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y separately published work icon Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia anthology   life story   autobiography   Indigenous story  
Issue Details: First known date: 2018... 2018 Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss, attempts to showcase as many diverse voices, experiences and stories as possible in order to answer that question. Each account reveals, to some degree, the impacts of invasion and colonisation – on language, on country, on ways of life, and on how people are treated daily in the community, the education system, the workplace and friendship groups.

'Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside newly discovered voices of all ages, with experiences spanning coastal and desert regions, cities and remote communities. All of them speak to the heart – sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.

'This groundbreaking anthology aims to enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today.' (Publication Summary)



Reading Australia

Reading Australia

This work has Reading Australia teaching resources.

Unit Suitable ForAC: Year 9 (NSW Stage 5)

Duration4–6 weeks

Curriculum Summary

A summary table for Australian Curriculum: English content descriptions and NSW Syllabus outcomes for this unit


colonialism, diversity, family, First Nations creators, gender, identity, invasion and occupation of Australia, power of language, race, racism, relationships, resistance, social class

General Capabilities

Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding, Intercultural Understanding, Literacy, Personal and Social Capability

Cross-curriculum Priorities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures

Teaching Resources

Teaching Resources

This work has teaching resources.

Teachers' notes from publisher's website.


  • Dedication: In memory of Alice Eather (1988-2017) and so many others who were lost too soon.


* Contents derived from the Collingwood, Fitzroy - Collingwood area, Melbourne - North, Melbourne, Victoria,:Black Inc. , 2018 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Introduction, Anita Heiss , single work essay

'There is no single or simple way to define what it means to grow up Aboriginal in Australia, but this anthology is an attempt to showcase as many of the diverse voices, experiences and stories together as possible.' (Introduction)

(p. 1-3)
Two Tiddas, Susie Anderson , Alice Anderson , single work life story

This chapter is a conversation between sisters Susie and Alice Anderson.  They discuss important aspects of their lives as they were growing up with an emphasis on family and school life. 

'S: What did it mean to you, when we were younger, that we're Aboriginal?

A: Well, I don't ever really remember being sat down and told, 'Hey, Alice, guess what, you're Aboriginal.' For some reason it was an unspoken understanding. It was as much of an understanding to me that I had ten fingers and ten toes or the fact that I only had one parent. I guess when you're a kid you just don't question the why so much. Things just are.' (Introduction)

(p. 5-11)
Finding Ways Home, Evelyn Araluen , single work life story

'I wasn't a nice kid. I'll be the first to admit that. I was loud and smart-arse, scrappy and scabby, and I didn't sleep. I had eyebrows as thick as your thumb and in the front of my mouth were two rotten front teeth, so I smiled like a carnivorous marsupial. Once I ran my sister over with a bike because I was playing cross-eyed. I mostly ate noodles or crab sticks, and I lived on the dreaded silver detention seats. I was never officially expelled, but true god we all knew it was good that I left when I did.' (Introduction)

(p. 12-15)
It's Not Over, Bebe Backhouse , single work life story

'I'm the youngest of six children - three from my father's previous relationship, and three from his marriage with my mother. My father is white and my mother is Aboriginal. However, nothing is ever as simple as that. You see, in addition to the journey that I took as a young Indigenous person, my mother was also on a journey when she was younger; we've ended up in different temporary locations, but the lessons learnt and experiences endured took similar shapes and forms.' (Introduction)

(p. 16-20)
My Story, Alicia Bates , single work life story

'Born in 1989 in Warrnambool, Victoria, on Peek Whurrong-Gunditjmara country, I was my parents' first child and lucky enough to be the first grandchild born on both sides of the family. This meant that I had many significant and close relationships with my extended family, being spoilt by my great-grandmother Ma (Dad's nanna), Nanna (Mum's mum), and my uncles and aunties. During the first five years of my life, my parents bought their first home together in Portland, where my dad was a shift worker at the smelter.' (Introduction)

