A Tribute Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert - The Cherry Picker's Daughter

Monday 16 September 2019
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
In store at Avid Reader Bookshop
Ticket $10.00
Tickets available until 16 September 2019 6:00 PM

This event commences at 6.30pm. Printed tickets are not issued and your booking will be on a door list under your surname.

Join Miles Franklin Literary Award winning author Melissa Lucashenko and Anita Heiss lead a tribute to Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert and her book The Cherry Picker's Daughter - a Childhood Memoir.

An exquisite portrait of growing up Aboriginal on the fringes of outback towns in New South Wales in the mid-twentieth century. The Cherry Picker’s Daughter is a window into the day-to-day lived experience, a profound insight into the extraordinary strength, resilience and ingenuity of Aboriginal families, of women in particular, to survive and overcome seemingly insurmountable adversity: extreme poverty, persecution, racism and cultural genocide.

Told in the child’s voice and in the vernacular of her Mob, activist, artist, poet and author, Aunty Kerry, tells her story of love and loss, of dispossession and repeated dislocation, and the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection Laws.

The strength of family ties in Aboriginal communities is clearly evident when three-month-old Kerry and her brother lost both parents. Her father, Kevin Gilbert––later to become a famous activist, writer, painter and actor––killed their mother and was jailed for many years. Her father’s sister, whom she always called ‘Mummy’, raised Kerry, her brother––also called Kevin––along with her own children and others within the extended family. The book is a tribute to this truly remarkable woman: their tower of strength, love and selflessness; who worked tirelessly to support all the children; who during fruitpicking season, made sure they attended school wherever it took them; who managed to keep them from being taken/‘stolen’ by the ‘Welfare’.

For so many Aboriginal people surviving during the 50s, 60s and 70s, fruit-picking meant the difference between going hungry or having a roof over your head. In those days, Aboriginal people were paid just ten cents a pound for cherries, while non-Aboriginal people were paid twenty. Aunty Kerry grew up in corrugated tin huts, tents and rundown train carriages, working from a very young age to help her family to earn ‘an honest living’. Their life was one of hard but determined work, and family unity gave them the strength and dignity to continue. Their greatest strength in surviving the Protectors, the White Australia Policy and the everyday racism that they faced, was Mummy and their identity as Aboriginal people. 

A Wiradjuri woman from Central New South Wales, Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert performed and conducted writing workshops nationally and internationally. She was the inaugural Chairperson of the First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN) 2012–2015 & 2017-2018. She was a member of the ACT Us Mob Writing (UMW) group and was FNAWN co-editor for the Ora Nui Journal collaboration between First Nations Australia writers and Maori writers. In 2016 and 2017 she compiled and edited editions of A Pocketful of Leadership in the ACT 2016 and A Pocketful of Leadership in First Nations Australia Communities, a collection of First Nations voices from across Australia. Kerry was a former member of the Aboriginal Studies Press Advisory Committee and her poetry and prose have been published in many journals and anthologies nationally and internationally, including in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. Her works have been translated in French, Korean, Bengali, Dutch and other non-English speaking languages. Aunty Kerry passed away in July 2019.