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Analysis of Coolungar Theives

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Good morning/Afternoon I was called upon to deliver a poem in the ‘Take Part’ festival which is a festival within the local community. It is held to advocate that art and literature are tools to create awareness about social, cultural and global issues. The poem that I chose for the event was ‘Coolungar Thieves’, published in April 1999. It is a poem by Graeme Dixon in which outlines what really happened, from his view, in the stolen generation. This issue is still present in today’s society. In regards to the flow on effect which has effected a number of generations. Graeme Dixon, the poet, is an indigenous man. He has faced many difficulties throughout his life including being an orphan, being expelled from school and serving time in prison. Fremantle prison was where Dixon spent the 9 years. His passion for writing began there.

Due to restriction in the prison, Dixon hid his work under the bed in his cell. After prison Dixon, 27 at the time, began a tertiary education and studied politics, communication and Aboriginal studies. Dixon has continued to publish his work and has become an inspiration to the indigenous youth. The issue of this poem is the stolen generation. The stolen generation was a dark time in Australia’s history reigning from 1900 to the late 1960’s. Indigenous children, majority half-caste were removed from their families because they were ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘at risk in their own communities’. Throughout the period 10-30% of children were forcibly removed by authorities. These times are still reflected in today’s generations by the mysteries of their indigenous cultural and family heritage. The poem was constructed in first person, this gives the story a very personal feeling from the author.

Dixon shares the thoughts of the characters through the language he uses, for example in the fourth stanza ‘beware of their bold, cold stares, those icy snake eyes are looking down’ take the readers through the mind of the parental character of the poem. We follow the journey of the story through the attitude of the poet. From the start, where Dixon describes the setting of fear and anguish, ‘tears streaming down a face, contorted with fear’. This immediately sets the seen for the reader. It also lets the audience feel the pain and sorrow the poet shares with the characters. Reading this poem gives the audience a feeling of distraught faced by the poet, who shares a personal connection with the subject of the poem. Throughout the poem there are many literary devices used to create imagery. Throughout the 9 stanzas constructed as a ballad, figurative language create the main picture in the readers mind. Features such as personification and imagery are used strongly all through the poem.

A main focus in the aboriginal language the poet uses all the way through the poem. An example of personification is ‘a breeze whispering through the ghostly trees’ this is used early in the third stanza to determine the scattered, cold bushland where people are at peace with the land. As the poem continues imagery is created to have the reader hooked and wanting to understand and feel then for what the poet was writing about. The aboriginal language gives reference to the purity of the land and how the culture was and still is alive today. This affects the reader deeply. For Dixon to have included this in the poem he gives the poem cultural and historical depths. The poet delivers a message I utterly agree with. The stolen generation was one of the worst things to happen in Australia’s history. The evidence is still present that this has affected more than who were just involved. As recent years have passed, we as a nation have said ‘sorry’. Did the apology come too late? Many say yes.

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