Lies, Damned Lies: A Personal Exploration of the Impact of Colonisation

Claire G. Coleman

Lies, Damned Lies: A Personal Exploration of the Impact of Colonisation
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Lies, Damned Lies: A Personal Exploration of the Impact of Colonisation

Claire G. Coleman

A deeply personal exploration of Australia’s colonisation past, present and future by one of Australia’s finest contemporary authors​.

In Lies, Damned Lies acclaimed author Claire G. Coleman, a proud Noongar woman, takes the reader on a journey through the past, present and future of Australia, lensed through her own experience. Beautifully written, this literary work blends the personal with the political, offering readers an insight into the stark reality of the ongoing trauma of Australia’s violent colonisation.

Colonisation in Australia is not over. Colonisation is a process, not an event - and the after-effects will continue while there are still people to remember it.

Review

Noongar writer Claire G. Coleman blazed onto the local literary scene like a comet with her debut novel Terra Nullius in 2017. With its ingenious blend of historical and speculative fiction, it challenged many readers to rethink and reimagine the destructive and dystopian forces of colonialism. Coleman called it ‘an empathy bomb’, and the same could be said of her new collection of essays, Lies, Damned Lies – although here, the chief emotions conjured are fury and rage, which Coleman harnesses to tear down the pillars holding up the logic of settler colonialism.

The book is divided into three parts; the first, ‘Bones’, is the most directly personal. Essays in this section explore identity, belonging, Coleman’s family history, connection to Country, and the monstrous and the abject in the White imaginary. Many of these essays are exceptionally moving, particularly the ones that focus on Coleman’s father and grandfather, members of the ‘Hidden Generation’ who were forced to conceal their Noongar culture. Coleman and her father both grew up thinking their family was Fijian, and the vulnerability with which she recounts the unravelling of this lie is palpably raw and painful.

Parts two and three – ‘The colony’ and ‘Prepare for the end’ – interrogate the lies underpinning settler colonialism and how colonisation relates to apocalypse. In Coleman’s explanation, ‘settler colonialism’ aims to ‘replace the people who live on the land the colonisers desire with the settler population and its culture’. Coleman repeatedly reminds readers colonialism is not a discrete event that happened long ago, but an ongoing process that exists in the policies of this country, the discourse of our media and social media, and in all our minds. Here, Coleman wields her words as weapons, lining up foundation myths such as Cook’s arrival in Australia and the lie of terra nullius, and felling them one by one. Coleman argues the truth can be weaponised, just as ‘fake news’ and misinformation are, and Lies, Damned Lies operates as her rallying cry. Her arguments crackle with energy and personal conviction, although I imagine there will be readers who chafe at this, and others who might want the book to elaborate further. Frankly, I don’t think Coleman cares. As she notes: ‘My weapons are honed. They are aimed at your heart and soul.’


Jackie Tang is the editor of Readings Monthly.

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