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NAIDOC Week: Seven Books That Help Us Understand and Celebrate Our First Nations’ Culture

July 9, 2019

From July 7-14 is NAIDOC Week. Celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. There are many NAIDOC events held around the country.

We have put together a recommended reading list focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures. This list is just the tip of the iceberg – there is a vast array of literature and research available that can help you and your children understand more, and to help us all move towards genuine understanding reconciliation.

Here are a few titles to start with:

The Yield (2019) Tara June Winch

Just tell the truth and someone will hear it eventually.

The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha.

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

Check out our Facebook clip with Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch where she gives her NAIDOC Week book recommendations.

Talking To My Country (2016) Stan Grant

Talking To My Country is an extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity. In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australia and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an Aboriginal man. This book is Stan’s very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and what racism really means in this country.

Don’t Take Your Love to Town (1998) Ruby Langford Ginibi

With sales of over 30,000 copies since publication in 1988, Don’t Take Your Love to Town is now a seminal work of Indigenous memoir. It has been set for HSC over a number of years and is one of the most important Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander life stories to be published in Australia. Ruby Langford Ginibi is a remarkable woman whose sense of humour has endured through all the hardships she has experienced. This book, her first volume of memoir, is a story of extraordinary courage in the face of poverty and tragedy. She writes about the changing ways of life in Aboriginal communities – rural and urban; the disintegration of traditional lifestyles and the sustaining energy that has come from the renewal of Aboriginal culture in recent years.

Dark Emu (2014) Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu argues for a reconsideration of the ‘hunter-gatherer’ tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession. Accomplished author Bruce Pascoe provides compelling evidence from the diaries of early explorers that suggests that systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern retellings of early Aboriginal history, and that a new look at Australia’s past is required.

Edward Koiki Mabo: His Life and Struggle for Land Rights (2013) Noel Loos, Eddie Mabo

He was in the best sense a fighter for equal rights, a rebel, a free-thinker, a restless spirit, a reformer who saw far into the future and far into the past.’ Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen, plaintiffs’ barrister in the Mabo litigation. Here, largely in his own words, is the incredible story of Edward Koiki Mabo, from his childhood on the Island of Mer through to his struggle within the union cause and the black rights movement. Tragically, Mabo died just months before the historic High Court native-title decision that destroyed forever the concept of terra nullius.

Good Morning, Mr Sarra (2012) Chris Sarra

The story of one man who might just have the answer to a brighter future for Aboriginal Australia. Chris Sarra is best-known nationally as the school principal who turned around the toxic culture and poor attendance rates at Cherbourg State School in Queensland. Slowly, Sarra’s ‘Strong and Smart’ vision lifted community expectations and transformed Cherbourg into a school with belowaverage rates of truancy, growth in student numbers and low levels of vandalism. Under Chris’ leadership the school became nationally acclaimed for its pursuit of the ‘Strong and Smart’ philosophy and Chris’ work there was featured on ABC’s Australian Story (2004). In November 2009 he was named Queensland’s Australian of the Year.

Tiddas (2014) Dr Anita Heiss

A story about what it means to be a friend … Five women, best friends for decades, meet once a month to talk about books … and life, love and the jagged bits in between. Dissecting each other’s lives seems the most natural thing in the world – and honesty, no matter how brutal, is something they treasure. Best friends tell each other everything, don’t they? But each woman harbours a complex secret and one weekend, without warning, everything comes unstuck.

 

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Comments

  1. Belinda Smeal

    I have only read Dark Emu so far and that was so enlightening as a white woman. Even the foreward was amazing. Every non Indigenous person must read this book. Every student, every adult in Australia.

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