Dr Cindy Solonec's revealing and heartfelt social history, Debesa, chronicles the lives of the Rodriguez family of Debesa Station in the West Kimberley; their livelihood through difficult times, love of family, place and culture, and the challenges of day-to-day living on a small sheep station amid huge pastoral properties.
Spanning four generations from the 1880s to the 1940s and beyond, focusing on the unlikely partnership of Cindy's parents: Frank Rodriguez, once a Spanish Benedictine novice monk at New Norcia, and Katie Fraser, who had been a novitiate in a very different sort of abbey – a convent for 'black' women at Beagle Bay Mission, 130 kilometres north of Broome.
Cindy spent her school years at boarding school, away from her parents and she often wondered what they did in her absence. "When I first began seriously reading my Dad's diaries, I came to see what life was like on Debesa, the trials and tribulations experienced by my parents," said Cindy.
She knew Debesa was a story that needed to be told: "Complementing my Dad's modest journaling are oral histories of my mother's family. I listened to their narratives, drew on the diaries and by cross-referencing these gems agains mission, pastoral and town archives, I brought my ancestors into the present. No longer were they banished and forgotten."
The book also highlights the Nigena landscape and its people's sense of place, revealing why Cindy's extendedFraser families have always had an attachment to the country around Willumbah, an outstation for Liveringa Station in West Kimberley.
Magabala Books CEO, Anna Moulton said: "Debesa is a sweeping social history, centring on one family's triumphs and challenges, set against the backdrop of the beauty of the West Kimberley. It brings to life fascinating, and little-known part of Australia's diverse history."
Together, Frank and Katie Rodriguez established Debesa, where Cindy and her three siblings grew up with the rich cultural heritage of their Spanish, Nigena and English ancestors.
Author: Cindy Solonec