(p. 21-25)
Dear Australia, Don Bemrose , single work life story

'Dear Australia

I am a descendant of the Gunggari people of the Maranoa district near Mitchell, Queensland. I am a member of a rich living culture. I grew up with a loving, generous extended family on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and I have much to be thankful for.' (Introduction)


(p. 26-30)
My Father Has a Story, Tony Birch , single work life story (p. 31-37)
Scenes of Domestic Lifei"a Saturday night middleweight", Tony Birch , poetry (p. 34)
Awayi"the warmed hollow", Tony Birch , poetry (p. 36-37)
Murri + Migloo = Meeks Mob, Norleen Brinkworth , single work life story

'I was born in 1947 at Yarrabah mission, an Aboriginal reserve run by the Anglican Church of England near Cairns, north Queensland. This mission was where my grandparents, both paternal and maternal, grew up from around the turn of the twentieth century.' (Introduction)

(p. 38-44)
Easter, 1969, Katie Bryan , single work life story

'The day before my fourth birthday my mother made a magnificent cake. She had found the design in one of her magazines - the witch's cottage from Hansel and Gretel. I watched, entranced, as she carved the vanilla pound cake into section. A fat square for the base, and two triangles for wedged above it for the roof. The layers were glued together with thick butter icing; not ideal for engineering, as by the time my party came around one-half of the roof was listing badly in the Brisbane humidity. The entire production was on the verge of collapse, and a hasty fix with toothpicks would be needed to prevent it from toppling, minutes before our gusts arrived. Family and friends might be impaled by the lurking infrastructure, but the star feature of her party table had been saved.' (Introduction)

(p. 45-54)
So Much Still Pending, Deborah Cheetham , single work life story

'It's not a question you hear very often: 'When did you grow up?' But it is one I have asked myself many times. Yes, you read it right the first time and, no, I didn't mean 'when', I meant when.' (Introduction)

(p. 55-61)
'This Is Nat, She's Abo', Natalie Cromb , single work life story

'Coonabarabran, 1995

'Staring out the window as the flat plains turned to rolling hills, I knew it wouldn't be long before we were pulling up in the driveway of our holiday sanctuary. The plains turned to scrub, and the dirt turned red and sandy; the hills were inviting, and the air crisp and cleansing so that your body relaxes and you can breathe better. I didn't know it then, but I know it now: that's what it feels like when you're on country after and absence.' (Introduction)

(p. 62-66)
Thanks for the Childhood Travels, Karen Davis , single work life story

'Dear Mum and Dad, 

'Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to encourage what I consider to be the single most influential factor in my formative years: a sense of adventure. Although we weren't rich, through careful household and financial management, you managed to take us on adventures that I - we - still value today.' (Introduction)

(p. 67-70)
Growing up Beige, Ian Dudley , single work life story

'Do I know much about growing up Aboriginal? Nah, I don't. See, I didn't grow up black, I grew up beige. Latte. Occasionally caramel after a long, late summer, with the first school term of the year and Easter holidays spent shirtless and shoeless roaming the streets and shorelines of home after the true baking heat of a South Australian summer had passed.'  (Introduction)

(p. 71-75)
Yuya Karrabura, Alice Eather , single work life story

[Yuya Karraburra] is about identity, and it was a really hard thing to write in the beginning because identity is such a big issue. It's a large thing to cover. The poem is about the struggle of being in between black and white.'  (Introduction)

(p. 76-85)
White Bread Dreaming, Shannon Foster , single work life story

'One of my earliest memories is of eating white bread sandwiches with my dad. Not Vegemite or peanut butter or devon and tomato sauce sandwiches like the other Australian kids in our working-class suburb of south-western Sydney. No, we ate oyster sandwiches with vinegar and pepper and salt. Sydney rock oysters out of a jar smashed onto bread slathered in margarine. Dad would say that we are saltwater people; we love the sea and would eat anything that came out of it. We are D'harawal Guriwal - whale people - and I wondered, who was everyone else? Were they D'harawal too?' (Introduction)

