The 7 Stages of Grieving

The 7 Stages of Grieving


Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman

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The 7 Stages of Grieving Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman's The 7 Stages of Grieving. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman

Wesley Enoch is a playwright, theater artist, and director of Aboriginal Nunukul and Aboriginal Nguri heritage. In 1994, Enoch rose to prominence as the Artistic Director of the Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts company. There, he directed several of his own works—including the wildly popular The 7 Stages of Grieving, which he co-wrote with Deborah Mailman and which went on to tour the London International Festival of Theatre, as well as venues across Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide, and Sydney. Enoch has worked as a director for Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, and the Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Cooperative, among numerous other Australian theatrical collectives and companies. Enoch’s career has been devoted to directing both contemporary and classic works, many of which focus on Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander, or First Nations, experiences. Deborah Mailman is an actor and theater artist of Aboriginal Bidjara Nation and Maori heritage. After graduating with a degree in drama from Queensland University of Technology Academy of the Arts in the early 1990s, she has been active in theater, television, and film. Mailman was the first indigenous Australian actress to win the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (for her performance in Radiance, a feature film adapted from a play by Louis Nowra), and her long career has encompassed classical roles, such as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Rosalind in As You Like It, as well as contemporary, experimental, and devised productions.
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Historical Context of The 7 Stages of Grieving

The 7 Stages of Grieving first premiered in 1995, a time of economic and social difficulty in Australia. In 1991, Australia’s parliament passed the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act—a piece of legislation meant to promote the idea of Reconciliation, or a strengthening of relationships between white Australians and the indigenous peoples throughout the country. The legislation, meant to be hopeful and reparative, inflamed controversy and doubt throughout Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander communities. Prime Minister Paul Keating made a speech in December of 1992 to celebrate 1993 as the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. In this speech, he plainly acknowledged white Australia’s failure in its treatment of its indigenous peoples and stated that for Australia to resign itself to such failure would be “morally indefensible.” The speech—which recognized and spoke aloud the truth of colonialism’s ravages on the indigenous community in the form of murder, discrimination, dispossession, and more—was seen as groundbreaking in many ways. It is clear from 7 Stages’ tone, themes, and content, however, that the idea of true reconciliation—which the Woman refers to as “wreck con silly nation”—caused many Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people even more pain. The play makes transparent Enoch and Mailman’s frustrations with the idea that Reconciliation’s goals, while noble, will ever be possible for a people who have been disenfranchised, dispirited, and structurally disadvantaged by colonialist oppression and violence for over two centuries.  

Other Books Related to The 7 Stages of Grieving

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theater artists have contributed their stories and voices to the landscape of contemporary Australian drama, creating work that explores grief, trauma, and struggle alongside pride, resilience, and the hope for a more just society. Among these artists are Eva Johnson (When I Die You’ll All Stop Laughing and Murras), Kevin Gilbert (The Cherry Pickers), and Jimmy Chi (Bran Nue Dae and Corrugation Road). Outside of the theater, several contemporary novels and memoirs seek to explore First Nations peoples’ identities and struggles. Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch and Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington explore the violence, racism, and institutional cruelty to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been subjected since the arrival of white English settlers in 1788—and how centuries of oppression, subjugation, and trauma have forever changed First Nations communities across the land now known as Australia.
Key Facts about The 7 Stages of Grieving
  • Full Title: The 7 Stages of Grieving
  • When Written: Early 1990s
  • Where Written: Brisbane
  • Literary Period: Experimental theater
  • Genre: Drama
  • Setting: Australia
  • Climax: In a moment of catharsis, the Woman scatters the contents of the suitcase, then carefully repacks it and sets it at the audience’s feet.
  • Antagonist: Colonialist oppression; generational trauma; the idea of Reconciliation
  • Point of View: Dramatic

Extra Credit for The 7 Stages of Grieving

Frequent Collaborators. Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman are two artists who have enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful artistic relationship over the years, collaborating on many groundbreaking works that have achieved international recognition. In addition to The 7 Stages of Grieving, Mailman and Enoch have worked together on theatrical productions of Radiance by Louis Nowra and The Sapphires by Tony Briggs. Mailman went on to star in the film versions of both plays in 1998 and 2013 respectively, receiving recognition in the category of Best Leading Movie Actress from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards for both.