Australian music journalist Clinton Walker’s new book about the history of black women in Australian music has been removed from sale after several artists mentioned in the book claimed it contained inaccuracies.
Walker’s book Deadly Woman Blues has been pulled by publisher NewSouth Books, after female musicians Aunty Marlene Cummins, Deborah Cheetham AO, Dr Lou Bennett from Tiddas and Nardi Simpson from Stiff Gins claimed Walker didn’t consult with them during the writing process.
Dr Bennett has told SBS she felt “violated” by the book’s chapter on Tiddas, which she said incorrectly claimed the group were “dropped” by their label PolyGram.
“He refers to us in the past tense… he uses outdated terminology. He stuffed up good and proper,” she said. “It makes me feel violated as an Aboriginal woman. It makes me feel that again my voice has not been heard. It makes me feel angry.”
Ms Cheetham, meanwhile, said she was distressed when she read the section about herself.
“For me, the false statement that I was born on Cummeragunja is particularly distressing, as it denies the experience of my mother Monica who gave birth to me in Nowra District Hospital, only to have me taken from her three weeks later,” she wrote on Facebook.
“In falsely stating that I was born on Cummeragunja also denies the experience of my grandmother Francis who walked off Cummeragunja along with her husband James and their first-born Jimmy (Little) along with 200 other Yorta Yorta people in the 1939 Walk-Off.”
Publisher NewSouth Books issued a statement on Monday, saying it is now “reviewing its processes for publishing books with Indigenous content”.
“We have been made aware that not all the women who appear in the book were consulted about current biographical details and that some entries contain errors of fact,” it said.
“We are deeply sorry for any hurt or distress this has caused the women concerned and apologise to them unreservedly.”
In a statement to SBS, Walker said he was “devastated” that his “failure to consult with many of the women… has caused such distress and anguish to them and to their friends and families”.
“I will be personally approaching some of these women, whose music has meant so much to me over decades, to apologise over the coming weeks,” he said.
“I should have followed protocols and consulted and checked and am now reflecting on my processes as a writer. Given all this, withdrawing the book from sale is the right decision. I apologise unreservedly to the women for any hurt I have caused.”
View a number of Deborah Cheetham’s Facebook posts, below.