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About BlackWords

(Status : Public)
Coordinated by BlackWords Team

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    We strive to create a comprehensive record of all publications by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, storytellers, film-makers, critics, and writers in other relevant areas.

  • BlackWords Scope

    In BlackWords we provide descriptive records for works of creative writing:

    • children's literature | adult and young adult fiction | drama and screenplays | poetry

    BlackWords also includes non-fiction, creative non-fiction and other forms of scholarship:

    • biography | autobiography | memoir | works of history and anthropology when relevant | criticism | reviews

    We link to material published online wherever possible and facilitate discovery in libraries through links to the National Library of Australia’s comprehensive search service Trove.


    As appropriate, BlackWords records information about stories from oral traditions, that are part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling cultures, but which have not been formally published. We also record details of organisations such as publishers and performance groups.


    BlackWords aims to include appropriate biographical information about Australian writers and storytellers identifying with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritages.

    Please note: BlackWords does not record cultural heritage information unless authors have publicly claimed these heritages themselves or the information is recorded in the public domain.

  • Terminology

    The heritage terms in BlackWords are used with permission, and conform as far as possible to those used by the AIATSIS - Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies thesauri. Spellings are fluid and may change over time. We attempt to record variant spellings. Language information comes from the AustLang database of Australian Languages.

  • Respectful Use of Proper Nouns

    Yorta Yorta woman, Summer May Finlay, recorded this short video to explain the issues around the use of proper nouns when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or peoples or First Nations Australians. AustLit uses proper noun formation throughout the database.

  • Storyteller

    BlackWords team members create records for recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers, whether or not they have published works. See all the storytellers currently listed in BlackWords here.

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers like Albert Holt and Boori Pryor are eloquent storytellers. When they speak, their words inextricably tie Indigenous peoples to their land and to their mob. Storytelling continues to play an important role in maintaining and passing on knowledge, values and historical information in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. As a form of cultural transmission, storytelling remains an important tool for educating young community members about their roles and responsibilities. (Yvette Holt, BlackWords Team Member, 2007)

    As a work in progress, BlackWords is constantly seeking information on storytellers to include. Feel free to contact us with information about storytellers working in your community. Email us.

  • Black Writing

    In BlackWords, ‘Black’ refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. While the word ‘Black’ has historically been used negatively against the First Australians, in recent times it has been reclaimed by Indigenous communities, and used in preference to terms such as ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’, which are viewed as colonisers’ terms.

    In BlackWords, 'Black writing' means material created by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. All Indigenous writers and storytellers are identified as either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander on their author records. In many cases they are also identified with one or more cultural heritage. We only ever record information about cultural heritage when it is self-reported and/or available in the public record.

    We also record details of works that contain stories or oral narratives that relate to relevant aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience such as mission histories, some works of anthropology, educational texts, journals and correspondence, which might not be included in the broader AustLit scope, but which are relevant to BlackWords.

  • Key Texts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literary Studies

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