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First Nations of the South-East Region

(Status : Public)
Coordinated by BlackWords Team
  • Who and Where are the Bundjalung?

    The Bundjalung people (also spelt as Bunjalung, Banjalang and Bandjalang) are the original custodians of northern coastal areas of New South Wales, stretching from Grafton on the Clarence River in the south to the Logan River in the north and inland as far as the Great Dividing Range at Tenterfield and Warwick.

    This trail introduces Bundjalung writers, storytellers, and works.


    The Bundjalung language belongs to the Pama-Nyungan family of Australian languages. At the time of first contact with Europeans there were up to 20 dialects of the language, which included the Wahlubal, Yugambeh, Birrihn, Barryugil, Bandjalang, Wudjebal, Wiyabal, Wuhyabal, Minyangbal, Gidhabal, Galibal, and Ngarrahngbal dialects.

    The BlackWords team have so far identified almost one hundred authors who identify as Bundjalung. Prominent Bundjalung writers include Ruby Langford Ginibi, Melissa Lucashenko, Samuel Wagan Watson, and Jon Bell. Some of those writers and their works are listed below.

    Readers are advised to explore resources available at the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) website and the zoomable map of Indigenous Australia, developed as a part of the Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia


    Discover all Bundjalung writers  |  Discover all records related to Bundjalung in AustLit

    Or, conduct your own Advanced Search


    Warning: Please be aware that this work may contain images of people who are now deceased.


    Sources include: AustLang, AITSIS, and Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative.

  • Autobiography/Biography/Life Stories

  • Don't Take Your Love to Town by Ruby Langford Ginibi

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'Don’t Take Your Love to Town is a story of courage in the face of poverty and tragedy. Ruby recounts losing her mother when she was six, growing up in a mission in northern New South Wales and leaving home when she was fifteen. She lived in tin huts and tents in the bush and picked up work on the land while raising nine children virtually single-handedly. Later she struggled to make ends meet in the Koori areas of Sydney. Ruby is an amazing woman whose sense of humour has endured through all the hardships she has experienced.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This work, published in 1988, was Ruby Langford Ginibi's bestselling first book. It has sold over 30,000 copies since publication. Don't Take Your Love to Town is now a formative work of Australian Indigenous memoir and is one of the most important Indigenous life stories to be published in Australia.

  • Talk Softly, Listen Well : Profile of Bundjalung Elder, Charles Moran by Charles Harold Moran and Glennys Moran

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    This image has been sourced from Web

    Talk Softly, Listen Well details Charles Moran's family history, including his early life in the Northern Rivers region and describes how he survived the clash of cultural expectations. (Source: Publishers website)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Grace Roberts : Her Life, Her Mystery, Her Dreaming by Alice Becker

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from Web

    Grace Roberts was a 'stolen' child. This short book tells the story of her life. Grace 'was regarded as a "special woman" , she lived and worked mainly within her own language area, but her presence was felt in far wider circles; the bureacracy of the time both state and federal were very aware of her work and aspirations'. (Source: Grace Roberts: Her Life, Her Mystery, Her Dreaming 198?:4)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Yugambeh : In Defence of Our Country edited by Rory O'Connor and researched by Ysola (Yuke) Best

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from Web

    'In 200 years since colonisation soldiers from this country have distinguished themselves in eight campaigns on foreign soils. Australian Aborigines have served an active role in each of these wars, though their efforts to sign-up were often resisted by official policy that saw them as unsuitable because of their racial origin. After the event Aboriginal contribution was rarely recognised by historians or brought to the attention of the public.'

    'Through the erection of the war memorial the people of Yugambeh Aboriginal group pay tribute to the many Aboriginal service men and women who have served this country'.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This small book includes life stories of Yugambeh/Bundjalung service men and women. It also includes a list of names of persons who served in World War I, World War II, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

  • Bundjalung Writers and Novels

  • Melissa Lucashenko

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    Melissa Lucashenko is an award-winning novelist who lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation. She was born and grew up in Brisbane. After working as a barmaid, delivery driver and karate instructor, Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990.

    Her writing explores the stories and passions of ordinary Australians with particular reference to Aboriginal people and others living around the margins of the first world. Melissa has been an independent screenplay assessor for Screen NSW and Screen Tasmania, and a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko

    image of person or book cover
    Cover image courtesy of publisher.
    'When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours and a looming Native Title war between the local Bundjalung families. When Jo unexpectedly finds love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Watershed by Fabienne Bayet

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    This image has been sourced from online.

