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Riding the Black Cockatoo
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Riding the Black Cockatoo

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  163 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The inspiring true story of one man's reconciliation journey. All through his growing-up years, John Danalis's family had an Aboriginal skull on the mantelpiece; yet only as an adult did he ask where it came from and whether it should be restored to its rightful owners.
ebook, 274 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Allen & Unwin Australia (first published January 1st 2009)
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Lisa
As others have said, the author seems sincere, but there were times when the tone of this book became hectoring.
And I thought it was rather odd that he made an allusion to 4 million Jews being murdered in the Holocaust - when everyone knows it's 6 million.
Book Bazaar


We very rarely get original non fiction for teens, but this book is certainly an exception.



John Danalis' inspiring tale of reconciliation as he tracks down the rightful owners of the Aboriginal skull that has been on his family's mantlepiece for years is a refreshingly honest account of a white Australian coming to terms with Australian history, Aboriginal people and his own family history. This story is important as it does not come from a beginning of racism: John's family were not racists, t...more
Dionne
Wow, what a book! This is an amazingly insightful autobiography about the author's journey through a country he thought he knew. In Australia, horrific things have been done to the Indigenous people, including removing their bones from the earth and sending them to museums around the world. John Danalis tells of his awakening to Aboriginal culture, and he takes his own journey of reconciliation. I cried through half this book. It has really hit home to me how much the average, white person in th...more
Alison
I'm in two minds about this book. The subject matter was interesting and very different to anything I have read before. I really enjoyed the opening chapters and the underlying story of returning 'Mary' to Country. The beginning of the book was confronting and I suspected that I would end up recommending it to everyone I know. However, as it progressed I found it a little too preachy and melodramatic. Unfortunately, for me, this detracted from the gritty, earnest nature of the central story. Ove...more
Sarah
I'd have to agree with some of these comments. The first half seemed like an honest no-holds-barred assessment of the current relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons, yet as it neared the end it started to feel too contrived. I highly enjoyed it when John evaluated his views from a position of power and privilege, yet as it continued it felt as if he had placed himself in the same mindset as those he met throughout his journey.

Whilst I commend his interest in Indigenous cultu...more
Melpomene
This is a story of a journey from heartbreak, confusion and despair to repatriation, reconciliation and country. It is John Danalis’ story of how he came to to embark on a journey of discovery into the heart of indigenous Australia, its people and its history to begin healing not only his own psyche but the collective soul of Australia.

In this compelling and lyrical non-fiction voyage we learn and feel and see the story of our country unfold through John’s innocent boyhood eyes up to his sensiti...more
Anthony Eaton
This is a book all Australians should read. And probably all other nationalities, too.

"Riding the Black Cockatoo' is John Dinalis' account of how, during his late 30's, he came to confront a terrible wrong within his family, and of the journey he had to undertake in order to correct it and to take the first tentative steps towards healing. He grew up in a house with an inherited Aboriginal skull sitting on the mantelpiece, and this book is the story of how he came to understand the horrible sifn...more
Alex
Riding a black cockatoo, a true story by John Daniels is a great novel for the younger generation, most specifically teens. This is a story about a man called John Daniels, who as a kid lived in a house with a skull of an aboriginal person on his mantel piece, who later on has an adult he starts an aboriginal writing course and had the idea to send the skull back to where it came from. This is a great novel because it teaches a lot about how the aboriginal society of today and how it works, and...more
Mary Lennox
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
LunaStella
This book is so poorly written it is astonishing that it was ever published. It reads like something a Year 9 student would write for an English class - basic vocabulary, total lack of text coherence, simple sentence structures (not one complex sentence in the entire book), and a lack of fluency. It also lacks intelligent insight.
Bernard Leckning
Here is a real life story of reconciliation - it's not easy, can be painful and requires effort.

