A South West Aboriginal elder dedicated to breaking down Australia’s cultural barriers has released a memoir, detailing his life as a highly regarded figure in the Australian community and as a member of the Stolen Generation. Two Cultures, One Story is the account of Bibilmum Noongar elder Robert Isaacs, who spent his childhood in institutions before rising through the ranks of the public service to become one of Australia’s most inspiring leaders. From a long career in local government, introducing many innovative policies and programs to help Aboriginal people, to receiving numerous awards including the Order of Australia on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2016, Dr Isaacs has contributed to the Australian community in more ways than most. The book was written by Tanaz Byrami in collaboration with Dr Isaacs and his story is hoped to inspire Aboriginal youth. Dr Isaacs is the great-grandson of Aboriginal stockman Samuel Isaacs, who rode with Grace Bussell in 1876 to rescue more than 50 survivors from the wreck of the SS Georgette at Redgate Beach. He only met his family and realised his connection to the hero as an adult in the late 1970s and was not “aware” of his Aboriginal heritage until just years earlier. “I had a vague understanding that I was Aboriginal when I was at school. At Clontarf Boys’ Town, when I was 11 or 12, I would go out into the bush and get lost amongst the pines, I was drawn to the birds, the waters, the sky, the wind blowing. I was literally smelling the sense of belonging. I didn’t know it at the time, or what it meant,” he said. Dr Isaacs said although difficult to relive some of his childhood memories, releasing the book was an important step in his life. “It was really enjoyable to tell my story. I love to have a yarn, but it was difficult to capture my story on paper and to find the right words,” he said. “Some parts were upsetting, but I also enjoyed some of it. I had a tough upbringing but I didn’t really know any better. “Looking back, I know that some of the things that happened were really awful, but there were also happy times from my childhood.” Dr Isaacs was always determined to rise above his circumstances and make a difference. He said he wanted to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage he noticed in his early life and has successfully provided much-needed reform in Aboriginal affairs, housing, health, home ownership and education. He said his ability to embrace who he was and honour the past were great contributors to his success. “I have found a way to embrace the reality of who I am — an Aboriginal person taken from my family, denied my identity and discriminated against. But at the same time, given an education and an opportunity to work hard and make a difference to my community,” he said. “The choices I have made have allowed me to find a way to balance being a proud Aboriginal and supporting my people with navigating modern, white Australia.” Dr Isaacs is committed to inspiring Aboriginal youth to help them respect and remember their heritage while they find their place in modern society. “Getting an education, earning a living, owning your own home and respecting your property — these things don’t make you any less Aboriginal. You can adhere to Aboriginal lore and white Australian law at the same time,” he said. A major project Dr Isaacs is working on is creating a new locality in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Park to be named Yebble, which is his great grandfathers Aboriginal name. “The Shire has never created a new locality before — this is truly groundbreaking and history making,” Dr Isaacs said. Two Cultures, One Story can be found at local bookshops and online at Magabala Books.