Riding The Black Cockatoo - John Danalis

Riding The Black Cockatoo

By: John Danalis

Paperback | 1 June 2009 | Edition Number 1

At a Glance

Paperback


RRP $19.99

$18.25

Aims to ship in 7 to 10 business days

The inspiring true story of one man's reconciliation journey. All through his growing-up years, John Danalis's family had an Aboriginal skull on the mantelpiece; yet only as an adult did he ask where it came from and whether it should be restored to its rightful owners.

John Danalis was doing a teacher training course at university, as an older student, and decided to take a unit called Indigenous Writing. During one seminar he revealed that he had grown up with an Aboriginal skull (nicknamed 'Mary') on the family mantelpiece, a gift from his uncle to his collector father. The horrified reaction of his fellow students caused John to ask a few questions - where did his uncle find it, who was 'Mary' (a man, as it turned out), and was there a group that might want to claim the skull. By a series of amazing coincidences - almost as if some spirit was driving events - and thanks to his own faith and determination, John made connections with people who could help him in his quest, with the result that Mary was ceremonially handed over to the rightful owners, the Wamba Wamba people of northern Victoria, and later buried in Wamba Wamba country.

As a result of the processes he went through and the people he met, John Danalis put his upbringing and assumptions under scrutiny and exposed his own stereotyped thinking and forged undreamed-of connections with Aboriginal people - an exhilarating but testing process. This book, then, is one man's reconciliation journey.

A sidelight: during a bike ride, John was followed by a red-crested black cockatoo - an almost unheard-of bird in Brisbane. He later found out that this bird was the totem for the Wamba Wamba - just one of the coincidences referred to above. He also happened to see a headdress made from black cockatoo feathers at a literary festival - and ended up using it at the handover ceremony for Mary. Finally, there was a red-and-black connection between his father, a traditionalist rather sceptical of his son's activities, and a Wamba Wamba elder, Gary Murray: his father barracked fiercely for Essendon football team in Melbourne and Gary's son was a well-known Essendon player.

Another sidelight: at the handover ceremony, elder Gary Murray wore a wonderful possum-skin cloak with story designs etched into it. We have commissioned a similar cloak depicting the story of Riding the Black Cockatoo, to be used by John Danalis in his promotion work and especially in schools.
Industry Reviews

'Confronting his own prejudices and misconceptions, Danalis' story challenges the reader to do the same. Danalis' father is a collector of Australiana, and years ago had acquired an Aboriginal skull ... Essentially, this is the story of discovering Mary's history, and his eventual return to a sacred burial site ... It is also the story of Danalis' adventures and fascination with learning more of the Aboriginal culture, and the subsequent changes to his life and effects on his family. The new friends he makes, the shattering of many preconceptions and his confrontations with racism. Suitable for teenagers as well as adults, this book flows well with a lot of humour throughout and keeps your interest long after you have finished reading it.' (5 stars) - Bookseller & Publisher

'Riding the Black Cockatoo is aimed at young-adult readers despite its dark and confronting themes: teenagers may be the only generation capable of tearing down white Australia's overwhelming indifference to Aboriginal culture.' - Canberra Times

'In turns joyful, heartbreaking and downright harrowing, Riding the Black Cockatoo will not be an easy story for many Australians.' - Mapgpies

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