Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Robert Salt: a write of passage

Robert Salt. Photo: Kim V. Goldsmith Robert Salt. Photo: Kim V. Goldsmith

Robert Salt is a Dubbo-based writer and visual artist excited at the opportunity and prospects offered by the Staging Stories.

Growing up at Brewarrina, he says he had few creative opportunities.

“I’ve always been an avid reader. I remember in high school I was always wanting to read, and jotting down stories when I was 14 or 15.

“In the past three or four years in Dubbo I’ve been a lot more interested in screen writing and writing of stories. Dubbo has a really strong writing and art scene so I’ve been fortunate to have that avenue.”

Describing himself as culturally connected to Brewarrina and western NSW, Salt has lived on different countries and nations, including Tamworth, Maitland, Sydney and now Dubbo.

“I’ve a lot of experience across NSW and a lot of stories to share.”

Several events in Salt’s life are responsible for bringing his writing to the fore in terms of being a priority in his life, including his move to Dubbo to be closer to family, the passing of his mother earlier this year, and his recent 40th birthday – giving him a feeling of more “cultural authority” to now write about his experiences.

“I’ve had an interesting and varied life; I’ve listened to my mother who was Aboriginal, and my father who is non-Aboriginal – both had interesting lives that they shared with me, which I’ve tried to relay through my writing.

“I’ve taken an eclectic approach to it, combining my history with my mother’s and father’s histories, the countries and nations I’ve lived on, and my extended family and friends I come into contact with.

“My writing comes from a very personal place. It is very literal, biographical.

“I’ve been doing a lot of writing on Aboriginality, which relates to a person’s connection to Aboriginal identity and culture. Coming from mixed cultural heritage, I’m able to draw on the good and bad of both cultures.”

Salt says he’s had no formal training as a writer and considers himself very “raw”.

“I’m very unstructured and there’s a part of me, deep down, that would like to remain that type of writer.

“I write with a lot of passion and heart and I have a slight fear that if I do become trained I might lose some of the creativity and passion.

“As an Aboriginal writer I really believe we need to have a balance of emotion and passion with some structure and a professional presentation of our writing that will then be accepted into the non-Aboriginal writing world.”

He has already experienced seeing his words on paper acted on stage, at last year’s Short+Sweet theatre event in Dubbo.

It’s something that excites him and he’s keen to explore this side of his creativity further, particularly given his tendency to visualise as he is writing.

“As I’m getting older and more into script writing, I’m looking at some of the more well-known Aboriginal script writers, like Kevin Gilbert...and I’ve done a fair bit of reading on Sally Morgan, and learning more about what they’re writing about.

“I’d like to get away from political Aboriginal content though...sharing more about what it’s like living in Australia in 2014.

“As an artist and a writer I probably call myself a social commentator, which I think is my mother’s influence. She was a very strong Aboriginal woman who came from a family of activists.”

Salt believes mainstream Australian audiences are ready for Aboriginal stories to be told, but he’s also keen to gain broader acceptance as a writer.

“I’d like to have my writing judged and liked on its own merits, not because I’m writing about an Aboriginal topic or I’m an Aboriginal writer.

“I want to emotionally connect with people and get them thinking about their own lives.

“There’s a part of me that’s always conflicted about how I present my writing, so I’ll be keen to see how it’s received in the workshops.”