10 December 2007

Alone on the Soaks – The Life and Times of Alec Kruger wins Arts Non-Fiction Human Rights Award for 2007

The 2007 Human Rights Arts Non-Fiction Award has been presented to authors Alec Kruger and Gerard Waterford for their book Alone on the Soaks – The Life and Times of Alec Kruger.

The award was accepted by Mr Kruger at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Human Rights Awards ceremony at the Sheraton on the Park Hotel in Sydney today.

Mr Kruger was a key informant of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report that followed the two-year Royal Commission into the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. He was also among the first people who took their need for recognition further. He did this by testing, in the High Court, the legality of the Aboriginal ordinances that allowed the authorities to remove Aboriginal children throughout the 20th Century.

Alone on the Soaks – The Life and Times of Alec Kruger is a sweeping story of dispossession, discrimination and disappointment and of pride, determination and triumph. It recounts Mr Kruger’s life story from the time when he became a stolen child, barely surviving, to the position he is in today as a wise and respected man with a large and successful family. The book documents how, as a stolen child, he not only had his family life taken from him, but his language, his culture, his wages, and time and time again, his human rights.

It takes its title from an event early in Mr Kruger’s life when he was left alone in the bush, without supplies, gun or bush skills, to maintain a soak for watering cattle.

In making their decision, the judges felt that the events of Mr Kruger’s life, as depicted in this memoir, help us to understand not only what has happened over the last 80 years, but also the impact of events on individual Australian communities. It shows that the first step toward achieving social justice is talking about - and listening to - each others stories. The second step is recognising that these stories make a difference for others and ultimately to the system itself.

Gerard Waterford is a social worker and counsellor employed by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in its Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program. He wrote and edited the Images of Fathers series (1999-2001) for the Newcastle Family Support Service. Mr Waterford is currently supporting a number of other men to develop their stories for publication.

Another work, Journeys with the Black Dog, edited by Tessa Wigney, Kerrie Eyers and Gordon Parker, was recognised as highly commended at this year’s awards. This collection of stories records the thoughts and feelings of a broad range of people living with depression and, in doing so, demonstrates that solutions depend upon individual circumstance.

Other awards presented at the Human Rights Awards today are for achievements in Law, Television, Print Media, Radio, Community Awards for both organisations and individuals and the prestigious Human Rights Medal. For more information see www.humanrights.gov.au/about/hr_awards

Media contact:  Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529