Kings in Grass Castles – Dame Mary Durack


I mentioned this audio book a couple of weeks ago as a loan from the local library and finished listening to it over the weekend. I first read the book following my father’s encouragement (both fans of colonial history) and that must have been well on forty years ago.

Revisiting it now was interesting for several reasons. Firstly, since that initial reading I relocated to Queensland and consider myself after 25 years (mostly) as almost a native (though I will never stop supporting MY footy teams) so that now hearing about the Duracks’ gradual expansion in regions and  being astonished by place names that now have far more personal meaning for me, brought this dogged pioneer spirit to life in a much more significant way.

Secondly, though it cannot be denied that Dame Mary’s account of her family’s history (written in 1959) contains terminology and language now frowned upon as racist, I am struck once again by how much more conciliatory and empathetic her forebears were in comparison with their contemporaries.  I have Indigenous children so please don’t get indignant on this point – but while I can see the argument for the graziers and pastoralists usurping land, at least old Patsy Durack (in particular) ensured his Aboriginal stockmen, their wives and families were well paid, well housed and respected.

Today I was at a teacher-librarian conference held annually in Brisbane and when I heard the name of the t-l currently at Durack State School, mentally went ‘ahhhhh yes, of course!’

Considered a classic of Australian literature, this book which is based on primary sources, interviews of both family and friends and contemporary accounts is definitely worth a visit.


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