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Writing and writers

Oct 24, 2017

Tracker: Stories of Tracker Tilmouth, by Alexis Wright

Tracker was one of the few brilliant statesmanlike leaders we have had – one who stayed close to his own people, and who really had the capacity to push back the boundaries for much of the action that shapes how we think and have thought about our times.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

If you met Leigh Bruce “Tracker” Tilmouth once that was enough to have him stuck with you for life … like an earworm of an irresistible Slim Dusty song or a visual metaphor for just-about-whatever-you-bloody-like. Tracker was a force of nature both infuriating and fascinating in equal measure and at any time. And irresistible in every sense of the word.

Now Alexis Wright has finished the book he commissioned … convinced … who knows … her to write about his life. The one-word title says it all … “Tracker.”

I for one can’t wait to read it and post a review here in due course. If you are tonguing for some pearls of Tracker wisdom you can see the collection of Tracker quotes about the not-so-good-or-great from my tribute just after his passing in late February 2015 here.

Here is a teaser from the Introduction to Tracker: Stories of Tracker Tilmouth.

He was both loved and hated. He could leave people reeling in bitterness over something he had called them, but whatever way the emotional scales leant, he had the knack of making you want more of what he was giving. He was fun. Not many people have such a gift, the confidence or the ability to create so much fullness of life in those around him, or to leave so much emptiness in one’s spirit from his absence. He was one of the few brilliant statesmanlike leaders we have had – one who stayed close to his own people, and who really had the capacity to push back the boundaries for much of the action that shapes how we think and have thought about our times.

You could spend a lot of time with Tracker and never really get down into seeing the real thing of who he was. The reason for this may be because he was working with the urgency of utter chaos in which the Aboriginal world is placed. Many say that his thinking was too advanced for his time, but he stayed close to his country and people, and dedicated much of his life to the question of how to build an Aboriginal economy, based on the traditional knowledge of cultural economies and survival. What he wanted to do was to create the groundwork for implementing a visionary roadmap – the way to fight a deadly serious war. He always called it a war. The future for Aboriginal people in this country was the war.

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Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. She is renowned as the author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, and has published two previous works of non-fiction, Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council, and Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory. Her books have been published widely overseas, including in China, the US, the UK, Italy, France and Poland. She is a Distinguished Fellow in Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre.

Alexis Wright

Tracker: Stories of Tracker Tilmouth

Giramondo Publishing

Non-fiction, Paperback, 650pp

Publication date: 1 November 2017

$39.95

Print ISBN: 9781925336337

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