When I first migrated to Australia in 1983, I immediately started asking questions about the country's indigenous aborigines. For me, it was simple curiosity. New Zealand, where I'd come from, had imperfect race relations, but Maori dances, hakas, and creation stories were taught from primary level at every school. Like many "Pakeha" (white) New Zealanders, I had a part-Maori partner - whom I later married. In Perth, however, no-one I spoke to, including white journalists with whom I worked, could tell me what the "Dreamtime" spoken about in aboriginal culture meant. Their demeanour suggested the very questions displayed a lack of taste.
Strange then, that it should have been a Briton who gave me my first insights - to have the boldness both to outline and celebrate the unique richness of Aboriginal cosmology, and to put it in the context of the great nomadic traditions of human life. This is beautifully written, wry and teasing; it respects aboriginality, but shows a lightness of touch rare in this particularly fraught field.
Arguments have been made against this book on anthropological grounds, and on the grounds that no non-aboriginal person should presume to write about such matters. There may be merit in these points of view; I am simply grateful that Chatwin turned his brilliance to this subject. I find this book as illuminating and as life-affirming now, as when I first read it many years ago.
Other books I can recommend, although more prosaic in style, are Geoffrey Blainey's "The Triumph of the Nomads", Henry Reynolds' "Frontier" and "Why Weren't We Told" and the official reports into the so-called "Stolen Generation" and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
There is still a way to go.