Tripping Over Feathers



Tripping Over Feathers is the story of Joy Janaka Wiradjuri Williams, an Aboriginal woman who was taken from her mother as a baby and put in a home for white girls.

This affected Joy until her death, shown by author Peter Read as he re-creates key scenes from her life. He uses his own memories of Joy, her autobiographical poems, the memories of others involved in the events and official court and medical records, to put the scenes together.

Tripping Over Feathers covers Joy's life from end to beginning—it starts at her funeral in 2006 and reaches right back to her mother's pregnancy in 1942.

As an effected adult, Joy spent ten years in court suing the Australia's State Government for negligence. Not only did Joy lose the case, but lost two separate appeals. Joy Williams's story exemplifies the detrimental effects of Aboriginal children removed from their mothers at birth. Joy suffered abuse, anger, violence, and mental illness.

Tripping Over Feathers is a new style of biography, written in direct speech and dramatized, often using Joy's own words, with a reverse chronology from death to birth. It offers rare historical insight into the institutions, street life, and Indigenous and urban culture from 1942 to 2006.

Also included are many of Joy Janaka Wiradjuri Williams's poems.

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Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, Tripping Over Feathers, <>, retrieved 2 July 2020

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