Pride against Prejudice by Ida West

‘Reminiscences of a Tasmanian Aborigine’

The introduction to this book opens with:

‘Why I decided to write this book.

We have had Europeans writing about us for years.  As a child I can remember people writing about us, they called us half-castes then, they might as well have called us outcasts.’

Aunty Ida West (1919- 2003) wrote this introduction in 1984.  This book is a compilation of her ideas, memories, and thoughts.  It is part personal history, part observation of what it was like to grow up as a Tasmanian Aborigine during the twentieth century.

This is an important book.  It is important to me, a Tasmanian who grew up in the second half of the twentieth century being told that there were no Tasmanian Aborigines left.  It is important to those Tasmanian Aborigines who have been denied their history.  It is important.

Aunty Ida West’s extended family were spread across Tasmania.  As a traditional elder, her history and her memories are important.  She grew up on Flinders Island, moved to mainland Tasmania after she married.  What comes across in her reminiscences is a woman committed to fairness and justice, a woman prepared to take on challenges, a woman committed to problem solving.

I read this book, wishing that I had learned more about Tasmanian Aboriginal history earlier.  Yes, the history is filled with bloodshed and horror.  It is uncomfortable, but it should not be denied.  I can’t remember when I became aware that the history of Tasmania I was taught at school during the 1960s was incomplete.  I can’t remember when I realised that Aboriginality was not (and should not) be measured in fractions.  As I’ve become more aware of injustice, I feel compelled to read as broadly as I can to try to increase my awareness.  This book is an important part of that process.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith