Singing the Coast

singing the coast cover

Margaret Somerville

Tony Perkins

May, 2010
Product type: 
Book format: 
Aboriginal Studies Press
Place of publication: 
$34.95 RRP incl. GST


Singing the coast offers readers a rare opportunity to visit the heart of Gumbaynggirr culture and trace the shaping of place and identity in coastal Australia. The story began under the coral trees at the Old Camp where Tony Perkins first sat with his grandfather and listened to his stories. His grandfather was an initiated man who brought the spirit creatures along to teach the knowledge that was once passed on in initiation. By recording their stories Gumbaynggirr people invite us to share their intimate connection with their land. The stories are brought into a contemporary present at Muurrbay through deep mapping of the songlines that cross Gumbaynggirr country to reveal how people, place and identity are connected. Tony Perkins and Margaret Somerville take up the challenge of speaking from the place between Aboriginal and settler stories to share the experience of this rich collaboration.

Margaret Somerville writes from Indigenous stories of the natural world and is passionately interested in landscape and questions of identity and belonging. This is her fifth book about place attachments, three of these written in collaboration with Aboriginal people and communities. She is a Professor of Education at Monash University.

Tony Perkins is a cultural knowledge holder and member of the Garby Elders of Corindi Beach in New South Wales. He revitalised Yarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation where he was Manager until he became CEO of an Aboriginal employment agency in Coffs Harbour. He is motivated by the desire to reconnect young Aboriginal people to their culture in order to build a proud and strong Aboriginal future.

Reviews and endorsements

'Singing the coast has opened up part of the NSW coastline through language and stories both traditional and contemporary, that are lived but have been, until now, largely unspoken. With the resurgence of language these stories now take on particular significance for Gumbaynggirr people, but also enable the wider population to look at the same country with different eyes, and it can act as an adjunct to academic texts.'

— Gary Foley

'Singing the coast is one of the most beautiful and important books to enter our world in recent time. It is a journey within meeting places: where sea and land meet, and where oral and written modes of storytelling weave together. It is drenched in love and knowledge, and blessed with the always astonishing generosity of Indigenous Australians. Read, enjoy, and find yourself ambushed by its subtly transformative power.'

— Deborah Bird Rose

'An impressive work of stories intricately woven together like a mosaic which reveals the important message of living in harmony with the land and waterways. Particularly powerful is the varied life included: paperbarks, birds, animals, amphibians, reptiles, as well as the connection the book engages and demands of the reader.'

— Dr Greg Blyton

'This book bears testimony to the art of listening in a context where the voices of such communities, and the injustices and the creative adaptations, have too often been rendered silent or ignored. It provides an intimate picture of the formation of the community and a compelling portrayal of the social world created and sustained by people in "no man’s land"'.

— Dr Barry Morris

This is ideal reading for anyone interested in aboriginal studies, Australian history or postcolonial studies, or simply for the pleasure of a spiritual experience through words, images and information.

— Anastasia Gonis, Bookseller+Publisher Magazine, May–June 2010

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Last reviewed: 12 Sep 2016