In our series of classic Australia novels, we look today at We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn published in 1908 (as Mrs Ænneas Gunn).
This evocative memoir tells of the strength of a suburban-raised woman who survives the Never Never of the Northern Territory for a year in 1902. Just married and venturing into a remote homestead, the little Missus arrives at Elsey Statopn near Mataranka.
This rugged place was not considered a suitable home for a white woman and there was initial resentment from the stockmen –afraid she'd impose her ladylike ways in the wild country.
But her tenacity, courage, and sense of humor made her thrive in the middle of nowhere. In her relationship with the local Aborigines, she demonstrated an open-mindedness unusual for her time.
There are still scenes where we might feel uncomfortable reading but this is a beautiful, unusual and ultimately poignant story of a woman's adventureness and resilience. This is also a piece of Northern Australian history and a social documentary of the way of life and beliefs in 1902.
“Called the Never-Never, the Maluka loved to say, because they who have lived in it and loved it, Never-Never voluntarily leave it.”
― Jeannie Gunn, We of the Never Never