Book Review: The White Girl by Tony Birch
It is post-Second World War in a rural, isolated community in Australia where the white folk live in town while the Aborigines live in the shanty-towns outside town. Australia is operating under Assimilation policy and the Board for the Protection of Aborigines is enforcing the 1909 Act and its 1915 Amendment which allows the
forcible removal of Aboriginal children, especially those of mixed skin colour, from their parents to be institutionalised or adopted into white families.
Odette is a proud Aboriginal woman, who has lived in Country, survived life on a Mission, worked for white folk and is now trying to live a quiet life, avoiding attention from the town authorities. She is also the sole carer for her young granddaughter Sissi who was abandoned by Odette’s daughter and from whom she has had no news for many years. Sissi is blissfully happy in the loving care of her grandmother and oblivious to the grave danger she is in – Sissi has fair skin.
When a new policeman arrives in town and is seen parked outside Odette’s house watching Sissi, Odette knows that she needs to do something fast but what can she do? She can’t leave town without permission from the police, she has no family anywhere else, she doesn’t know where would be safe to go or even how to get there,
she is sick and weak herself. All she knows is that she must protect Sissi and she will do whatever it takes to prevent her beloved granddaughter from being taken away, even risk her life. This is a story of the oppression of Aboriginal people, compounded by the vulnerability of women in rural communities, menaced by authorities under the guise of protection. It is a story of the immense courage of women to be independent, support their people with