Daughter of the River Country by Dianne O’Brien with Sue Williams

‘Growing up, it seemed like we had a good life.’

Memoirs by members of the ‘stolen generations’ are always difficult to read. And they are especially uncomfortable to read when they involve abuse. Difficult and uncomfortable, but important. Why? Because if we ignore these memoirs we are ignoring (and denying) the pain caused. I know that we cannot change those experiences, but we can acknowledge their impact.

Dianne was 36 years old before she learned she was Aboriginal. She had grown up believing that her adoptive mother, Val, was her birth mother. While Val had promised Dianne that she would take her to Parkes when Dianne turned 15 and ‘tell her a secret’, she died three months before Dianne’s 15th birthday.

Dianne was abandoned by her adoptive father, was raped, and sent to the Parramatta Girls Home. To keep her baby, she married her rapist. Twenty-one years later, raising six children on her own, Dianne learns that she is Aboriginal.

Somehow, despite domestic abuse and alcohol addiction, Dianne managed to survive and has taken on a leadership role. Auntie Di was named NSW Grandparent of the Year in 2017. At the time, she was aged 71 and had 36 grandchildren and 56 great grandchildren.

This is the memoir of an amazing woman and while I found it unbearably sad in parts, I finished it full of admiration for what Auntie Di has achieved. An inspirational memoir of courage, persistence and resilience.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith