"I grew up in a small town: Carnarvon, in Western Australia. In 1984, Merrill Findlay spent some months in town researching a book called Carnarvon - Reflections of a Country Town, commissioned by the local shire council for the town's centenary. The book, when it appeared, was unusual for a commissioned history. It covered the stories not just of white settlers, but of dispossessed Aboriginal people, the southern and eastern European vegetable and banana growers, labourers on the prawning boats and many others often left out of official narratives. When I arrived in the central west NSW town of Bathurst ten years ago, I was delighted to discover that Merrill Findlay lived just a hop, skip and jump away in Forbes. When she asked me to document The Kate Kelly Song Cycle I immediately agreed, even though it was clear there would be no money in it. The themes embodied by the song cycle and by Merrill's work resonated strongly with me: a girl growing up in a remote, "blokey" town, the love for a landscape one knows intimately, a desire to uncover and tell the stories embedded in that landscape, the desire to escape from one's origins, and the yearning to return. It was hard work, and it took a long time, but it was a real pleasure to record Merrill's passionate engagement with the arts, a place and a community."
Tracy Sorensen's background is in journalism and community arts. She teaches media at Bathurst TAFE and Charles Sturt University. More information about Tracy is available at www.squawkingalah.com.au
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