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The biography of T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal possession.

The biography of T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal possession.

‘A group of men… chanting with the enthusiasm that made them forget age & weakness & becoming young again in spirit…the rising and falling of the chant melody, like the breathing that gives us life – what an unforgettable scene!’

Thus wrote T. G.H. Strehlow in 1935, as he began his life work, Songs of Central Australia, acclaimed as one of the great books of world literature. Prize-winning poet and historian, Barry Hill, with exclusive access to Strehlow’s diaries, has written a major work about the troubled man who grew up on the Hermannsburg mission, became the first Patrol Officer of Central Australia, called himself the ‘last of the Aranda’, and compulsively collected secret-sacred objects and images.

Broken Song straddles a century of Australian history, from the race wars on the frontier to the modern era of aboriginal land rights, tracking Strehlow’s creative and tragic life in translation.


Monumental, extreme, magnificently obsessed – it is the chief measure of poet Barry Hill’s achievement that readers in years to come may well describe his new biography with the same words used today for the work of Theodor Strehlow, its brooding, haunted, subject.

Nicolas Rothwell, The Weekend Australian

A massive and absorbing contribution to Australian history and letters.

Philip Jones, The Age

Elegant, engaging and sometimes arresting… The research is unflagging and the judgments unsparing.

Gideon Haigh, The Bulletin

Gripping, often surprising, occasionally obscure but altogether inspiring… Broken Song is [Hill’s] Australian masterpiece… This book is both a classic that should live long, and a challenge to black and white Australians now.

Hugh Stretton, The Adelaide Review

This brilliant book brings into focus the importance of language in the relationship of black and white in Australia.

Alan Atkinson, The Sydney Morning Herald

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    August 1, 2003

    Vintage Australia

    800 pages

    RRP $34.99

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  • EBook


    November 1, 2012

    Random House Australia

    848 pages

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