About the author
Debra Dank is a Gudanji/Wakaja woman, married to Rick, with three adult children and two grandchildren. An educator, she has worked in teaching and learning for many years – a gift given through the hard work of her parents. She continues to experience the privilege of living with country and with family. Debra completed her PhD in Narrative Theory and Semiotics at Deakin University in 2021.
About the book
We Come With This Place is a remarkable book, as rich, varied and surprising as the vast landscape in which it is set. Debra Dank has created an extraordinary mosaic of vivid episodes that move about in time and place to tell an unforgettable story of country and people.
There is great pain in these pages, and anger at injustice, but also great love, in marriage and in family, and for the land. Dank faces head on the ingrained racism, born of brutal practice and harsh legislation, that lies always under the skin of Australia, the racism that calls a little Aboriginal girl names and beats and rapes and disenfranchises the generations before hers. She describes sudden terrible violence, between races and sometimes at home. But overwhelmingly this is a book about strong, beloved parents and grandparents, guiding and teaching their children and grandchildren what country means, about joyful gatherings and the pleasures of eating food provided by the place that nourishes them, both spiritually and physically.
Dank calibrates human emotions with honesty and insight, and there is plenty of dry, down-to-earth humour. You can feel and smell and see the puffs of dust under moving feet, the ever-present burning heat, the bright exuberance of a night-time campfire, the emerald flash of a flock of budgerigars, the journeying wind, the harshness of a station shanty, the welcome scent of fresh water.
We Come With This Place is deeply personal, a profound tribute to family and the Gudanji Country to which Debra Dank belongs, but it is much more than that. Here is Australia as it has been for countless generations, land and people in effortless balance, and Australia as it became, but also Australia as it could and should be.
In We Come With This Place, Debra Dank shares with us a life that is at once extraordinary and familiar. Dank’s words are lucid and beautiful. Her skill not only as a keen observer of her own life, but as a narrative builder and scholar of it, is obvious. The shifting timeline that forms the structure of the book draws her stories together to intentionally and clearly shape our understanding as readers, without ever being overbearing. Dank treats Country with agency and power, and Country is what holds her stories in place. She complicates many of our assumptions as readers, including what to expect of memoir as a form and where to direct our attention. A memoir of unique grace and defiant power.
“A jewel to rival Australia’s great desert memoirs. Beauty and pain intertwine as Dank deftly weaves the story of her family, ancestors and country.” – Tara June Winch, The Guardian
“This is a heart-stopping voyage into bush Aboriginal life, philosophy and history… (It) will surprise, delight and astound you.” – Melissa Lucashenko, The Sydney Morning Herald
“As Australia contemplates a Voice to Parliament, this book reminds us to listen. Listen when the land tells her story. Hear the voices of the traditional owners. Listen first and then you will know.” – Grattan Institute’s 2022 Prime Minister’s Summer Reading List
Listen to Debra Dank on ABC Conversations with Sarah Kanowski
Listen to Debra Dank discuss We Come With This Place with on ABC Radio National’s Awaye