Mathinna and the British Treatment of Aboriginal Australians: Background information when reading The Exiles

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The Exiles

by Christina Baker Kline

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline X
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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Mathinna and the British Treatment of Aboriginal Australians

This article relates to The Exiles

watercolor painting of Mathinna, age seven, in a red dressIn The Exiles, Christina Baker Kline tells the stories of three women caught up in the British colonization of Australia and the nearby islands (which today form the Commonwealth of Australia). One of these stories is that of a young Aboriginal girl named Mathinna. Although Kline has embellished on what is known about Mathinna's life to some degree, she was a real girl taken from her family to live with the governor of Tasmania John Franklin and his wife in the 1840s in the hopes that she could be "civilized." Tasmania is an island 150 miles south of mainland Australia about the size of West Virginia. It was called Van Diemen's Land at the time, after the governor-general of the Dutch East Indies Anthony van Diemen. Mathinna's forced adoption is just a fragment of the larger tragic picture of violence and abuse inflicted on the Aborigines by the British settlers.

Britain had begun colonizing Australia in 1788 with the establishment of the first penal colony on the continent, and the...

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