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Claire G Coleman
Barbara Nicholson
Senior Wadi Wadi woman, poet, activist and published author

While not novel, the use of science fiction as the lens through which to observe, describe, empathize, and identify with the lived experiences of a contemporary community – in other words, of science fiction as a fantastic lens through which a political commentary can be meaningfully conveyed – is relatively new in the world of contemporary Australian Aboriginal literature. Claire Coleman masterfully uses this lens to a great effect. Her debut novel, Terra Nullius, takes the reader on an unexpected journey of identification with the pleas and sufferings of dispossessed Aboriginal peoples, prisoners in their own ancestral Country. Claire’s second novel, The Old Lie, operates on a more epic scale, casting apparently disparate vignettes against the backdrop of a galactic conflict into which human forces have been unwittingly drawn. The novel engages with a wide range of issues, from the Marilinga nuclear tests of the 1950s to the WWII Aboriginal returned servicemen who were denied re-entry to Australia because they were not considered Australian citizens; from the yearning for Country profoundly felt by the descendants of those who were forcibly removed from either their ancestral lands or their families (and often from both), to the current state of emergency and the suspension of civil liberties as a result of purported terrorist threats, to the mistreatment of refugees incarcerated in the many offshore detention camps. Once again, the end of the novel masterfully weaves the different threads together, rewarding the reader with a comprehensive depiction of Aboriginal lived experiences. In this talk, Claire Coleman, in conversation with Wadi Wadi author Dr Barbara Nicholson, embarks on a reflection on science fiction as a powerful viewpoint to describe contemporary dispossession and displacement.

Claire G. Coleman is a writer from Western Australia. She identifies with the South Coast Noongar people. Her family are associated with the area around Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun. Claire grew up in a Forestry settlement in the middle of a tree plantation, where her dad worked, not far out of Perth.

She wrote her black&write! fellowship-winning book Terra Nullius while travelling around Australia in a caravan. The Old Lie is her second novel.

Dr Nicholson has held executive positions on the Human Research Ethics Committee at University of Wollongong, the Ethics Committee for the Australian Institute Of Criminology, and the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee.

Dr Nicholson graduated from the University of Newcastle with a triple major in English Literature. She went on to teach Aboriginal Studies at the University of New South Wales and University of Wollongong. She is the project leader of “Dreaming Inside”, a creative writing program at Junee Correctional Centre that comprises a series of workshops with Aboriginal inmates. The project has resulted in the publication of six volumes, of which Dr Nicholson is the Chief Editor.

Dr Nicholson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wollongong School of Law in 2014.

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