Living in Hope

By Frank Byrne with Frances Coughlan & Gerard Waterford

This is the story of the early years of my life. The story of a boy who was taken away from his mother and his family forever when he was just six years old. He had no say in it. His family had no say in it. The government had all the say in everything.

2018 Edition.

First printed 2017.
Paperback 120x178mm 50g. 56 pages.

ISBN: 9780648062905

To order online, please visit NewSouth Books website here. 

This is a very strong story of survival. A tragic reminder of the harshness and unfairness of the mission era but also the toughness and determination of our people.” – Bruce Pascoe.

Book one in the Inland Writers Series—short reads from the Centre of Australia.

Winner of Best Non-Fiction Territory Read 2018

Winner of Most Underrated Book Award 2018

Selected for Book Supply 2019 by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Showcased at Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 by the Australian Publishers Association.

Frank Byrne was a gentleman in every sense. He spoke softly with great authority about those things he knew of stock work, family and resilience and much much more. He loved his family and wanted to share with them his journey to give them a sense of perspective of “living with hope” as he had managed to do despite the adversity he had faced. He was a lovely singer and musician and we very much enjoyed the nights he’d sing with us and friends. He is deeply missed by his families and friends” (Jo Dutton – author and founding member of Ptilotus Press).

Photo by Chris Hallet, 18 August 2015. On the road between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing.

In 2015, Frank Byrne journeyed from Alice Springs through to the Kimberley with Frances Coughlan & Gerard Waterford to retrace his childhood steps & write his life story. Driving west on the Tanami Highway, he would say "those rosary beads keeping us safe". Photo by Chris Hallett,15 August 2015.
Writing on the road. Frank Byrne sits with Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford in their 'office' at Gnylmarung, just north of Beagle Bay mission on 21 August 2015. The son of a Gooniyandi woman and Irish stockman, Frank was born on Christmas Creek station in the Kimberley on 20 July 1937. He is a child of the Stolen Generations, taken from his mother at the age of six. Frank spent the next nine years at Moola Bulla settlement and Beagle Bay mission.
Frank Byrne visits Beagle Bay Mission 69 years after being taken there with other stolen children. He describes on page 27: "One day, without any warning, Alf George got us all together and picked all of these kids out from the mob. Like he was culling cattle. He just rounded up a few of us half-caste boys and girls, got us on the truck and away we went. It was 2 September 1946. I was nine years old. We just left Moola Bulla this day. I did not say goodbye to anyone, not any of the old people who had cared for me for the last three years, nobody. None of us said goodbye". Photo by Chris Hallett. 24 August 2015.
Frank Byrne sketches an early draft of Living In Hope in his own handwriting
Whilst retracing his childhood steps through the Kimberley, Frank meets Johnny Cooper again. Johnny was three years old when he was stolen from Lamboo Station and taken with the Moola Bulla kids to Beagle Bay mission. Frank describes on page 28, "I don't remember seeing little Johnny's mother that day. Maybe she could not face it. We just picked Johnny up and took him, no clothes, no blanket, no goodbye. We did not see anyone there to support the little guy. The blackfellas were all too scared. They feared the government, they just come and take the kids away, they had no say in it".
In the church at Beagle Bay mission, Frank and his mother's story is found on p202 of 'From Patrons to Partners: And the Separated Children of the Kimberley' by M. Zucker (2005.
Roadside consultations with Frank whilst writing Living In Hope. Photo by Chris Hallett, August 2015.

About the author

The son of a Gooniyandi woman and Irish stockman, Frank Byrne was born on Christmas Creek Station in the Kimberley on 20 July 1937. He was a child of the Stolen Generations, taken from his mother at the age of six. Frank spent the next nine years at Moola Bulla native station and Beagle Bay mission, and then, when he turned 15, began his working life as a stockman on Birrindudu Station in the Northern Territory.

Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford are social workers and counsellors at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs, and share an interest in assisting people to tell their stories of survival and courage as part of their therapeutic journey. Frank approached them in 2015 to help him finish his life story. Their work began with a three-week road trip through the Kimberley, retracing Frank’s childhood steps, and meeting with family, friends and fellow Stolen Generations survivors.

Sadly, Frank was diagnosed with cancer shortly after returning from the Kimberley trip. Despite his illness, he continued to work on his book, and he and his writing team completed a full manuscript of his life story shortly before he died.

This book, Living in Hope, is an extract of childhood memories from Frank’s full memoir. It was first launched in Mparntwe/Alice Springs among his family and friends in May 2017. Later that year, he returned to his country in the Kimberley where he died on 20 October 2017.

Frank Byrne is buried beside his mother Maudie Yoorungul in the family graveyard outside Fitzroy Crossing.