racism / racial tensions
the aboriginal community - struggles
attitudes - of adults, of children, adults influencing children
actions and reactions
identity - accepting and understanding who you are
the impact of natural disasters
life changes / growing up / taking responsibility
Dougy tells the story of an aboriginal boy and his family. It tells us of the aboriginal population in a QLD country town and the prejudiced attitudes of the white community there. There are deep racial tensions between the two sides and they are fuelled when Dougy's sister, Gracey, earns a scholarship to a 'white' boarding college in Brisbane because of her sporting abilities (she is a state running champion). The whites in the town feel the blacks are given everything by the government while they have to struggle on their own. They are resentful towards the blacks in town and during the narrative a 'war' breaks out when they blame an aboriginal man for a crime he did not commit. The white community uses this as an excuse to act on the hatred they feel towards the black community and violence results. Dougy is a spectator and a participant in the events of the novel and through him we see how the aboriginal community is treated by the white sector of society, how the aboriginal people perceive themselves and how racial tensions, when allowed to go unchecked, can have devastating consequences.
Pre-Reading Notes about Aboriginies and White Australia
Pre 1788 when whites arrived – 500 nations of Aboriginal (kooris) people inhabited Australia
By the 1850s – many were on the point of extinction, some were extinct, many tribal groups were totally destroyed (e.g. Port Phillip – 10,000 were reduced to 2000 in 18 years)
Aboriginies lived in tribes
- own culture, religion, cultural practices, beliefs, tribal law, authority
- when whites appeared the hunter-gatherer economy and close connection with the land were undermined by white contact and destruction
- they lost their land to the powerful whites
- they tried to cling onto their own traditions and practices
Second half of the 19th Century
- The remaining aboriginies in Eastern colonies were rounded up and kept on reserves. Christian missionaries helped them there.
- Whites wanted to ‘Europeanise’ the aboriginies – make them accept their culture and way of life
- The reserves enabled them to enforce the policy of assimilation onto the aboriginies
- Aboriginies needed permits to move around
- Children became wards of the state and some were taken away from their families
- Aboriginies could not: vote, control their financial affairs
- Reserves still existed until the late 1980s in some states, most notably Queensland
- individual states controlled them
- different systems in each state
- Under the acts which existed aboriginies were regarded as outcasts and inferior beings who needed to be supervised in their private lives by government officials.
- few traditional aboriginal cultures, social practices and languages remain
- due to being raised in a ‘European’ world, most aboriginal children have little knowledge of their heritage and traditional culture but there have been efforts made by Aboriginal welfare groups to educate children of their culture
Lies and Truth
- Many whites created lies about the aboriginies because they didn’t understand and were afraid of what they didn’t know. Lies gave the whites total control over Aboriginal land. Whites assumed that the Aboriginies gave up their land and had no rights to it because they allegedly didn’t fight for it. They saw them as ‘savages’, even though it was the white population that first showed aggression.
- Many whites adopted views such as: aboriginals must be assimilated, they have no rights, they must ‘think white, look white and act white’
Statistics – in comparison to the white population of Australia
- Education – very few aboriginal people ever attend and complete school (although the number has risen in some states in the last decade)
- Health – more inclined to be ill due to living conditions
- Unemployment – very high in comparison
- Imprisonment – many jailed, both male and female
Reaction to one another
- As white domination occurred, aboriginals came to hate the whites – driven off land, lack of food, introduction of disease, ruined the land, run off sacred sites and gathering sites, violence
1. ‘she don’t usually laugh when Dad is drinking’ – Why not?
