefs, learning that I have been taught a whitewashed history of this country that minimises the experience of our Indigenous people, and aims to silence their voices even now.

Likewise, I am driven to action by the accounts given of the brutality Aboriginal people experience on a daily basis. I learned about David Dunghay Jr, a Dunghutti man training to be a pastor, who was imprisoned in 2015. A diabetic, he was found eating biscuits in his cell. Prison guards rushed at him and dragged him to another cell, where they held him face down for an extended amount of time and put a sedative in him. Twelve times David pleaded, “I can’t breath” before he died.

That phrase may sound familiar to you because they are the exact words George Floyd, a Black American man who for a time worked with The Salvation Army in the USA, cried out as he died in a similar way earlier this year.

After reading this, I am moved to prioritise First Nations people’s voices in my own life and in my community, petitioning those in power to change policies so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are finally given recognition and Treaty.

Read this book with an open mind, hands to work, and a heart willing to be moved. We, as privileged people, must act by listening to our First Nations brothers and sisters, to speak of their communities needs, and tell us what must change for generational trauma and current abuse to be identified, and then healed.

All Our Relations is available at major bookstores.

RACHEL MORRIS IS A SOCIAL WORKER BASED IN GEELONG SPECIALISING IN CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. SHE HAS A MASTERS IN INTERNATIONAL AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.

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