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MUBA18 Spotlight: ‘Living in Hope’ by Frank Byrne with Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford

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Warning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples, this content contains images and voices of deceased persons.

Living in Hope-Frank Byrne-Ptilotus Press
Credit: Ptilotus Press

Living in Hope, by the late Frank Byrne with Frances Coughlan and Gerard Waterford, is the next book in our MUBA18 shortlist spotlights. 

Living in Hope by Frank Byrne is ‘more than just a story of surviving’. A child of the Stolen Generation, Frank was moved from place to place after being taken from his mother, a Gooniyandi woman from Christmas Creek. Living in Hope is a record of Frank’s enduring determination from childhood through to adolescence, dotted with moments of joy within the overwhelmingly harsh and unjust era of the Stolen Generation.

From the judges:

‘Told in simple but powerful language, the story is one that all Australians should read to understand the impact of the Stolen Generations on individual lives. Byrne writes: “I still have memories of my life at Christmas Creek before I was taken away.” He writes fondly about his time with his extended family in the Kimberley, hunting kangaroos with his stepfather, visiting his mother’s family at Fitzroy Crossing and hiding in a cave during World War 2. But then he was taken from his parents and left to fend for himself. It is heartbreaking to read his words: “I was only six years old and had to survive the best way I could.”’

In 2015, Frank worked with Gerard Waterford and Frances Coughlan on Living in Hope, with the early chapters drafted during a trip through the Kimberley region. Frank was diagnosed with cancer shortly after returning from the Kimberley and as his book neared completion, Frank’s life was also drawing to an end. He died on the 20th of October, 2017. Living in Hope comprises the first three chapters of Frank’s life story, a final manuscript is awaiting publication.

Frank Byrne-Living in Hope-Ptilotus Press
‘It takes a lot of time to write a book’. Working in Franny’s house, 2016/7 (Credit: Frances Coughlan)

‘It is very important for people to learn what happened back in them days, the way the government system was authorized to take kids away from their parents. People need to learn from that history. The MUBA shortlist gets our Dad’s story out there and people need to understand his story doesn’t just reflect what happened to Aboriginal people here, but what has happened to Indigenous Peoples across the world.’ – Trevor Byrne, son of Frank Byrne

Gerard Waterford is a social worker, counsellor and writer based in Mparntwe Alice Springs. He is a co-founder of the Central Australian Narrative Therapy Group and works at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress as a ‘Bringing Them Home’ counsellor. In this role, he has assisted many survivors of the Stolen Generations in writing memoirs including Alex Kruger’s Alone on the Soaks (2007 IAD Press).

Frances Coughlan is a social worker who has worked in Mparntwe Alice Springs for over 20 years, in the beginning with Tangentyere Council and now with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress where she is employed as a ‘Bringing Them Home’ counsellor in the Social and Emotional Wellbeing program. Her practice is influenced by narrative and family therapies which place people as the experts in their own lives, and draw on the resilience, humour, compassion and creativity that people bring to survive through hard times.

‘Frank wrote this story to have an impact on what is happening in the current world. He wanted his own kids, his grandkids and the families around him to actually know what happened to the Stolen Generations. He wanted it recorded for history. He was absolutely outraged by John Howard and others making claims that children were being rescued not stolen. That was painful for him to hear. That denial of truth was a reason why he was driven to have this story out. His story and stories like this are really important.’ –Gerard Waterford & Frances Coughlan, co-authors. 


  • The 2018 Most Underrated Book Award will be presented by Louise Swinn on the evening of Thursday, 22 November 2018, during the SPN’s Independent Publishing Conference. This free event will be hosted by the Wheeler Centre. Bookings can be made here.
  • More information about Living in Hope can be found at Ptilotus Press.
  • As part of a tribute to Frank’s life, photos will be uploaded to a memorial gallery here.

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