"A life's story untold is a life not lived, missus," says Yadaka, a central character in Leah Purcell's latest adaptation of Henry Lawson's short story, The Drover's Wife.
Of course, Purcell's novel isn't her first dalliance with the Australian classic, nor will it be her last.
Her play of the same name enjoyed a stellar run at Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre in 2016 and later cleaned up at various theatre award ceremonies.
Meanwhile, Purcell's feature-length film adaptation of The Drover's Wife is slated for a 2020 release.
But back to Yadaka, and this stirring story.
Readers of Lawson's original will recognise a few plot points in Purcell's adaptation-the rampaging bullock, the long walks in the scrub on Sundays, the rogue swaggies who come calling at the isolated shack - but Yadaka is new.
Where Lawson subjected his drover's wife and her children to a menacing copperhead snake, Purcell produces Yadaka, an Aboriginal man wanted for murder.
It's late in the day when we first meet Yadaka. Molly, the title character, has been bathing in a nearby hot spring to try and bring on the birth of her fifth child, and is walking home when she discovers the man lying face down in the dirt.
It turns out he's not dead and what follows is one of the more violent scenes in the book, and the birth of Molly's stillborn daughter.
The bond formed through their traumatic first encounter is only strengthened when Molly frees Yadaka, chopping off his iron collar with her axe.
"Bury that deep," Molly says of the incriminating piece of government property. They both know they're in this together now.
Set in 1893, in Victoria's inhospitable high country, The Drover's Wife is a thoroughly Australian story. It's a story about hardship, family and the plasticity of justice.
It's also a story that trades heavily in First Nation themes, understandable given Purcell's proud heritage as a Goa, Gunggari, Wakka Wakka Murri woman. In an interview published in Overland recently, Purcell spoke about the enduring importance of stories for people that have lost so much.
"We can't continue our language in most places, we can't continue our dance in most places, we can't have connection to Country in most parts of the country, but what no one can take from us is our stories - what has orally been given to us," she said.
Fittingly, Purcell's book ends with a story-the one about the bullock. And this time it's Danny, Molly's eldest son, who is telling his children the story of the rampaging beast and the woman known as The Drover's Wife.
- T.J. Collins is a Sydney writer, essayist and critic