(p. 86-92)
There Are No Halves, Jason Goninan , single work life story

'I am a Gunditjmara man from my mother's side. I am Irish from my father's side. I was born in Sydney at a time when my biological parents (my 'bios') were living there, however, the rest of my family were born and have lived and been raised in and around Melbourne and throughout Victoria, including Lake Condah, where a mission was located.' (Introduction)

(p. 93-99)
The Sporting Life, Adam Goodes , single work life story

'I grew up in a lot of different places. My family moved around a fair bit when I was a kid, moving closer and then further away from the extended family. Being the eldest was tough growing up. I was supposed to know better, and I was always punished for the mistakes my brothers made. It was nice to be the man of the house but it came with high expectations.' (Introduction)

(p. 100-103)
A Tasmanian Toomelah Tiger, Jodi Haines , single work life story

'You're not a real Aborigine.' 'You don't look Aboriginal.' 'How much Aboriginal is in you?' These are the consistent comments I have listened to throughout my childhood. The judgement and questioning of my identity became engrained into my young pysche and created loads of confusion about who I was growing up. I knew I was Aboriginal, but ignorant people and institutions around me continually questioned me.'  (Introduction)

(p. 104-108)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Collingwood, Fitzroy - Collingwood area, Melbourne - North, Melbourne, Victoria,: Black Inc. , 2018 .
      image of person or book cover 7626717410011890348.jpg
      This image has been sourced from publisher's website
      Extent: 368p.
      • Published 16 April 2018

      ISBN: 9781863959810
      Series: y separately published work icon Growing Up Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2008- 23953800 2008 series - publisher anthology biography

Other Formats

  • Sound recording.
  • Large print.
  • Dyslexic edition.

Works about this Work

y separately published work icon At Home with Anita Heiss Astrid Edwards (interviewer), Melbourne : Bad Producer Productions , 2021 23449892 2021 single work podcast interview

'Dr Anita Heiss is an award-winning author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, children’s novels and blogs. She is a proud member of the Wiradjuri Nation of central New South Wales, an Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the GO Foundation and Worawa Aboriginal College.

'Her novel Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms, set in Cowra during World War II, was the 2020 University of Canberra Book of the Year. Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is her second work of historical fiction, and it is the first commercial work published with only Aboriginal language on the cover in Australia.

'Anita is a board member of University of Queensland Press and Circa Contemporary Circus, and is a Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland. As an artist in residence at La Boite Theatre in 2020, Anita began adapting her novel Tiddas for the stage.' (Production introduction)

Teen Summer Reads : 5 Books to Help Young People Understand Racism Jessica Gannaway , Melitta Hogarth , 2021 single work review
— Appears in: The Conversation , 4 January 2021;

— Review of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia 2018 anthology life story autobiography ; Living on Stolen Land Ambelin Kwaymullina , 2020 selected work poetry prose
Reading and Viewing : [Indigenous Texts for Year 7 - 10] Deborah McPherson , 2019 single work criticism
— Appears in: English in Australia , vol. 54 no. 1 2019; (p. 76-82)
A Logic of Elimination : The Differences and Commonalities of Indigenous Voices David Haworth , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , August no. 413 2019; (p. 41-42)

'The late historian Patrick Wolfe did not pull any punches when he wrote that colonialism seeks to eliminate and replace the Indigenous cultures holding sovereignty over the lands and resources that colonisers wish to claim. Wolfe considered this ‘logic of elimination’ to be one of the defining and persisting features of colonial societies, manifest not only as early-frontier warfare and land expropriation but also as a whole range of subsequent policies and attitudes working towards the erasure, dispossession, or assimilation of Indigenous peoples. By demonstrating the continuity between these policies and attitudes and the violence of the frontier, Wolfe famously asserted that colonial invasion is not a single event occurring in the distant past – something over and done with, which everyone should now move on from – but an ongoing structure within colonial societies today, including Australia.' (Introduction)

y separately published work icon Bonus Episode: Anita Heiss on Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia Marie Matteson (interviewer), Melbourne : Readings , 2018 23467970 2018 single work podcast interview

