With the horrific images of hooded and shackled young Aboriginal boys still fresh in mind, this was always going to be an emotional memoir to read. 

saltwaterCathy McLennan was a young law graduate when she arrived to work at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service in Townsville.

On day one, with no other lawyers available to help, a murder case lands in her inexperienced hands.

Four Aboriginal boys, known troublemakers, are accused of brutally murdering a drunk white man by kicking him to death.

Police aren’t helpful and the children are terrified. In the following weeks and months, battling daily to keep both innocent and guilty out of jail, McLennan becomes deeply involved in several local cases.

Most heartbreaking is tiny Olivia, who is 11 years old and badly neglected. A regular thief, she also trades oral sex for alcohol and marijuana from some local white men. Olivia is increasingly brutalised, but McLennan struggles to find anyone willing to offer support or sympathy.

This a powerful memoir that is emotional and disturbing, and one of its key strengths is that it seems to look at the issues fairly, without glossing over the difficulties, or stereotyping or demonising one side or the other.

McLennan won the Queensland Literary Award for best emerging author.

This book was first published in August 2016. My review was first published in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine.