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In the time I knew Pam Johnstoni during her doctoral study at the University of Wollongong (1995-1998) the search for mothers, the need for certain and indissoluble affections underpinned her art and writing. The father was lost and absent: there was a constant matrilineal momentum in her positioning of herself. “To explore mother daughter relationships, to examine oral histories as a way back to Aboriginal connections to land”, she wrote, was pivotal to her work (Johnston 1997, p.5). As a tribute to her, and because of my admiration for her courage and passion for justice I would like to tease out some of the complexities of her exploration by placing her in the context of her times.