Abstract: This paper describes selected key events in the life of Coolibah, a retired Gurindji stockman, through his non-Aboriginal friend John Boulton. Coolibah made John “a close friend of the same age”, referred to specifically as tjimerra in Gooniyandi language (the language that he has become most familiar with since being removed from his family as a small child). This classifactory kin relationship makes it possible for John Boulton to tell Coolibah’s story. This article is situated within the tradition of oral histories of the lives of Aboriginal people at the colonial frontier. It is also within a tradition of friendships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, including European, people, often anthropologists and other professionals with a deep commitment to that world. In this article, Boulton uses the events of Coolibah’s life and that of his family and kin as a departure point to discuss the impact of history on the health of the people. Coolibah’s life is viewed through the lens of structural violence whereby the causal factors for the gap in health outcomes have been laid down. This article provides the theoretical framework to understand the extent of psychic, emotional and physical harm perpetrated on generations of Aboriginal people from the violent collision of the two worlds on the Australian frontier.

Keywords: Australian Aboriginal, Gurindji, structural violence

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