Joe has an unorthodox life for a girl – she dresses as a boy and travels with her father, a cameleer who runs a carting business. Joe loves the way things are and wouldn’t change them. But change seems to be forced upon her. A chance meeting with a stranger leads Joe to wonder who she really is. It seems the man she calls ‘Dad’ is not her father her all. Many years ago, he found her, a tiny baby, alone in the outback with her dead parents and took her in.
Now Joe must struggle to come to terms with the tale of her past, as well as coming to grips with the new feelings she struggles with when she meets a young boy her own age. There are also changes coming for the camel team she and her father have worked all her life. Now trucks are able to do the work that the camels once do – and they are able to do it faster.
No One Owns Me explores an era of Western Australian history which will be unfamiliar to many young readers – with events taking place in the Goldfields and interior in a time before motorised transport. At the same time, the story explores issues of cultural difference, family and loyalty, with Joe having to deal with the differences between her blood family and the ‘father’ who has raised her, as well as his reasons for keeping her past from her.
With a dearth of historical fiction set in Western Australia, this one is a welcome find.
No One Owns Me, by Ron Bunney
Fremantle Arts Centre, 2004