Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal), Judith Wright and Decolonised Transcultural Ecopoetics in Frank Heimans’ ‘Shadow Sister’

Peter Minter


Aboriginal poet and activist Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal) and Anglo-Australian poet Judith Wright shared an intense and multi-layered friendship over many decades. In Frank Heimans’ classic 1977 documentary ‘Shadow Sister: A Film Biography of Australian Aboriginal Poet Kath Walker’, Wright visits Walker at her home at Moongalba on Minjerriba (North Stradbroke Island), and in a compelling sequence of scenes they share a lively discourse that reveals a curious and complex assemblage of cultural, political and aesthetic formations. Prompted by Walker’s gift to Wright of a ‘Stradbroke Island Orchid’, this essay proposes a decolonised transcultural ecopoetics in which Walker’s Aboriginal land-rights activism and Wright’s counter-cultural environmentalism are synthesised in a sororal, cross-cultural feminist framework that disrupts western patrilineal, colonial epistemes. Walker and Wright’s decolonised transcultural ecopoetics is shown to be an exemplar of late-modernism in Australia, and a unique antipodean contribution to a transformational planetary environmentalism.

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