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About BlackWords

(Status : Public)
Coordinated by BlackWords Team
  • Our Logo

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    Three symbols of the BlackWords logo frame Brisbane-based graphic designer Michael Gilsenan’s story of how he came to design the distinctive logo.


    The BlackWords logo has been designed around three distinct parts of our culture – Country, Story and Voice. I wanted to show the importance that these three parts play in creating our culture and identity and their relationship to each other. The logo is about these three parts – my country, my story, my voice.

    The logo shape is constructed on a spiral which has vanishing points at each end but no beginning or end. This demonstrates our relationship with our past and the continuum of the future. Our culture is alive – if we have no past, we have no future. The logo is designed to be viewed from the centre, running right to left.

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    The green leaf shape represents Country. The outer portions are the many different countries within the solid portion which represents the whole of Australia. This shows the diversity of our people and the breadth of our land. The centre line of the leaf is the journey within country.

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    The blue shape represents the Story. It has been split into two parts – the oral story and the dance/music story. This shape is then divided by the curved line which shows the journey and creation of the story. It is the pathway which describes my country.

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    From my story came my Voice. The figure rises up and out, showing the vibrancy and aliveness of the story and our culture. The two arms (triangular shapes) of the figure embrace the story and the country. The centre of the figure acts as an arrow to draw the viewer back into the centre to recreate the relationship of all the parts.

  • Our Team: Contributors Past and Present

    Since its establishment in 2006, BlackWords has benefited from a large team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, indexers, and advisors working at many of AustLit's partner institutions.

    Records about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers are created by all AustLit researchers and indexers. By the launch of BlackWords in 2007, most records relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers were reviewed by one or more of the Indigenous researchers working on the BlackWords project.

    BlackWords is managed by Kerry Kilner at The University of Queensland, and was initially developed under the leadership of Professor Anita Heiss. Advisors have included Dr Peter Minter from Sydney University, Professor Gus Worby from Flinders University, Dr Jeanine Leane from University of Melbourne, and Professor Jaky Troy from the University of Sydney.

    Dr Jackie Huggins (Co-Chair of The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples) and Sam Watson (writer and activist), who launched BlackWords at the State Library of Queensland, were instrumental in the establishment of BlackWords.


  • Anita Heiss, Inaugural Coordinator, Champion: UQ

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    Photo credit: Amanda James

    Professor Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales and is one of Australia’s most prolific and well-known authors of Aboriginal literature. She has a PhD in Communication and Media which resulted in a history of Indigenous publishing titled Dhuuluu-Yala : To Talk Straight. Other published works include the historical novel Who Am I? : The Diary of Mary Talence : Sydney, 1937, the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, which she co-edited with Peter Minter.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Kerry Kilner - Director, AustLit; Coordinator: UQ

    Photo courtesy of Kerry Kilner

    Kerry Kilner is the Director and General Editor of AustLit and Research Fellow at The University of Queensland. She has been the coordinator of BlackWords since its establishment in 2006. 

    Kilner was born in Singapore and lived there for less than a year. Her father, who was born in Fiji the child of an Australian father and Samoan mother, was an officer in the Australian Defence Forces and as a result she lived in numerous places along the eastern seaboard of Australia during a peripatetic childhood.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Peter Minter - Advisor, Collaborator: The University of Sydney

    Image courtesy of Peter Minter

    Dr Peter Minter is a leading Australian poet, editor and scholar, and is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, School of Letters, Arts and Media at the University of Sydney. He shares English, Scottish and Aboriginal heritage, and has taught Aboriginal studies at the University of Newcastle, the University of Western Sydney and the University of Sydney.

    His books include blue grass and Empty Texas, which won the Age Poetry Book of the Year Award, and his poetry is widely published and regularly anthologised in Australia and internationally.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Gus Worby - Advisor and Establishment Partner: Flinders University

    Image courtesy Flinders University.

    Gus Worby was born in Stockport, England in 1946. He migrated to Australia with his family in 1954 and settled in Geelong where he attended Geelong Grammar School.He studied Arts at Melbourne University and there became involved with student and professional theatre. He was awarded three Murray Sutherland and University Union Prizes for Acting and Directing, studied for a Masters degree at Melbourne University and worked as tutor, dramaturg and actor with the Melbourne Theatre Company.

