Mémoires Aborigènes

In Conversation with Fiona Clarke

Saturday 24 November, 2pm – 3:30pm

Alliance Française, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda

You are invited to an intimate discussion with proud Aboriginal woman Fiona Clarke - daughter of Banjo Clarke known for the unforgettable story “Wisdom Man” - and great niece of Aboriginal Aussie Digger  ‘Reg’ Rawlings. The event will include a Q&A and a screening of the short film, made during the emotional visit to her great uncle’s grave that culminated her trip to France for the Paris Book Fair.

"On August 9, 1918, barely two months out from the Great War’s end, William Reginald Rawlings died a decorated war hero fighting for King and country in the muddy, bloody battlefields of northern France. And there he remained, the fighting Gunditjmara man, buried on foreign French soil, his bereft family left to mourn on the other side of the world. It would be almost a century before a family member would stand before his grave among the rows of white headstones of fallen Aussie Diggers.” - Jenny McLaren
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Remembering Uncle 'Reg' Rawlings

On her recent trip to France, where she was launching the French translation of the book written about her father "Wisdom Man: Banjo Clarke as told to Camilla Chance", Fiona Clarke had the opportunity to finally visit the resting place of her Great Uncle William 'Reg' Rawlings. Accompanied by the translator of the book, respected French researcher specialising in indigenous Australian literature, Estelle Castro-Koshy, Fiona and her husband experienced an emotional welcome to the site, where they were met by French war veterans associations, local dignitaries and residents, with a guard of honour and a spontaneous rendition of ‘La Marseillaise’.

The visit has been captured in a touching 20-minute video that will be shown during Fiona's visit to the Alliance Française. 

William Reginald Rawlings

Un homme de sagesse: banjo clarke

Fiona's father, (and nephew of Reg Rawlings), Banjo Clarke was born around 1922 on Framlingham Aboriginal mission, located near Warrnambool in South-Western Victoria, Australia. He was a symbol of kindness and compassion, and how not to give up on humanity despite the decades of discrimination and hardship he witnessed and endured.

Camilla Chance met Aboriginal Elder Banjo Clarke in 1975, and at his request wrote down his story and philosophy. This turned out to be a 27-year long labour of love, the book Wisdom Man, which became a best-seller in Australia. It has recently been translated into French, entitled 'Un Homme de Sagesse', by Estelle Castro-Koshy and has made the second short-list for this year’s translation prize by the French Society of People of Letters. 

Wisdom Man talks about the history of his life, his country, and how to be kind to one another and accept people for who they are, not what color they are.

Wisdom Man will be available for purchase at the Alliance Française on the day of the event

The French translation of 'Wisdom Man'

fiona clarke

Portrait of Fiona Clarke by Warrnambool photographer John (Jack Wilkins).

Fiona Clarke is a proud Aboriginal woman of the Kirrae Whurrong and Gunditjmara clans of Western Victoria Australia. She is an established and renowned Aboriginal artist and published author. She has had major art exhibitions, public art commissions, and her art is in collections around the globe. Her Aboriginal children’s book – written and illustrated by Fiona – is entitled Minkgill Chases the Rainbow

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