This very personal story of Danalis is touching and honest. But it swamps the conclusion to the point where it starts to feel therapeutic in tone and cathartic in function. It left me with the bitter taste of doubting what was driving Danalis' personal pursuit for reconciliation - was it the burning desire to rid himself of the guilt of his family secret or was it a moral and political response to the...more
Alastair
It is a great book but it seems more like a book with meaning rather than for entertainment
Nikki
Had to read this for a school, wish they would let us choose the book next time. This took forever to get through!
Joel
Despite the subject matter, Danalis's "Riding the Black Cockatoo" is a surprisingly gentle and brisk read. Detailing the repatriation of human remains to the homeland of their Aboriginal nation, Danalis writes with great sincerity and honesty, detailing his own awakening to the darkness of Australian history and his realisations for the achievement of genuine reconciliation. Obviously deeply felt, "Riding the Black Cockatoo" provides a strong introduction to some fundamentals of Australian cultu...more
Meredith Walker
Just because something is an important story to be told doesn’t make it a good story to read. Usually non-fiction brings with it an innate level of engagement. In this instance, however, it alienated the audience as there was little sense of engagement with the character engendered through the author’s matter of fact writing style. Where description was attempted, it seemed laborious rather than complementary to the narrative. Such a shame given the importance of its themes.
Conor Wolohan
This is a compelling story of how the skull aboriginal man, found on the banks of the Murray River over 40 years ago, came to be returned to his Wamba Wamba descendants. It is a story of awakening, forgiveness and friendship. It is as if a whole window into Indigenous culture has blown open. Part history, part detective story, part cultural discovery and emotional journey, this is a book for young and old, showing the transformative and healing power of true reconciliation.
sarah t
The story is about the return of an aboriginal skull to its rightful burying ground. There were some aspects of this non-fiction book that I liked: the narrator is very earnest and honest (and even his rather extensive use of exclamation points doesn't seem to bother me), the writing style is simple and effective, and there were pictures (but the map was too small). I can't exactly put my finger on what troubles me, but some of it didn't sit totally right with me.
Gail Burns
I first heard John Danalis interviewed on Conversations with Richard Fidler on ABC Radio and developed an interest in reading more of John's experience with returning Mary to his burial place. It is a story of awakening, atonement, forgiveness and friendship. 'It is as if a whole window into Indigenous culture has blown open, not just the window, but every door in the house," says John Danalis. It served to reinvigorate my conscience!
Rebecca
A good story to be told but poorly written, childlike in so many ways.
Nate Rawdon
However much I tried, I was completely unable to get into this book. I found the story to be bland and repetitive from the start, and though I understood the story's significance, I felt that it was not suited to being a book. There was also a surprisingly large amount of grammatical errors, and I failed in trying to enjoy the character story-lines. Overall, I found this true story was unable to live up to its hype.
Tariya
I had to read this book for school and usually I try and make the best of school books but I just couldn't get into reading this. I found that it felt like I was reading one big long rant the entire way through and I really didn't find it all that enjoyable. Although some sections were interesting, if it weren't for school, I would never have and probably never will again, read this book.
Sue
Loved this. It is non-fiction, but a real easy read. At times a little too preachy about the difference between Aboriginal and White values and everything in-between. This detracted a little from his wonderful life changing experience of returning the Aboriginal skull "Mary", which he had grown up with on the mantel piece at home, to his (yes, Mary was male) mob and country.
Wendy Rolls
A personal and honest account of the author's first-hand experience of indigenous culture. His emotional journey provides an opportunity for non-indigenous readers to see the human consequences of white culture's insensitivity. The gracious response to the author's sometimes awkward encounters make this an encouraging book of hope for black/white relations in Australia.
Rebecca
I enjoyed this book, easy read, interesting story. The second half of the book is different from the first - but I just saw it as John still finding his place in the world, using his new knowledge and understanding. I think he was just being honest about how he thought and there is nothing wrong with that. I think some reviewers have judged him harshly.
Kris
A really interesting read, Danalis sets about returning to country, the Aboriginal skull his family had sitting above fireplace for over 20 years.
It's an interesting door to walk through.
Recommended for teachers/students of English, History/Humanities, and those looking at personal perspectives and cultural hurts.
kp
HG
Quite confronting and depressing but forces you to think about the indigenous experience and your own percpetions. Needs some scaffolding if using it with students. I have used it with high ability Year 8 in a unit where they can choose the indigenous (themed) text that they read.
Amu
This was a really enjoyable read which tapped into the continuing disconnect for most white Australians from the beliefs and reality of the Aboriginal experience.
Peter
I really found this book impossible to put down. It's a very quick read and quite a touching story of a man and his family's reconciliation story. Highly recommended.
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