From the award-winning author of Whispers of this Wik Woman comes this powerful and candid memoir, Double Native - a rare insight into the burgeoning years of the contemporary Indigenous dance movement and what it means to straddle two cultures.
Growing up 'on country' on the west coast of Queensland's Cape York Peninsula in the 1970s and '80s, Fiona had an idyllic traditional Indigenous life.
Night after night we'd fall asleep under the deepest darkest sky blanketed with millions of stars while listening to Nan's soothing voice as she yarned stories of her childhood. Fish would playfully dance in front of us, the fire spreading its warm glow, the sound of the waves gently lulling our spirits into slumber.
At the age of 16, she decided to pursue her dream of performing and moved to Sydney to attend the NAISDA Dance College. There she studied with the legendary Page brothers who went on to found the Bangarra Dance Theatre, and met her future husband.
But an important piece of her life was missing. In her late twenties, Fiona discovered that her father was not named on her birth certificate. 'It made me feel like I had just fallen out of the sky or something.' After finding her Austrian-born father, Fiona carved out a fragile relationship with him. At the same time, she became inspired to better understand her Austrian ancestry and how it meshed with her Indigenous identity.
Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung is the model of a modern woman: mother and professional; performer and creator; teacher and student; urban dweller and remote community inhabitant. Moving between these different worlds, she learns that a sense of identity can have many facets.
Double Native is a compelling meeting of modern life and ancient culture
Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung, daughter of a Mbaiwum woman and a father of Austrian origin, was raised by her grandparents and grew up between the two communities of Napranum (Weipa South) and Aurukun, on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula. Fiona graduated from the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College, Sydney, and James Cook University and has worked as a freelance performer and choreographer.
Her biography/family memoir, Whispers of this Wik Woman, about her grandmother, Jean George Awumpan, Alngith Wikway and Wik Elder, won the 2003 David Unaipon Award and was published by UQP in 2004. It was also made into a play performed by the Kooemba Jdarra Theatre Company. She has written two other works for the stage, A Bastard's Tale and Blak Velvet, and also published children's books, including On Country: Stories of Nyrlotte (2006) and Jindah Murray - Wind Dancer (2011).
Fiona is currently studying for a Master of Education and working with Indigenous girls at Clayfield College. She lives in Brisbane with her three daughters.
Author: Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung