Living in Hope
Frank Byrne with Frances Coughlan & Gerard Waterford
Paperback 120x178mm 50g. 56 pages
Book one in the Inland Writers—short reads from the Centre of Australia
The killing times were barely over in the Kimberley.
What I knew, even as a small boy, was that no-one argued with a whitefella. People talked in whispers.
I was still so small.
This is the story of the early years of my life. The story of a boy who was taken away from his mother and his family forever when he was just six years old. He had no say in it. His family had no say in it. The government had all the say in everything.
A memoir of boyhood by a man who was removed as a child – from country, from culture and language, from family, from his mother.
Filled with surprises and unlikely fun, this is more than just a story of surviving. From hiding out from the Japanese in spring-fed caves in the deep Kimberley, to being let loose in a paddock just like a poddy calf at Moola Bulla, to cowboy comics at the Beagle Bay mission.
A story of white bosses, of priest bosses, of black stockmen and of staying out of trouble.
With honesty and unexpected graciousness, Frank reminds us of a not-so-distant past and of how things happened for Aboriginal people in the North West.
‘This is a very strong story of survival. A tragic reminder of the harshness and unfairness of the mission era but also the toughness and determination of our people.’ Bruce Pascoe.
About the author
The son of a Gooniyandi woman and Irish stockman, Frank Byrne was born on Christmas Creek Station in the Kimberley on 20 July 1937. He was a child of the Stolen Generations, taken from his mother at the age of six. Frank spent the next nine years at Moola Bulla native station and Beagle Bay mission, and then, when he turned 15, began his working life as a stockman on Birrindudu Station in the Northern Territory.
Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford are social workers and counsellors at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs, and share an interest in assisting people to tell their stories of survival and courage as part of their therapeutic journey. Frank approached them in 2015 to help him finish his life story. Their work began with a three-week road trip through the Kimberley, retracing Frank’s childhood steps, and meeting with family, friends and fellow Stolen Generations survivors.
Sadly, Frank was diagnosed with cancer shortly after returning from the Kimberley trip. Despite his illness, he continued to work on his book, and he and his writing team completed a full manuscript of his life story shortly before he died.
This book, Living in Hope, is an extract of childhood memories from Frank’s full memoir. It was first launched in Alice Springs among his family and friends in May 2017. Later that year, he returned to his country in the Kimberley where he died on 20 October 2017.
Frank Byrne is buried beside his mother Maudie Yoorungul in the family graveyard outside Fitzroy Crossing.
To mark the 2018 anniversary of Frank’s death, Ptilotus Press compiled a series of photos and memories in honour of his life and story. Click here to read more.