RiP Colin Johnson aka Mudrooroo
Prolific writer, activist and academic Colin Johnson, also known as Mudrooroo, has died in Brisbane, aged 80.
Born in Narrogin, WA, Johnson was one of 12 children and grew up in state care. After his release from Fremantle Prison, he published his first book with the support of writer and historian Mary Durack.
White Cat Falling was published by Angus & Robertson in 1965 and follows a part-Indigenous man and his struggle to fit into white society following his release from jail. This was followed by numerous works that interrogated the experience of Aboriginal people in Australia, including novels such as Long Live Sandawara and Doctor Wooreddy’s Prescription for Enduring the Ending of the World; poetry collections including Song Circle of Jacky and Dalwurra, the Black Bittern; nonfiction including Before the Invasion: Aboriginal Life to 1788 and Writing from the Fringe: A Study of Modern Aboriginal Literature; and the plays Big Sunday and Mutjinggaba: The Place of the Old Woman.
In 1988 Johnson changed his name to Mudrooroo Nyoongah. However, in 1996 his sister wrote a newspaper article claiming the family’s ancestry was actually Irish and African American, raising questions about his Indigenous heritage. Johnson became the subject of intense criticism, as he had previously questioned the genealogy of Indigenous writer Sally Morgan, and his Noongar ancestry was publicly refuted by Noongar elders.
Following the controversy, Johnson left Australia to live in Nepal.