    'A haunting novel of loss and redemption, Watershed tells with great poignancy and ironic insight the story of Eve and her husband Marconi, whose son David disappeared one day in the Murray River. A novel of contemporary Australian life.' (Source: TROVE)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    Watershed was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier's Literacy Awards in 2006.

  • Ellen van Neerven

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    Writer and editor Ellen van Neerven is a descendant of the Mununjali (Yugambeh) people from Beaudesert; their father was Dutch. Ellen grew up in Brisbane, where they attended Albany Creek High School; in 2010, Van Neerven graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in Creative Writing Production. In 2011, Ellen was granted a mentorship with black & write! Indigenous Writing and Editing Project as an editing mentor, after which they were appointed as a black & write! Indigenous editor.

    It was in their twenties that Van Neerven began to take writing seriously, although their love of writing began when they were six, encouraged by their grade one teacher.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.'

    'Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, a futuristic world is imagined and the fate of a people threatened. In ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Unconventional Means : The Dream Down Under written by Lorraine Mafia-Williams and Anne Richardson Williams

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    This image has been sourced from Web

    'Unconventional Means: The Dream Down Under is a combination of memoir and personal adventure in which the lives of an upper-middle-class artist from Nashville, TN and an Aboriginal Australian elder intersect. Contains traditional Aboriginal stories and artwork by the author. Sixteen-year-old Anne Williams, shattered by a family tragedy, tries to cope through art and reading. She eventually finds solace in Nevil Shute's novel A Town Like Alice. His heroine's journey through the tribulations of war to find love and a new home modeled after the town of Alice Springs, Australia gives teenage Anne hope "that there is something on the other side of the terrible things" for her, too.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This work includes Aboriginal traditional stories told by Lorraine Mafia-Williams.

  • Bundjalung Themed Children's Books

  • Dirrangun. Illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft. Storytellers Lucy Daly and Eustan Williams

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'Some people say that Dirrangun is a witch, That she's mean and cunning and Brings you all the mischief in the world. Others say that she's friendly. But she's a very old woman and She has long hair down to her knees. Dirrangun is well-known near Grafton and along the north coast of New South Wales. Both the Bunjalung and Githavul people speak of her and of her connection with local landmarks. She is a powerful woman.' (Source: Publishers website)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Remembering Lionsville by Bronwyn Bancroft

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'Come with me to my family's old house in Lionsville. It's full of memories. It's a special place. Uncle Pat calls it a secret place.
    'We played in that old tin cubby, swam in the creek with the catfish, and fell asleep to the ribbip of frogs at night.
    'And around the red cedar table we listened to the old people's stories. We learned a lot that way.
    'Renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft's Remembering Lionsville brings to vivid life her family's oral history and her own childhood memories.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Turtle Egg Day. Illustrated by Bindi Waugh and written by Ruth Thompson

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of Black Ink Press
    The story tells of growing up in the North Queensland rainforest as a loved grandchild. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Bundjalung Poets and Poetry

  • Sam Wagan Watson

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    Author photo credit: Helen Kassila.

    State and National Award-winning poet and professional narrator and storyteller, Samuel Wagan Watson has Irish, German, Dutch, and Aboriginal (Munaldjali and Birri Gubba) ancestry. He is the son of prominent Brisbane-based writer and activist Sam Watson. Born in Brisbane Watson spent much of his earlier life on the fringe of the Sunshine Coast, but moved back to Brisbane to start a career.

    In 1999, he was the winner of the David Unaipon Award for Emerging Indigenous Writers for his first collection of poetry Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight by Samuel Wagan Watson

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    Image courtesy of UQP
    'In a voice youthful, passionate and questioning, these poems reflect on growing up and on letting go; on urban dwellers in love and lust; and on the artist and his Murri community. The politics are unguarded and often amusing, and the language is playful, rhythmic and evocative. Ghosted by ancestors and muses, Watson's cityscape interweaves past and present.' (Source: Publisher's blurb) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Smoke Encrypted Whispers by Samuel Wagan Watson

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    This image has been sourced from Web

    'These poems pulse with the language and images of a mangrove-lined river city, the beckoning highway, the just-glimpsed muse, the tug of childhood and restless ancestors. For the first time Samuel Wagan Watson's poetry has been collected into this stunning volume, which includes a final section of all new work.' (Source: UQP website: www.uqp.uq.edu.au)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Shane Hendry

    Shane Hendry, poet and writer was born in Stanthorpe, Queensland, his poetry helped 'him to understand why, as a child, he was different and why he had a different way of looking at life and the world around him...' (Source: Message Stick, 1997)

    See full AustLit entry

    Shane Hendry has been writing poetry for the Koori Mail since 1995. The Koori Mail is owned jointly by five small Aboriginal organisations in Bundjalung country, on the far north coast of New South Wales.

