Writer, visual artist and co-winner of the 2015 inaugural OHV Education Innovation Award, Dr Sharon Huebner  spoke to a full house at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria on 11 February. Illustrated with documents and photographs Sharon spoke about her most recent publication Bessy, Minang Woman, co-authored with Ezzard Flowers and Phyllis Andy. The story begins with a studio photograph of a young Bessie, dressed in the fashion of the Victorian 1860s, standing by her seated ‘house-mother’ in Western Australia. From this haunting image Sharon unravels a remarkable journey of dislocation and connection to family, drawing on the tradition of Australian Indigenous storytelling to recover and reclaim histories displaced by colonialism.  Five young Noongar girls, including Bessy Flowers, were sent from their Albany homeland to visit Lake Tyers mission in 1867. They never returned. Bessy marries, becomes a mother and struggles for the freedoms colonialists take for granted. Insights into Bessy’s life are revealed through her letters to government authorities, archived in various state libraries. Sharon sensitivity melds together a pictorial narrative using these, and contemporary life stories and photographs of Bessy’s surviving descendant family, who knew little of her existence. This was a fascinating talk and instigated much discussion afterwards over wine and nibbles as shown below.

Sharon Heubner audience 2   Sharon Heubner talk audience 1