Notable Indigenous Australian Authors

This November, Aunty Munya Andrews’ newest work will be released–a beautiful picture book for children that explores the changing seasons. Following previous publications written for adult readers, this first book in the series of Ask Aunty is a way to introduce topics, themes, and ideas that are so important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to a new generation.

To mark these forthcoming children’s Indigenous Australian books, with the first due to be released in November 2023, we recognise some of the best-known authors who have published original Aboriginal stories or recreated classic Dreamtime narratives to share and acknowledge the importance of storytelling to First Nations cultures.

Indigenous Australian Children’s Authors

Children can learn a wealth of ideas, concepts, and cultural beliefs, such as why Dreamtime is important to Aboriginal culture and what it represents through fiction and non-fiction books. Some examples of Indigenous authors who help to make this happen include:

Charmaine Bennell

Bennell is a Noongar author who writes and illustrates books in her native language, having worked as a Noongar linguistics teacher and now studying towards a degree in Indigenous Languages.

She has worked on the Moort family reader series and published The Rainbow Serpent from Blackwood River, also available as an audiobook.

Mary Carmel Charles

Born in 1912 to the Nyulnyul tribe, Charles was also the last living fluent speaker of the dialect, publishing her book, Winin: Why the Emu Cannot Fly with dual languages and with a guide at the back helping readers understand how to pronounce Nyulnyul words.

Her book was written for children and is set ‘in the Dreamtime’, telling the story of the jealousy of other birds, who clip the wings of an emu until it cannot fly at all.

Anita Heiss

Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri in New South Wales and is one of the best-known Australian authors. Her works cover multiple genres and children’s fiction, including Yirra and Her Deadly Dog Demon.

She was shortlisted for the QLD Literary Awards and has been a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards and the Australian of the Year Awards 2013.

Aboriginal Novelists

Faith Bandler

Australian civil rights campaigner and activist, born to Scottish-Indian and South Sea Islander parents, Bandler was widely involved in the campaign to implement the 1967 referendum–an important part of the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Bandler began writing in 1974 and published four books–two covering the history of the referendum and two based on family life. Bandler was appointed MBE in 1976 but refused the honour, and was awarded the Order of Australia, AM, in 1984 to recognise her work within Aboriginal welfare.

David Unaipon

Preacher, author, and inventor David Unaipon was Ngarrindjeri and lived from 1872 to 1967, advocating for equality for Indigenous people and speaking directly to the government about how First Nations people were treated. His book, Native Legends was about Aboriginal pioneers and made him the first Indigenous-published author in 1927.

Unaipon’s inventions secured him ten patents, and he also wrote many articles for national newspapers, retelling Dreaming stories and campaigning for self-determination. Today, his legacy is marked on the Australian $50 banknote.

Melissa Lucashenko

After publishing her first book in 1997, Lucashenko, of European and Bundjalung heritage, has achieved acclaim, won numerous awards, and been shortlisted for many others–including the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2019, the Queensland Award for State Significance, and the Royal Blind Society Award.

Lucashenko’s writing covers the history of First Nations people, imagining what a different future of Australia might look like, depicting everyday people and how their culture and heritage impact their lives, chances, and experiences.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Poets

Lisa Bellear

Niece to the first Indigenous judge in Australia and one of the founders of the Aboriginal Housing Corporation in 1971, Bellear was adopted as a baby into a white family who told her mistruths about her background–which she later researched as an adult to reconnect with her Aboriginal heritage.

Her poetry book, Dreaming in Urban Areas, discusses what life is like in modern Australia. Alongside her photography work, which has been exhibited at the Melbourne Museum and at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, Bellear was awarded the 2006 Deadly Awards prize for contributions to literature following her play, The Dirty Mile.

Claire G. Coleman

An author of poetry, fiction, and essays, Coleman has written several books expressing her experiences of travelling and the impact of colonisation. Her most acclaimed work was Terra Nullius, for which Black&Write awarded her an Indigenous Writing Fellowship.

Coleman also won the Norma Kathleen Hemming Award for science fiction works and covers numerous complex topics in her writing, from greed and privilege to lack of privacy and homophobia.

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