Kunyi June Anne McInerney
Kunyi June Anne McInerney
Magabala Books, 2021
Lower Primary, Primary, Secondary, Upper Primary
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- Atomic testing
- Australian Government policy
- Bush tucker
- Child welfare
- Daily life
- Human rights
- Sand drawing
- Stolen generations
- Visual literacy
Fortunate children grow up with a loving family and in a secure home environment. A far different life for children is documented in the Australian Government report, ‘Bringing Them Home’. The 1997 ‘Australian Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families’ refers to these children as the ‘Stolen Generation’. Kunyi June Anne McInerney is one of these. This book is her recollection of life in the Ooonadatta Children’s Home in South Australia.
Kunyi and her siblings were taken from their mother, Daisy McInerney, a Yankunytjatjara woman, and placed in the Oodnadatta Children's Home. The year was 1955 when Kunyi was four years old. Kunyi offers over 60 paintings to illustrate her life accompanied by stories about her childhood there until she was nine years old. The endpapers repeat the internal artwork as kaleidoscopic small images. These, created in bold, dark colours, are rendered in acrylics on canvas which convey emotional content beyond words.
This is a unique book in so many ways. Being a personal childhood recollection, Kunyi’s story of lived experiences is potent. There are corrugated iron sheds with no insulation. Bunk beds, with rag bed sheets. Kerosene lamps light rooms without electricity. All the children worked - preparing food, collecting wood for the stove and the laundry and other daily tasks.
‘Kunyi’ gives us a wide perspective on daily life. Some examples include the Bible lessons and hymns in the morning and at night. There were games of acrobatics, hide-and-seek, chasey, sack races and knucklebones. There the game of ‘mani mani’ using gum leaves to represent mothers, fathers and children in stories is remembered from their grannies. Sunday art time inspired the artist in these children. When Kunyi was nine years old she was fostered and stayed with her foster mother until she was 17 years of age.
Additional material includes a biographical profile of Kunyi and black and white photographs from her childhood at the Children’s Home. Kunyi reveals why she created this book. ’These are my stories from a dry remote place where my experiences were so different from what Australian children know today. I want to tell my story, so they don’t ever do it again. They took away my family, my culture and who I could have been. These are not fairy tales, they are true. I want people to understand what happened.’ (Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery 6 December 2018)
The publisher Magabala Books states that ‘Kunyi’ is ‘a story of healing and reconciliation. This is a collection of tender and honest stories that will educate children on our nation’s history and remind adult readers of the real impact of the Stolen Generations.’
The paintings in ‘Kunyi’ were originally part of the ‘My Paintings Speak for Me’ exhibition premiering at Adelaide's Migration Museum in 2018. These toured South Australia. Kunyi June Anne McInerney was born on Todmorden Station near Oodnadatta in South Australia in 1951. Her family’s language group is Yankunytjatjara.
- Reading Opens Doors Blog, Elise Ellerman reviews ’Kunyi’ by Kunyi June Anne McInerney https://blog.readingopensdoors.com.au/?p=848
- ‘Vibrant exhibition to draw upon artist’s childhood experiences’ by Taylor Harvey 4 November 2020 https://www.borderchronicle.com.au/story/6999070/vibrant-exhibition-to-draw-upon-artists-childhood-experiences/
- Country Arts SA, ‘Kunyi June Anne McInerney: My Paintings Speak for Me’, YouTube 2019 (author speaks about her life) https://vimeo.com/335344060
- ‘Exhibitions by Kunyi June Anne McInerney, Mallee photographers open in Murraylands’ article by Peri Strathearn & Harrison Schultz, 9 December 2019 https://www.murrayvalleystandard.com.au/story/6523828/exhibitions-reflect-on-south-australias-history/
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander paintings collected in Our Mob, God’s Story by Josephine Lim, 29 March 2017 https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/arts/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-paintings-collected-in-our-mob-gods-story/news-story/fc4452b33bf177aeeeeb4362127c6f6a
- Australian Human Rights Commission, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, Bringing Them Home: Stories of the Stolen Generations, an interactive website for school students about the Stolen Generations. Resources have been produced in partnership with the peak body, Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat or AbSec. https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/key-resources/resources/34250/?title=Bringing%20them%20Home%3A%20Stories%20of%20the%20Stolen%20Generations
- Kunyi June-Anne McInerney interviewed by Sue Anderson in the Bringing them home oral history project [sound recording] 7 June 2000, 2 digital audiotapes (ca. 99 min.) 40pp transcript is available at the National Library of Australia. Access open for research; written permission required for personal copies and public use of transcript only