    In 1971 he moved to South Australia to join the Flinders University Drama Discipline under Wal Cherry where he completed his PhD whilst teaching in both the Drama Centre and Drama theory streams.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Emily McConochie - BlackWords Engagement Officer: University of Queensland

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    Emily McConochie was born in Maryborough, Qld. She’s a Wakka Wakka woman with German and Scottish heritage. Emily grew up in South-East Queensland travelling between Hervey Bay, Brisbane and Toowoomba. She graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) and a Master of Development Practice and has an Associate Diploma from the Australian College of Music in Speech and Drama. She is a community development worker, a keen social justice advocate, gardener and an amateur comedian.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi - BlackWords Indexer and Content Editor: UQ

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    Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi is apart of the Zagareb and Magaram/Dauareb tribes of Mer (Murray) Island. Their bloodline also reaches the village of Fahefa, Tonga. Meleika is a writer, poet, rapper, film and book critic. Her writing goes against the grain of colonial story telling, with her work always paying tribute to her roots, in ancestral and lyrical ways.
    See full AustLit entry
  • Irene Howe - Indexer, Researcher. The University of Queensland

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    Irene Howe

    Irene Howe worked as a researcher and indexer for BlackWords : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers, a subset of AustLit (Australian Literature Resource) database from 2010 to 2017. She graduated from the University of Queensland in 2012, with an Honours degree in Archaeology and subsequently undertook a Masters of Museum Studies. In 2019, she joined the Australian Armed Forces in Canberra.

    See full AustLit entry

    Irene Howe is a single mother with two children, and is a descendant of the Gudjal and South Sea Islander (Vanuatu) people, of the Charters Towers region, Queensland. Her heritage also includes European descent. She began her tertiary education after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

    With an interest in Heritage, Irene's Honours thesis was based on Interpretation of an archaeological site, at historical Wolston House in the Brisbane/Ipswich region.

  • Jeanine Leane - Coordinator, Researcher: AIATSIS

    photograph courtesy of Anne Kilner

    Wiradjuri woman Dr Jeanine Leane, from south-west New South Wales, grew up on a sheep farm near Gundagai and was educated in Gundagai, Wagga Wagga, Armidale, and Canberra. In 1983, Jeanine was conferred her BA in Literature and History from the University of New England, Armidale, and in 1984 she was awarded a Graduate Diploma of Education from the University of Canberra. After a long career in teaching at secondary and tertiary levels, Jeanine was conferred her PhD in the literature of Aboriginal representation by the University of Technology, Sydney, in 2011.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Janine Dunleavy - Indexer, Researcher: The University of Queensland

    Janine Dunleavy is a mother and grandmother of Koori and Irish Catholic descent. She began her tertiary education after her first grandchild was born and graduated from The University of Queensland with a BA in Anthropology in 2007. Janine has an MA Environment from Griffith University, majoring in Environmental Education. For the last three years, she has taught an Indigenous issues and pedagogy course to tertiary students studying the Bachelor of Education degree at The University of Queensland. Janine's research interests relate to exploring the historical narratives that underpin contemporary white Australia's environmental understandings and how these impact on Aboriginal people's ability to safeguard and engage with their own environmental heritage. Her professional and personal interests lie in promoting positive views of Aboriginal people, society and culture in the mainstream community.

  • Cathy Craigie - Contributor: University of Sydney

    Photo courtesy of author.

    Cathy Craigie is a Gamilaroi and Anaiwon woman form Northern NSW. She has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for over thirty years. One of the original founders of Koori Radio and former Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council, Craigie was also Deputy Director-General of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs. She has written several plays and essays and has worked part time as an Aboriginal arts consultant.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Yaritji Green - Indexer, Researcher: Flinders University

    Yaritji Green completed Certificate III in Creative Writing at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in Alice Springs in 2002. In 2003, Green commenced a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) at Flinders University, South Australia. By 2006, she graduated from her Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing. At the end of 2006, Green became a Research Assistant for the Black Words Database. The following year, she started a librarian traineeship at Flinders University Library.
    See full AustLit entry

    Yaritji has done volunteer work with the South Australian Writers' Centre from 2004-2005. In this same period, she also coordinated the South Australian Indigenous Writers and Storytellers group. While working for both the South Australian Writers' Centre and the South Australian Indigenous Writers and Storytellers group, Yaritji was the co-ordinator of the Inaugural National Indigenous Writers' Festival 2005.

