'Pass-laws, dog-tags and permission to marry across colour-lines take up little space in Australia's collective memory. Poetry, prose and journalism that address the contemporary effects of generations of practices designed to keep Indigenous Australia outside the life of settler Australia are sharply contested. A pervasive language of denigration disrupts attempts at serious dialogue: supporters of a National Sorry Day are 'hysterical' (David McNicholl), assertions of systematic radical discrimination are 'silly' (former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Herron), while the personal testimony of members of the 'stolen generations' are examples of 'false memory syndrome' (Ron Brunton).
For decades, blackfellas have turned to poetry to convey a sense of their rage to gubba-Australia. Yet, genuine indignation has no power to move incomprehension: anger can't change puzzlement. Words from the heart seem to have little power to move, where heads are configured to the half-truth of an omnipresent 'fair-go'.
Finding ways to crack, or perhaps dissolve, a contemporary Australian shell - one as tough as alcoholic denial - is a major challenge. This paper combines poetry readings with an exploration of how Australian writing, whether Koori or gubba, might then get a grip on that other barrier, that fence' (122).