A warm and attentive crowd filled the Albany Town Hall on Saturday night for the launch of Albany-raised author Molly Schmidt’s debut novel Salt River Road. Schmidt said it felt special to be launching the book in her hometown. With more than one person shedding a tear, including mum Jenny who opened proceedings, the event was clearly a deeply personal one for Schmidt’s friends, family members, and collaborators. “They say it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a village to write a book — this village,” Schmidt said. “I’m so glad to be launching this book on this country.” The story follows siblings Rose and Frank as they come to terms with the loss of their mother, an experience close to Schmidt’s heart, having lost her own father to terminal cancer when she was 10 years old. Schmidt said the writing began as a tool to process her own grief “through a lens that meant I didn’t have to be quite so close to it”. “He is the heartbeat in this whole book, the pain of it is my pain,” she said. Schmidt grew up in Lower Kalgan, the only child of two loving parents, before moving to Perth to study journalism and creative writing at Curtin University. There she met her supervisor, Noongar author Kim Scott, who introduced her to Noongar elders Lester Coyne, Averil Dean, Carol Pettersen, Ezzard Flowers and Glen Colbung. Over two years, Schmidt spent hours with the five elders, crafting the characters of Uncle Herbert and Aunty Patsy who help the siblings with their grief as they journey along their own path to healing. The book’s weaving together of Indigenous and non-Indigenous stories was not lost on the audience, with a national referendum on the Voice to Parliament just weeks away. In his welcome to country, Lester Coyne urged those present to vote Yes on the question of altering Australia’s constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. “Albany owes Noongar people big time,” he said. “We are getting a recognition now for the importance of us as a people on our own land. “It has been a great thing that has been happening in Albany and we’re way in front of everybody else with our recognition of us as a really strong proud people.” Schmidt and Billie-Jo Whitbread of Paperbark Merchants discussed Schmidt’s writing inspiration and process before Schmidt read passages from the book and closed proceedings with a thank you to her collaborators and loved ones. “I reckon Dad would be grinning his head off,” Schmidt said. 587 Country opened and closed the event with covers of rock and roll songs that feature in the book. Published by Fremantle Press, the book will be released on October 3.