The Cherry Pickers Daughter


FISH - Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health

This second edition of The Cherry Picker's Daughter is an exquisite portrait of growing up Aboriginal on the fringes of outback towns in NSW in the mid-twentieth century. Its an important book for school libraries and classrooms, with profound insights into the extraordinary strength, resilience and ingenuity of Aboriginal families to overcome extreme poverty, persecution, racism and cultural genocide.

The strength of family ties in Aboriginal communities is clearly evident when three-month-old Kerry and her brother lost both parents. Her father, Kevin Gilbert - later to become a famous activist and artist - killed their mother and was jailed for many years. Her father's sister, whom she always called 'Mummy', raised Kerry and her brother, along with her own children and others within the extended family. The book is a tribute to this truly remarkable woman, who not only loved them selflessly and worked tirelessly to support them, but also managed to keep them from being taken/'stolen' by the 'Welfare'.

Told in the child's voice and in the vernacular of her Mob, activist, artist, poet and author, Aunty Kerry, tells her story of love and loss, of dispossession and repeated dislocation growing up in corrugated tin huts, tents and run-down train carriages, of helping her family earn 'an honest living' through fruit picking, and the impact of life as an Aboriginal state ward living under the terror of Protection Laws.

'A wonderful yarn by an Aboriginal Elder about a bygone way of life.' - Melissa Lucashenko, author of Miles Franklin Award-winning Too Much Lip

'Australia has waited too long to read this book of courage and truth. It heralds a timely change in our thinking of Aboriginal activism.' - Jeanine Leane, Wiradjuri writer and academic

'Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your story - so much pain and hurt, but such life-affirming strength and love, too.' - Kate Grenville, author

About the Author

Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert was a Wiradjuri elder, poet, writer, activist and artist. She was the author and editor of numerous works of poetry and prose, including Talkin’ About Country (Kuracca); The Strength of Us as Women: Black women speak (ed. Ginninderra Press); Message Stick: Contemporary Aboriginal writing (ed. IAD Press); Ngunnunggula (Belonging to Here): Stories and poems (ed. FreeXpression); and Black Woman Black Life (Wakefield Press).

A teacher and advocate, Reed-Gilbert was also the co-founder and inaugural chairperson of the First Nations Australian Writers Network. She passed away in July 2019