Bibliophile | ‘Borderland’ tells coming-of-age tale seeking Country and connection

By Graham Akhurst
UWA Publishing

Jonathan (Jono) Lane and Jenny Pohatu had just graduated from Brisbane’s St Lucia private high school, and were honoured as the first Aboriginal students to graduate after being supported by the school’s Great Change Scholarship in this Young Adult (13+) coming-of-age fiction.

Jenny had more of her father’s Māori features but she was proud of her Ngarabal heritage that came from her mother. City-born Jono didn’t know who his people were or where his Country was, but that didn’t stop him having nightmares of being hunted by a malevolent spirit from the Dreaming.

Jenny wasn’t taunted like Jono at the exclusive school where he hated being different from the rich white kids he was surrounded by. He either stood out too much or was invisible and felt like a second-class citizen much of the time.

All that changed when Jono and Jenny got into the course at the Aboriginal Performing Arts Centre, although Jono was still troubled that his heritage was a broken story half strung together from snippets of knowledge that he gleaned from his mother.

When Jenny got a job as a production assistant working on a short film, she encouraged Jono to audition for the acting role and they headed out with the small crew to Gambari in far west Queensland. It is here that Jono began to understand his place in the world, but it was not easy going.

Taking pills to keep the beast at bay, Jono realised that the film was promoting a gas mine whose exploration was taking place on Aboriginal heritage sites. The film was being made to by the mining company to assure the Native Title people that heritage sites and artifacts wouldn’t be compromised, but there was already evidence of the damage being done.

As Jono’s vision of the beast becomes more real and can be seen by other people, each incarnation is more violent that the last and Jono begins to realise that it might actually be fighting to protect its land.

Lezly Herbert

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