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Book Review: 'True North: The Story of Mary and Elizabeth Durack' by Brenda Niall

Mary and Elizabeth Durack were the spoiled creative daughters of a pioneering cattle king. They grew up to become two of Australia’s most influential artists.

True North: The Story of Mary and Elizabeth Durack by Brenda Niall, Text Publishing, $32.95
Mary and Elizabeth Durack were the spoiled creative daughters of a pioneering cattle king.
They grew up to become two of Australia’s most influential artists.
As teenagers in the early 1930s they left behind parochial Perth and proceeded to fall passionately and eternally in love with the Kimberley.
Mary, a writer, and Elizabeth, a painter, started their careers with heavily sentimental portrayals of cheerful station life and cute Aboriginal children.
But it wasn’t long before they became troubled by the transformation of those kids from quick, willing and joyous imps to dull-eyed, sunken adolescents. Together their works would begin to transform the way Australia regarded Aboriginal people.
This biography makes great use of a rich store of family letters to tell the story of two remarkable women. It’s also the story of twentieth century Australia in all its shame and its glory.

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