Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are respectfully cautioned that this website contains images of people who have passed away.

Is That You, Ruthie?

An inspiring life story, this remarkable memoir won the prestigious David Unaipon Award in 1998. In her recently released sequel Bittersweet Journey Ruth recounts, with characteristic humour and honesty, a dormitory girl’s life after the Mission.

Available. Dispatched 2-3 business days

‘Is that you …?’ Matron’s voice would ring out across the dormitory. In that pause sixty little girls would stop in their tracks, waiting to hear who was in trouble. All too often the name called out would be that of the high spirited dormitory girl Ruthie.

In the Depression years Queensland’s notorious Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission became home to four-year-old Ruth until her late teens when she was sent out to serve as a domestic on a station homestead. Ruthie is the central character in this lively and candid memoir of institutional life. Her milestones and memories reflect the experiences of many dormitory girls. The strong and lasting bonds that developed between them helped to compensate for family love and support denied them by the disruptive removal policy of the day.

Ruth Hegarty

Ruth Hegarty

Ruth Hegarty won the 1998 David Unaipon Award for her manuscript Is That You, Ruthie? Her sequel memoir, Bittersweet Journey (UQP, 2003), recounts her life after Cherbourg Mission as a wife, mother and advocate for the Indigenous community. She has raised a family of eight children and lives in Brisbane.

In 1998 Ruth was awarded the Premier's Award for Queensland Seniors for outstanding service to the community. She is a recognised public speaker and leader and has lectured at many educational institutions including the Australian Catholic University. Her advocacy in the 'Stolen Wages' campaigns and recognition for her dormitory sisters in Cherbourg knows no bounds. In 2010 Ruth received 'The Queensland Greats' Award for 40 years of involvement in Indigenous issues and programs; and in 2014 an Honorary Doctorate from the Australian Catholic University in recognition of her contributions to Australian literature, Indigenous Education and Community Leadership.

In 2023 the adaption of Is That You, Ruthie for the stage takes her story to another level and hopefully shines a spotlight on the impact of the Aboriginal Protection Acts on the lives of her people who were caught in an unjust system of protection, segregation and assimilation.