Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse

Written by Cassandra Pybus
Review by Marina Maxwell

In the 1820s, the author’s ancestor was given free land grants on Bruny Island, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). The original inhabitants were rewarded with genocide or exile. Among them was Truganini, a young woman who was destined to be the last full-blood of her people.

Coming to the “rescue” was George Augustus Robinson, a self-styled missionary, whose intention was to seek out and gather together all the remaining members of the Aboriginal tribes and provide them with security on Flinders Island. In the process, Truganini became his guide but also his nemesis. Although exploited, used and abused, and even charged with murder, Truganini shines through as a woman who deserves to be defined by her dignity, intelligence and strengths rather than an object of pity.

This is a most difficult book but is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn the real story of that enigmatic Aboriginal woman whose mortal remains were shamefully put on display in a museum for all to gawk at, a specimen of the inhumanity, ignorance and even misguided self-righteousness of Australia’s Colonial past.  Ironically, it was not until 1976, the centenary of her death, that those remains were cremated and cast into the sea in accordance with her original wishes. It says much.