A Tear in the Soul by Amanda Webster (review)

Reconciliation is a long, hard road. But it begins with acknowledging that the damage is real, the anger justified.  A Tear in the Soul is a timely volume for people that are trying to understand and unravel the complexities of race relations in Kalgoorlie.  It names some important issues and draws together the threads of history and policy without getting too technical.

It’s real strength is that it is a book about relationships in the context of the author’s search for meaning and a key part of that quest is comprehending the attitudes and relationships she had growing up as a child in Kalgoorlie.  At times this gets complicated, dealing with both the author’s own attitudes and questions around Aboriginal identity.

It has some good things to say on loss, including the sense of loss faced when Aboriginal young people reached an age where they were forced to leave institutional care.  It also carefully puts institutional care in a historical context; which is important and often overlooked.  The author also asks the ever important question of would I have done the same if I lived back then.

Amanda Webster set out on a search for two former school friends – Aboriginal children from the Kurrawang Mission near Kalgoorlie. She has many questions: What was life at Kurrawang really like? What are her responsibilities as a non-Indigenous Australian whose family’s privilege was built on stolen land? For an institution that existed for over two decades, Webster found that Kurrawang was largely un-documented.  Webster even gets close to answering the big outstanding question about Kurrawang; that the author is probably not even aware of.  That being why was Mr Sercombe removed without notice from Kurrawang after 5 years faithful service, making his large and somewhat young family effectively homeless.  The irony being Morgan Sercombe went on to start a new mission work just down the road at Coolgardie.  The WA Brethren Church’s websites remain silent on this matter.

A Tear in the Soul has an unusual rhythm, which some may find hard to get into initially.  The title is not explained and not easy to understand and some will consider the volume is a tad self indulgent.

Having made those comments, I would encourage others to read this book as it throws a light on a part of our shared history.  Reconciliation must come from white Australia taking racial and historical injustice toward Aboriginal Australia seriously, then responding with political and social action.


Title: A Tear in the Soul

Author: Webster, Amanda

Published:  New South Publishing, 2016 – Sydney, N.S.W.

ISBN: 9781742247984

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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