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Riding the Black Cockatoo

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  240 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
All through his growing-up years, John Danalis's family had an Aboriginal skull on the mantelpiece; yet only as an adult after enrolling in an Indigenous Writing course did he ask his family where it came from and whether it should be restored to its rightful owners. This is the compelling story of how the skull of an Aboriginal man, found on the banks of the Murray River ...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2009)
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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
Aug 12, 2012 Dionne rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Meredith Walker
Apr 03, 2013 Meredith Walker rated it did not like it
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.
LunaStella
Oct 11, 2014 LunaStella rated it did not like it
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.
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.
Anthony Eaton
Jan 08, 2011 Anthony Eaton rated it it was amazing
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
Cevrine
Apr 11, 2016 Cevrine rated it liked it
Study for year 11 english.
Honestly it was just boring. I just wanted to get the book over and done with. Below is the homework that was required to be done, in full PEEL format:
PS> There are a lot of typos, but you know, who cares...

Riding of the black cockatoo explored an excellant thesis on the evident culture of the Indigenous people and their land., however, John Danalsis demonstrated a poor language style and lacked a captivating understanding. There were elements of mundane language,
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Alison
Dec 28, 2011 Alison rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Rebecca
Apr 29, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Shelves: factual
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.
Liv
May 18, 2016 Liv rated it liked it
Drones on, but I love the awareness that John develops throughout the novel. I understand the depression he gets at the end of the novel when he discovers what happened to the Aboriginals over the last 300 years
Jackson
Aug 19, 2015 Jackson rated it really liked it
A moving and well told story. I particularly liked the sympathetic way the father was presented and the honesty of the author.
Mason Parkes
Sep 24, 2016 Mason Parkes rated it really liked it
Great read! I thouroughly enjoyed all of it. It was a very interesting book and an interesting view into an extremely different culture. I have read other things about Australia (most notably Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country") and wondered how it could be that so many people were so completely ignored. Reading this helped me learn about Aboriginal Australians but it also helped me to look more deeply at the issues of race and culture in America. Especially at a time when issues like ...more
Melpomene
Jun 29, 2011 Melpomene rated it it was amazing
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
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Alex
Nov 10, 2013 Alex rated it liked it
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
Moonie Jarl
Feb 26, 2014 Moonie Jarl rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julee T
Apr 10, 2015 Julee T rated it it was amazing
This is an important book about understanding the process of reconciliation from both sides. Whilst the idea of keeping human remains in the family home is obscene, curios were collected from all over the globe including private collections containing Egyptian and Incan mummies, ethics that are seldom discussed outside of the History classroom. The story puts a very personal face on the repatriation of remains -all remains and artefacts without placing blame or creating anger, which makes it a ...more
Sarah
Feb 20, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
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
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Bernard Leckning
Apr 16, 2011 Bernard Leckning rated it liked it
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
Lynda
Mar 28, 2016 Lynda rated it really liked it
Non-fiction account of John Danalis' personal quest to repatriate the skull of an Aboriginal Wamba Wamba man from near Swan Hill.
John's father, collector of curios, had received the skull many years before, and it remained on display in the family home, given the nickname 'Mary'. After John joins an Indigenous Writing course at university, he realizes the skull must be returned. His frank and moving story shows the myths and misconceptions toward indigenous culture on the part of non-indigenous
...more
Dimity Powell
Apr 15, 2015 Dimity Powell rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Breathtakingly raw and undiluted account of two men's journeys to find home and their true place, one unable to return there without the help of the other. Written with an eloquence and sincerity that gently raises ones compassion and ultimately understanding of our intricate Indigenous culture. At once heart wrenching and uplifting. I'm familiar with John's tales for children but this was a refreshing departure into the life and mind of a gifted writer.
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.
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!
sarah t
Mar 28, 2011 sarah t rated it liked it
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.
Nate Rawdon
Feb 20, 2012 Nate Rawdon rated it did not like it
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.
Kris
Mar 26, 2014 Kris rated it really liked it
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
Wendy Rolls
Nov 23, 2012 Wendy Rolls rated it really liked it
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.
Sue
Feb 09, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
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.
Tariya
Jun 19, 2013 Tariya rated it did not like it
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.
Ystyn Francis
Apr 16, 2016 Ystyn Francis rated it liked it
Though at times both the writing style and the actions of the author made me cringe, this is a story worth reading and offers a glimpse of the effort that needs to be made by each and every non-Indigenous Australian to help heal the atrocities of the past.
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