  • Black Heart by Shane Hendry

    First line of poem: "What about me?"

  • Set Me Free! by Shane Hendry

    First line of poem: "I wonder who will be there?"

  • Bundjalung Theatre and Film

  • Yarrabah! The Musical directed by Rhoda Roberts, and written by Lyndon Terracini and the Yarrabah Community

    image of person or book cover
    Sceencap from Yarrabah! The Musical

    'Opera Australia and the Yarrabah Indigenous Community of Far North Queensland join forces for this world premiere musical. Directed by Rhoda Roberts, this innovative production tells the stories and history of Yarrabah through spoken word, dance and song, performed with a live band and featuring an original score by Shenzo Gregorio, with choreography by Marilyn Miller. Featuring many of the young people and elders of the Yarrabah Community, alongside artists Casey Donovan, Troy Brady and Nick Backstrom, 'YARRABAH! The Musical' is both striking and extraordinary.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Lousy Little Sixpence by Gerry Bostock and Alec Morgan

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    This image has been sourced from Web

    A documentary that uses historical footage and interviews with people who were part of the generation of Indigenous Australians forced into unpaid servitude by the Australian government. The title refers to the amount of pocket money the indentured workers were supposed to be given, but never received, while their wages were managed by their 'employers' on behalf of the Aborigines Protection Board.

    (...more)
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  • David Page - Composer and senior collaborator with Bangarra Dance Theatre

    David Page, singer, composer, actor and a senior collaborator with Bangarra Dance Theatre, was a descendant of the Nunkul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh tribe of south east Queensland. Page had studied saxophone, voice, composition and song at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music at the Adelaide University, and since 1992 composed music for many of the Bangarra Dance Theatre's major works.

    Stephen Page, David's brother had been the Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre since the late 1980s.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Mathinna - Composed by David Page and directed by Stephen Page

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    screencap from Mathinna

    'Inspired by a young girl's journey between two cultures, Mathinna traces the fragmented history of a young Tasmanian Aboriginal girl removed from her traditional life and adopted into Western Colonial society, only to be ultimately returned to the fragments of her original heritage' (Source : www.bangarra.com.au (Sighted 07/10/2009)).

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This video is an excerpt of Mathinna (2008) by Bangarra Dance Theatre company. It is based on the true story of a young Tasmanian Aboriginal girl who lived in the early 1800s.

    Visit the Bangarra Dance Theatre website for educational resources on Mathinna.

  • Jon Bell - Film and Television Producer

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    Jon Bell is a film and television producer. He grew up in Casino. His mother was Bundjalung and his father Wiradjuri. Bell made the short film And Justice For One before being commissioned to make another for SBS called Two Big Boys. He has also worked as a family case worker for the New South Wales Department of Children's Services.

    Among his significant works for television are The Gods of Wheat Street, Cleverman, and The Warriors.

    See full AustLit entry
  • The Gods of Wheat Street by Jon Bell

    image of person or book cover
    Screen cap from promotional trailer

    'The central character in the series is Odin Freeburn, who promised his dying mother 20 years ago he would keep the family together. Now, he has one brother in jail, another brother in love with the daughter of the family enemy and his wife has run away to the city, leaving him to raise their two daughters.

    His employer has just died, his sister-in-law is in love with him and the spirit of his mother Eden has come back to tell him how to do it all so much better and protect the important destiny of the Freeburn line.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    Premiered on the 12 April 2014 on the ABC.

  • Further Reading

  • Into the Photo Box: An Alternative Way of Approaching the Aboriginal Family by Kathleen Butler-McIlwraith

    'This paper suggests that the current depictions of Aboriginal families must be contextualised within an understanding of the complex historical relationships that continue to be marked by both a culture of fear and also a failure to appreciate the alternative narratives on Aboriginal families that are extant with Aboriginal communities themselves.' (Source: Abstract)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Organisations

  • Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative

    This organisation provides vital support to Aboriginal communities who want to revitalise their languages. The support the areas from Tweed to the Hawkesbury River and six languages: Bundalung-Yugambeh, Yaygirr Gumbaynggirr, Gathang, Awabakal-Wanarrua and Darkinyung. For more information see Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative website.


  • “Originally compiled by Irene Howe 2014, updated 2019.”

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