CHENNAI: The International Conference on Culture, Literature and Arts: Australia-India, organised by the Department of English, University of Madras, provided the perfect excuse for Sydney-based aboriginal Australian author-cum-lawyer Nicole Watson to visit Chennai, for the first time ever. And her three-day trip in the metropolis, says Nicole, is going to be tiring for sure, but exciting as well. “I know that these three days are going to be quite strenuous, but I wish to enjoy my stay here as much as I can,” she tells us, with a smile.
Speaking to City Express after delivering a long, exhausting lecture on the inaugural day of the conference, Nicole says that the city’s architecture was something that captured her attention. “It has been only a few hours but I’ve fallen in love with the city. The architecture here is quite captivating. When I actually saw the University of Madras building, I felt as if there was an influence of Arabian architecture,” she says.
So, apart from architecture, is there something else that attracts her towards the city? “The food of course,” she states with a guffaw. “I’m a big lover of chilly, and have been having hot spicy food right from the morning,” she tells us.
Being an aboriginal Australian, Nicole had to face a lot of hardships, especially in the form of racial discrimination, that go as far back as her earliest memories. Born in the 1970s (she doesn’t reveal the exact year to us!), she had been extremely against the policies adopted by the then conservative right-wing government, which was in power in the state of Queensland is Australia.
“The kind of hardships I faced as a child paved the way for my career. I thought that becoming a lawyer was the only way I could fight the system,” says the member of the Birri-Gubba people and the Yugambeh language group. “But once I became a lawyer, I realised that the law operates in a way so as to favour a particular person or a community. So, the law itself was being a part of the system I wanted to change. And that’s precisely when I took to writing. I wanted to bring about a change through my works,” adds Nicole, who was until recently a monthly columnist with the Australian magazine Tracker.
So, having been in the field of law for quite a long time now, what does she have to say about the plight of Indian students who face racial discrimination in Australia on a regular basis? “It is a sad state of affairs, I must say. I feel that the Australian society is yet to evolve. Australians have had the White Australian Policy for a long time, which was actually in operation till 1972, and Australia has always been a land where racism had been largely prevalent. One can only hope that such instances come to an end,” she answers with all seriousness.
Nicole’s first book – The Boundary published in the year 2011, is a crime fiction novel and has an element of mystery. The novel also talks about the plight of the aboriginal Australians and has contemporary political issues weaved in through the plot. “When I actually began working on The Boundary, I never thought that it was going to be a crime fiction. But then later, it just turned out to be one,” she says, jokingly adding, “May be so because I’m also a lawyer!”
The next book that Nicole has in the pipeline is yet to be titled and is again a crime fiction novel. “I’ve finished working on the novel but am looking for a publisher right now,” she lets on as she signs off.