Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of International Cultural and Community Studies

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Dr Jill Durey

Second Advisor

Professor Gary Partington

Abstract

This thesis comprises two interrelated sections. The first section is a substantial piece of creative writing, which l have cailed 'Other People's Country: A Memoir, in the genre of travel memoir, and an essay. The memoir borrows techniques from fiction, drama and poetry to tell a story of a middle-aged, middle-class city nurse, who travels to a remote settlement at the edge of the Western Desert of Western Australia to provide health care for a fluctuating population of around 400 people, for whom English is a third or fourth language.

Writing that includes stories about vulnerable people from another culture, whose lives have touched those of the writer, demands sensitivity to differences, as well as an ethical approach. Writing about Aboriginal people also demands an awareness of what is appropriate when writing about cultural material. To achieve the voice of a trustworthy narrator is a challenge that faces all writers of narrative non-fiction, including memoir. The truth is subjective; perception is unreliable; memory can be distorted; error slips in unwittingly; deliberate falsification is possible. In spite of all this, a writer of memoir makes a contract with the reader that the story is significant, and that it is the writer's truth, told as honestly as possible. The pivotal concern of this thesis is the question, 'What are some of the important considerations for a memoirist who is attempting to develop the voice of an ethical and trustworthy narrator writing about experiences encountered when living and working within an unfamiliar culture?

The second part of the thesis is an essay which develops a theoretical framework in response to some of the major dilemmas I encountered in this undertaking. It embraces memory, aspects of Aboriginal vulnerability, and ethics through which to explore the concepts of truth and honesty in memoir-writing.

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