'Carlton bookseller Marie Matteson chats with Dr Anita Heiss about editing the anthology, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia.' (Production summary)

y separately published work icon [Review] Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Astrid Edwards , Melbourne : Bad Producer Productions , 2018 14402275 2018 review
— Review of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia 2018 anthology life story autobiography

'Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, an anthology edited by Anita Heiss, is an extraordinary and moving work. It is also, in parts, a difficult and heart-breaking read.'  (Introduction)

Teen Summer Reads : 5 Books to Help Young People Understand Racism Jessica Gannaway , Melitta Hogarth , 2021 single work review
— Appears in: The Conversation , 4 January 2021;

— Review of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia 2018 anthology life story autobiography ; Living on Stolen Land Ambelin Kwaymullina , 2020 selected work poetry prose
Because of Her, We Can! The Write Stuff Natalie Cromb , 2018 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 21 March no. 672 2018; (p. 16)

'She has set high the bar on achieving, and broken down barriers between black and white in books such as Am I Black Enough for You?.

'She has defined sisterhood and friendship in Tiddas and reimagined romance in Manhattan Dreaming, all while advocating for the importance of literacy and opportunity for our children.

'She was a finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards (Local Hero), and Am I Black Enough for You? was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards.

'I am speaking about Wiradjuri powerhouse writer, literacy advocate, marathon runner and all-round trailblazer, Dr Anita Heiss. ' (Introduction)

Introduction Anita Heiss , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia 2018; (p. 1-3)

'There is no single or simple way to define what it means to grow up Aboriginal in Australia, but this anthology is an attempt to showcase as many of the diverse voices, experiences and stories together as possible.' (Introduction)

Anita Heiss [ed] Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia CG , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: The Saturday Paper , 14-20 April 2018;

'Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia is a mosaic, its more than 50 tiles –  short personal essays with unique patterns, shapes, colours and textures – coming together to form a powerful portrait of resilience. Some contributors, such as footballer Adam Goodes and opera singer Deborah Cheetham, are well known, others less so. Editor Anita Heiss has also included the stories of educators, journalists, military veterans, musicians, elders and students, many of whom are here published for the first time. Some had happy childhoods and others nightmarish ones, some grew up in their own families and others were stolen from them. They describe different paths to Aboriginal identity against the background of a nation that has yet to come fully to grips with a legacy of massacre, dispossession and persistent racism.' (Introduction)

Anita Heiss : Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Michael Jongen , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: The Newtown Review of Books , May 2018;

'Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia will do much to aid the understanding and commonality between different Australian communities.

'This collection of reminiscences of Indigenous childhoods begins with a moving and beautifully written introduction by editor Anita Heiss. In collating and editing these memories, she has again added to our understanding of the diversity of Aboriginal identity and the strong connection to land.' (Introduction)

Speaking With : Author Anita Heiss on Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia Maggy Liu (editor), Jacinta Elston (interviewer), 2018 single work interview
— Appears in: The Conversation , 5 September 2018;

'Anita Heiss is one of the most prolific writers documenting Aboriginal experiences in Australia today through non-fiction, historical fiction, poetry and children’s literature. Her memoir, Am I Black Enough for You?, was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards. 

'For her latest book, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, Heiss traded the role of writer for editor. The anthology includes 52 essays from First Nations writers spanning the breadth of society, from rural to urban, young to old, coastal regions to the country’s interior, well known authors to emerging writers. There’s even an essay by an opera singer, Don Bemrose, about his experience as what she calls a “double minority” – he’s both Aboriginal and gay.' (Introduction)

Last amended 31 Mar 2022 09:42:55