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January 2022

Lies, Damned Lies

By Claire G. Coleman (Ultimo Press) | Review by Monique Grbec

With words as weapons, Coleman’s mission to slay generations of lies, propaganda and rhetoric to reveal the truth is personal.

‘Australia’s mythology is written in sand and the tide is coming in. The tide is coming in,’ writes Claire G. Coleman in her debut non-fiction book Lies, Damned Lies. While her highly-acclaimed books Terra Nullius and The Old Lie explored colonisation through speculative, dystopian allegory, in Lies, Damned Lies Coleman steps through the veneer of fiction to confront colonisation as a proud Noongar warrior.

With words as weapons, Coleman’s mission to slay generations of lies, propaganda and rhetoric to reveal the truth is personal. A child of the Hidden Generation, her family is working to reconnect to Noongar culture after her grandfather, trying to protect them from massacres and child removal policies, kept their Aboriginality a secret. Coleman’s ‘despair and anger’ guide her as she offers us a supercharged manifesto that calls for decolonisation, historical archives to be re-examined through an Indigenous lens and a return to a sustainable existence based on respect for Aboriginal sovereignty.

Coleman interrogates and debunks 230 years of fake history—from Captain Cook’s declaration of ‘Terra Nullius’ to recent events, including the Northern Territory Intervention where people were dispossessed of land with troop carriers, forced onto income management and corralled with alcohol controls. Anchored with research and determination, Coleman exposes the inherited propaganda of white supremacy and governments that force mob to ‘accept conditions that no other Australian would tolerate’, conditions that reduce life expectancy and are directly related to issues of intergenerational trauma, addiction, depression, mass incarceration, deaths in custody and youth detention.

Coleman questions ‘how long fake news can continue to propagate when left unchallenged’ and reminds us that in 2019 the current Liberal Government budgeted $48.7million to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s circumnavigation of Australia, an event that never happened. When elected leaders continue to fabricate fake history, what hope does this country have to end racism? Maintaining drive and purpose, Coleman also surveys ‘Australia Day’, walking on Uluru, the grog wars and the Coon cheese spin.

No serious political issue is unchallenged and if Coleman has her way, there will be no ongoing amnesia. In Lies, Damned Lies she capsizes the Cook myth and its ‘discovery’ culture of paternalistic greed, sharing a vision of Aboriginal ideology where ‘landscape, environment and everything that lives on is part of identity, a loved member of the family and something to protect.’  In the wake of inequalities and climate catastrophe, it’s a matter of urgency: ‘the tide is coming in.’

Review originally published by Kill Your Darlings. Lies, Damned Lies is available now at Readings.