  • Elizabeth Hodgson - Indexer, Researcher: University of Wollongong

    Photograph by the author

    Elizabeth Hodgson is a Wiradjuri woman, born in Wellington, New South Wales. She spent her childhood in a home for fair-skinned Aboriginal children in a Sydney suburb.

    After spending many years travelling, Elizabeth decided to make Wollongong, New South Wales, her home. She has been officially welcomed into Wadi Wadi country and has explored her Aboriginality and spirituality in depth since moving there.

    From 2003-2008, Hodgson sat on the Literature and History panel of Arts NSW and the Indigenous Arts Reference Group and during that time she was chair of the South Coast Writers' Centre.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Jake Milroy - Indexer, Researcher: University of Western Australia

    Jake Milroy is a researcher and writer from Western Australia and is the son of David Milroy (q.v.) and Ruth De Beer. He is a Palyku person from the Pilbara of Western Australia and belongs to the Banaka skin group. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia, Jake Milroy began working for Black Words and became a board member of Yirra Yaakin. He is actively engaged in sharing Aboriginal culture.

    See full AustLit entry

    Jake spent much of his childhood growing up in an environment that encouraged creative artistic expression. His family and immediate family, including Sally Morgan and her three children, have been influential throughout his life encouraging him to be a positive and supportive member of the Indigenous community. As the son of musician, director, Native Title activist and internationally recognised Indigenous playwright David Milroy, it is no surprise that Jake has an imperative from within that propels him into the milieu of Aboriginal culture. He is completing a BA in History and Political Science & International Relations, whilst being active on campus in events that share Aboriginal culture with others. The BlackWords project was another way of continuing his passion.

  • Samantha Faulkner - Coordinator: AIATSIS

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    Image courtesy of Samantha Faulkner 2014.

    Writer and poet, Samantha Faulkner is from the Badu and Moa Islands in the Torres Strait and the Yadhaigana and Wuthuthi/Wuthati peoples of Cape York Peninsula. She has represented women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests on local, state and national boards and has been a Director of the ACT Torres Strait Islanders Corporation.

    Faulkner began her love of writing poetry when she was a teenager. It was during the 1990s, that she received a research grant from the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to research and document her grandfather's life story, which led to the publication of her work, Life B'long Ali Drummond : A Life in the Torres Strait in 2007.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Yvette Holt - Indexer, Researcher: The University of Queensland

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    photo courtesy of author

    Yvette Holt is a member of the Bidjara and Wakaman Nations of central and far north Queensland (Atherton Tablelands). She grew up in the Brisbane community of Inala, where her family have lived for more than forty years.

    A graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Yvette has a degree in Adult Education & Community Management (Business). In 2003 Yvette received the UTS Human Rights Award in the category of Reconciliation for 'her outstanding contribution towards the elevation of social justice for Indigenous Australians.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Carolyn Moylan - Indexer, Researcher: University of Western Australia

    Photo by Lyle Radford.

    Carolyn Moylan is a Nyungar woman, married with two children and seven grandchildren. Carolyn has seven sisters (one deceased) and two brothers (one deceased) and her extended family members are the Haywards and Jacksons from the Southwest and Wheatbelt regions of Western Australia.

    As an active member of the Aboriginal community she has participated in, and facilitated cultural awareness workshops over the years. Carolyn went to third year at high school, but her academic achievements as an adult include the completion of the Aboriginal Bridging Course, a Bachelor of Arts (English) in 1994 at Curtin University and, following this enrolled in a Diploma of Education (Primary) at Murdoch University in 1995 (incomplete).

    See full AustLit entry
  • Josie Harp - Indexer, Researcher: University of Western Australia

    Josie Harp is a Nynoogar woman who is a descendent of the Baladong and Wileman groups of the south east region from Brookton and Pingelly in Western Australia. As a Nynoogar woman she occasionally assists in cultural workshops and cultural site visits.

    Josie is currently an Associate Lecturer in the Aboriginal Bridging Course at Curtin University of Technology, lecturing in Aboriginal studies, as well as tutoring for Aboriginal Bridging students.

  • Jerome Comisari - Indexer, Researcher: AIATSIS

    Jerome Comisari was born in 1990, lives in Canberra and has worked for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) for more than three years. Jerome is delighted to be part of the BlackWords team. Jerome commenced part-time work on the BlackWords project in 2012 and is fully committed to the initiative. He is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at the ANU with majors in political science and philosophy. Besides work and study Jerome has a passionate interest in reading, music and travel.

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