Sally Dudley’s book Prisoner in Paradise reveals the effects of government decisions that controlled every aspect of Aboriginal people’s lives and the trauma it caused, but it is also a story of great faith in God, as Sally tells Warcry.
Many years ago, I was startled by a poster, which said “White Australia has a black history”.
That poster jolted me out of my comfortable white view of the world, as I’d never been taught to think that way growing up in a sheltered white suburbia.
When my husband Cedric was in his fifties, he still didn’t know who he really was, why he was born on Palm Island in Queensland or why he was taken from his mother as a toddler. He is one of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people born into what we now call the Stolen Generation.
Prisoner in Paradise is the story of five generations of an Aboriginal family as they have unwittingly and also knowingly struggled against annihilation. Australia has recently been facing an awakening of race relations in respect to Aboriginal people and, despite calls for a referendum to recognise Aboriginal people in the Constitution, many people remain blissfully ignorant of the facts.
When we moved from South Australia to Queensland in 2003, we began the search to reveal Cedric’s identity and his sense of belonging. We sent away for his family history file in Brisbane, which took some time to be released, because there were so many others waiting for files, hidden away and kept secret in government departments for decades.
Cedric refutes the current false world view that the Christian church is to blame for every bad thing that has happened to Aboriginal people since the colonisation of Australia.
We live in a sinful and rebellious world, in which bad things happen every day. Cedric has walked through the valley of racial vilification since his childhood and has struggled to emerge from its evil strongholds. However, he knew that God’s hand was upon him, guiding him through the perilous and troubled times of his life.
Cedric’s story reveals the omnipotent and omnipresent God, who is with us in the midst of bad situations no matter what our circumstances, obstacles or family story.