#TasmanianLitMonth: Feature Writer – Wren Fraser Cameron

Written by author Wren Cameron Fraser

The post-colonial history of Lutruwita/Tasmania is shrouded with the tragedy of what happened to the aboriginal Palawa peoples. Through my eyes, all white achievements have been on stolen land. My novel, The Oyster Girl, delves into this folly of history.

Wren Fraser Cameron

About Me:

For forty years I have lived in an isolated off-grid place on the edge of the Tasmanian World Heritage area in Lune River, where daily life can be a bit hands on… firewood, food production, bushfire mitigation…. My acute sense of place and history is deeply imbued in my writing.

My debut historical fiction novel, The Oyster Girl, has been very well received in Tasmania and is much loved by readers. It has some Chinese connection too as an abalone industry was run down Recherché Bay in the 19th century for the Chinese working the Victorian Goldfields. 

The Making of The Oyster Girl

Tasmania is a gift to the writer.

A heart shaped island, far from the rest of the world, it offers gothic history, secrets, and a wild spirit of place.

I live on Palawa land, Lyluequonny country, a riverine buttongrass plain on the edge of the wilds of far south Iutruwita/Tasmania. I’ve been here, living off-grid for forty years but come from Wurundjeri country on the outskirts of Melbourne. I’ve always known that I lived on Aboriginal land and in my Tasmanian life, through education, employment and activism have had a deep connection to and collaboration with the Aboriginal community. I have two Palawa granddaughters living up the road, connected through their mother, to this place for thousands of years.

I think family secrets are universal and often mined by writers the world over for plot and inspiration. Distill all that darkness and distress on a small island and you find strong drivers for storytelling. Landscape intertwines and becomes a character in its own right. All this, Tasmania, its landscape, history, family and secrets, inform my writing. 

Living on the edge of our world as I do, it is a most telling window into the past with a deep history both human and natural. The Lune River Valley is rich in Earth history. Back in 2000, I was commissioned to write natural history interpretations for the Hasting Caves and Thermal Springs Reserve. A few years later I was part of grassroots campaign to save the culturally historic North East Peninsula of Recherche Bay from woodchipping.

This beautiful, wooded peninsula was the site of the 1792 camp of the French explorer D’Entrecasteaux and his two ships, Recherché and Esperance, full of scientists who explored and scientifically catalogued this wondrous land “where the sound of the axe had never been heard.” Returning in 1793, the French had a prolonged and friendly encounter with the Lyluequonny whose country this was. So different to the violence and dispossession that came not that much later with the British. All of this was distilled into my historical novel The Oyster Girl. I live in the literary landscape of the story.

More about Wren Cameron Fraser

Compiled by guest curator, Bec Taylor

Wren wrote the piece above just after she got off the phone with cultural burning mob Orche Rain to set up another cultural burning education session on her buttongrass moorland. Grant Finlay, director of Orche-Rain, is also an author of a book “about the spiritual and mythic world of Tasmania’s aboriginal people and the impact of colonial disruption in lutruwita / Tasmania.” It’s called Good people always crackney in heaven – mythic conversations in lutruwita / Tasmania.

Below are photos from a recent cultural burning, all used with permission.

Wren’s Home – A Writing Sanctuary

The view from Wren’s upstairs writing studio; a dedicated library; and a writing studio to which we can all aspire!

Wren is working on another two books in The Oyster Girl universe to form a trilogy. She is nearing completion of The Sea Rise Times, set in the near future.  

The Oyster Girl was featured as part of Reading Tasmania by the Friends of North Bruny as well as being touted as a Tasmanian book of note by Tas Writers.

Wren’s Media

You can find Wren’s page for The Oyster Girl on Facebook.

Acknowledgement of Country

I would like to acknowledge the Palawa people as the traditional custodians of the land to which I refer, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. The Palawa people are the indigenous people of Tasmania, and have a rich cultural heritage stretching back over 35,000 years. In sharing about Indigenous Tasmanian practices in this article, I acknowledge and respect the history, culture and knowledge of the Palawa people. May we continue to work together towards reconciliation and recognition of Australia’s first peoples. 

About guest curator, Bec Taylor

I’m Bec Taylor, the EY3 – Grade 2 cybrarian* at the International School of Beijing, China. I’m a global nomad with Australian roots and a Chinese family home – all my immediate family have lived and worked in Beijing as international school teachers for many, many years.  

Overly enthusiastic about everything especially children’s literature, Australian Rules Football (go Doggies!) and food, glorious food, I am easily bribed with coffee and dark chocolate. I am a passionate advocate of social justice, female financial literacy, and finding ways to tread more lightly on the planet. Alongside the demands of a busy family and professional life, I enjoy cultivating community through volunteer work that focuses on healthy families.

I am the current Chair of the Chinese international schools reading promotion, the Panda Book Awards. Titles chosen for the shortlists of the Panda Book Awards meet selection criteria that focus on social justice, diversity and inclusion by up-and-coming authors and illustrators from across the world. There is an added spotlight on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators. 

Twitter is my favorite professional development space so please come find me there: @becinthelibrary

The educational hills I will die on are:

  • a child’s right to choose what they love to read,
  • there is serious magic in reading aloud,
  • and the belief that schools are happier, more equitable places with better academic outcomes when the properly funded school library is well staffed with qualified, collaborative and passionate professionals.

*a fancy name that formalizes and acknowledges the incredible work teacher librarians do each day to find authentic ways to integrate and explore educational technology in order to capture, expand, and enhance student learning.

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