Establishing an Australian/Caribbean Alliance : Stories Passed on by Penny van Toorn and Olive Senior

'Although history is written by the winners, social memory cannot ever be completely eradicated (short of committing genocide),' writes Penny van Toom, 'because memories remain lodged in people's minds and encoded in their everyday speech- and life-practices' ('Stories to Live In' 42-43). Personal memory is fragile - it may fail; but history is the memory of many, such that even when a community becomes fragmented and dispersed, the linguistic and cultural life of that community leaves a record - a thread, a trace.

The ' life-practices ' to which van Toom alludes include singing songs, composing poems, telling stories. Writing not about the Caribbean, but about Indigenous Canadian and Australian historiography, she observes that:

Although allegedly doomed to extinction, First Nations and Aboriginal peoples survived. Although disqualified as historians, they did not forget. Memories were preserved and transmitted orally inside Indigenous communities ... Behind the biases and silences of white history, Indigenous social memory persisted, some practices continuing virtually unchanged to the present day, others adapting and transforming often in response to pressures imposed by the dominant culture. ('Stories to Live In' 42)

Theirs is the story of a stubborn resistance. It is the story of survival, of people, memory and cultural practices, akin to the story ofAfrican resistance and survival in the Caribbean and the wider Americas.

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Published 1 November 2010 in Volume 25 No. 4. Subjects: Crosscultural relations, Literature & writers, Poetic inspiration, Writer's recognition & popularity, Writer-reader relations.

Cite as: Collett, Anne. ‘Establishing an Australian/Caribbean Alliance : Stories Passed on by Penny van Toorn and Olive Senior.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 25, no. 4, 2010, doi: 10.20314/als.80e38cef0e.