Like everyone in Western Australia, I saw the news of riots in Kalgoorlie following the death of the young Aboriginal boy. Any loss of life is sad: both the act and the intended and unintended consequences for all families and friends involved. But today, also, I had several contacts regarding my 2013 novel, Hiding Place. Set in Alice Spring in the year 2017, the novel depicts a race riot in the town and the imposition of martial law, which has never happened in Federated Australia. Each of the contacts were interested in knowing what made me create the situation in Alice Springs: what insight made me predict the likelihood of conflict between races causing the imposition of martial law.
My answer to them was that it lay in work I’ve been doing for nearly three decades, and more so, in work I did from 2005 in the Northern Territory, in the Pilbara, the Western Australian Goldfields and the South-West of WA and in Queensland. In that work, I felt a growing undercurrent of frustration and anger between Aboriginal people, who felt a strong sense of dislocation, disadvantage, dependence, dysfunction and premature death, and non-Aboriginal people who feel a strong sense of being blamed for the past and being the victims of continual criminal acts such as breaking and entering and stealing property.
I’m not going into who is most at fault or why. I only know that unless things are dealt with in ways that do not involve violence and conflict, we WILL face the imposition of martial law. That’s why I’m troubled: because we need to find another way to resolve what’s happening.
And let me conclude with a quote from Margo St Quintin, who reviewed Hiding Place for an on-line organisation.
Compassion and clear insight, without sugar coating, is what makes this such a relevant story and a welcome change from the norm. Even as tensions build towards a violent climax, the book doesn’t offer any easy answers or convenient scapegoats: there are no ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’ here.