Every Secret Things explores the reality of life for Indigenous Australian's during the missionary era of Australia's history. The story itself is a short novel, that plots the history of a mission in northern Australia, and the conflicts between The Bush Mob, The Mission Mob and the Catholic missionaries that staff the mission.
This book deals with culture, religion, faith, sex and family – and traces how the traditions of the Bush Mob are slowly wiped out by the interfering missionaries.
Munkara has firsthand experience of this cultural deterioration, being a member of the Stolen Generation, that is, the generation of Indigenous children that were removed from their families in the name of integration (to read more about the Stolen Generation click here).
Every Secret Thing is a short novel, but it reads more like a series of comic short stories that recount events that occur in and around the mission. Munkara's direct and sarcastic approach to telling these stories is for the most part laugh out loud funny. She uses her sense of humour to expose the harsh realities of everyday life for both the Bush and Mission Mobs.
The book, however, becomes increasingly distressing as the narrator (or author,however you want to think about it), adds her own commentary to events unfolding.
"And even though the eighth commandment stated quite clearly that it was very naughty to steal, the mission mob ignored this too and stole the things that were dearest to the bush mob’s heart. They stole their resistance to change and they stole their belief in themselves and they stole their children. Because each black soul that was harvested and each child that was appropriated was another rung higher up the ladder to heaven for Father and his crew and another step closer to salvation from this cesspool of earthly temptation and sin."For me, the true message of this book culminated in the isolation felt by one of these stolen children, who manages to return to the mission years later, only to find that she can longer relate to her family.
I have seen Marie Munkara speak about Every Secret Thing at the Sydney Writers Festival 2010, and also heard her discuss her book on the ABC Radio National Book Show (if you want to listen to this click here) - and is a down to earth lady with a lot of interesting and important things to say.
In 2008 Every Secret Thing won the David Unaipon Award for the best unpublished Indigenous Writing – an award this book certainly deserved.
Please read this book.