2. How many people are there in Dougy’s family? Describe each one in a sentence.
3. After reading the first paragraph, how do we know the family is aboriginal?
4. What is Dougy’s opinion of his sister?
5. Why would Raymond ‘steal a swig out of Johnny Warren’s beer’?
6. Why would Mum want Raymond to stay away from Johnny?
7. What is the Moodagudda?
8. Why do you think Mum does not believe the story of the Moodagudda?
9. How do we know Cooper is a violent person?
10. Why do you think the children did not know any other aboriginal stories to tell Mr Brookes?
11. How does Dougy know the Moodagudda is real?
Think of a story you can remember your parents or grandparents telling you when you were a child. Write what the story was about. (it could be a fairy tale, a myth, a legend, a story about them coming to Australia)
1. What evidence is there in the first paragraph to indicate that Dougy has a low self esteem?
2. How did ‘Sesame Street’ get its name?
3. What does the reader notice about Dougy’s town when reading this chapter?
4. What is Gracey good at?
5. What does Mr Jenkins want Gracey to do (9)? Who did Mr Jenkins say would be able to assist her with the costs?
6. How did the school students on the bus react when they learned Gracey would be competing in the championships?
7. ‘the next morning all the fun was washed out of the white kids’ – Why had their attitudes changed?
8. Why do you think Brett acted differently?
9. Who wrote a letter to the P and C? What did the letter say?
10. In what way does Mr Jenkins think the white adults behave like children?
11. ‘you’ve got to BE hard as well’ – What does this mean?
12. In what ways is Mr Jenkins a good coach?
Imagine you are Craig’s father. Write the letter that you sent to the P and C regarding why the funding should not be given to Gracey. (minimum ¾ page)
Chapter 1 and 2 – True or False
State whether the following statements about chapter 1 and 2 of the novel are true or false
1. Dougy is older than Gracey
2. Johnny Warren is a bad influence on Raymond
3. Dougy’s father is a dentist
4. Dougy has a low self esteem
5. Mr Cunningham is Gracey’s running coach
6. Gracey and Dougy go to different schools
7. The Moodagudda is a spirit that lives in the sky
8. Mr Brookes asked Dougy to tell him aboriginal stories
9. Melissa Brodie goes to school in Cunningham
10. Dougy never watched Gracey train
11. Paddy O’Shea thought it was a bad idea for Gracey to go to Brisbane
12. The white kids on the bus were not happy for Gracey when they first heard the news about her going to Brisbane
13. Cooper wrote a letter to the P and C asking them not to give Gracey money
14. Brett’s father is the town police officer
15. The previous police officers in the town had been pleasant to the aboriginals
1. What was the ‘amazing thing’ Dougy saw when he woke up? Why was it amazing?
2. ‘hundreds of fantastic things in the world that I’ll never know about’ – Why does Dougy think he will never know about them?
3. In what ways was Steve ‘a good bloke’?
4. Why did Dougy feel like he ‘stood out’?
5. Why does the taxi driver ask to see Mum’s money before driving them anywhere?
6. How do we know Raymond enjoyed being on Lang Park?
7. How do we know that Merv is racist?
8. Why do you think Dougy doesn’t have a plan for his life?
9. Fill in the blanks
State, trial, Brisbane, aboriginal, scared, Bandaroo, family, Gracey, their, football, Sydney, thought, Lang, Ron
The ________ took a train to _________ so __________ could compete in the ________ Championships. They stayed at the _________ Hostel and another _________ person named Steve took them to ______ rooms. Raymond was a ___________ fan and enjoyed going to ______ Park. ______ Kendall was going to get him a ________ with a club in _________. At the end of this chapter Dougy confessed that the ________ of leaving his small town __________ him.
What is one place or landmark that you would like to visit? Write about that place and why it would be special to visit there.
James Moloney - Author Bio
The Author's Webpage (built and run by him)
Google search results for James Moloney
Aboriginal Studies - relevant texts
Links to sites on Aboriginal History and Culture (including the Dreamtime)
Australian Aboriginal People Biography (many useful links here)
Historical Overview of Aboriginal Child Removal
Stolen Generations (contains links to other relevant sites)
Aboriginal Studies WWW Virtual Library
Indigenous Peoples of Australia
Links to Aboriginal Web Pages - For researching assignments and oral presentations
Email: Bernadette Sheedy
© 2004 Bernadette Sheedy