© 2019 by Not Just Black and White Book

Since the book’s release Lesley has been busy accepting invitations throughout Australia: meeting with book clubs and delivering lectures and presentations to universities, schools and other organisations on topics discussed in the book.

These engagements are in addition to her full-time work as a Cultural Advisor to the Queensland Government, where she provides advice on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child safety and wellbeing.

“Tammy and I have been overwhelmed by the public’s response to our book” Lesley reflects.  “It has exceeded all of our expectations.  We are forever grateful for the support we have received from readers around the world who are willing to learn a little about our recent history in Australia.”

 

With the writing of Not Just Black and White completed in 2014, Lesley was then able to divert whatever remaining ‘spare time’ she had, to continue her association with the world renown National Geographic’s Geno Project, which studied the historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our shared genetic roots.  In particular, Lesley has been working since 2006 with Professor John Mitchell and his team from La Trobe University to better understand the anthropological genetics of Indigenous Australians and how they relate to other Indigenous peoples throughout the world.  She played a critical role as the project’s Elder and advisor in developing the right cultural and ethical framework for the decade-long study.

 

The results found that all Australian Aboriginal maternal lineages identified as part of the study are very old, with minimum ages of approximately between 35,000 to 50,000 years. Most lineages are unique to Australia and not found anywhere else in the world.  This confirms that Aboriginal people are the oldest continuous culture outside Africa.

 

“I’m not surprised, but still heartened, to discover that this DNA analysis supports what our parents have taught us over many generations – that we have lived here in Australia since the Dreamtime” says Lesley.

 

Despite being one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures, Indigenous Australians are among the most poorly understood populations from a scientific perspective, in part because of the reluctance of Aboriginal people, in recent years, to participate in research projects.  

“While living under the government’s control, we were subjected to a number of studies and medical examinations which we had little knowledge of and did not consent to” Lesley explains.

“There was little regard to our cultural beliefs and human dignity when hair, urine and faecal samples were taken from us.  This was understandably very traumatic for us.  However, there are now a growing number of us who want to know more… how our cultural knowledge relates to ‘white fulla science’.  But this time, if we are going to be involved in a research project, we have to be involved in the design of the project and be credited with the discovery of any findings.” 

 

The research team’s paper titled ‘Aboriginal Australian mitochondrial genome variation – an increased understanding of population antiquity and diversity’was published in 2017 by a number of internationally respected journals, with Lesley being credited as a co-author.

 

Whenever she can, Lesley returns to her childhood home of Cherbourg to see her family and continues to be actively involved with the Cherbourg Ration Shed Museum and Historical Precinct.  Being with family and friends is what keeps Lesley energised and grounded to continue her important life’s work.  Thus, it’s not surprising that Lesley remains close with her dear friend Andree` (formerly Andree` Roberts) and not so long ago, they celebrated their 50th year of friendship with a joint family dinner.