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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers
(Status : Public)
Coordinated by BlackWords Team
  • What BlackWords Covers and Sources Used

    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.

  • Works Included

    BlackWords includes descriptive records for works of creative writing:

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

    It also creates records for non-fiction, creative non-fiction and other forms of scholarship:

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

    BlackWords also includes, as appropriate, records and information about stories from oral traditions, that are part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling cultures, but which have not been formally published.

    Library holdings of published works and details of manuscripts or literary papers are provided through links to the National Library of Australia’s comprehensive search service Trove.

  • Authors and Organisations Included

    BlackWords aims to include appropriate biographical information about Australian writers and storytellers identifying with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritages. BlackWords never records cultural heritage information unless authors have publicly claimed these heritages themselves or the information is recorded in the public domain.

    The heritage terms in this subset are used with permission and conform as far as possible to those used by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies thesauri. Spellings are fluid and may change over time. We try to record variant spellings.

    We also record details of organisations such as publishers and performance groups.

  • Who is an Indigenous Storyteller?

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    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytellers like Albert Holt (pictured, at right) 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, it remains an important tool for educating young community members about their roles and responsibilities.

    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.

    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.

  • What Do We Mean By Black?

  • In BlackWords, ‘Black’ refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. While the word ‘Black’ has historically been used negatively against the Indigenous peoples of Australia, 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.

  • Tribal, Tribe, Nation, Peoples

    Rosemary van den Berg, image courtesy of the author.

    I don’t use the terms ‘tribe’, ‘tribes’ or ‘tribal’. They are archaic and very colonial. Those days are over and the sooner people realise that the better it will be for the Indigenous people in Australia. When one says ‘tribe’, ‘tribes’ and ‘tribal’, I believe it is derogatory because Aboriginal people no longer live under colonial or post-colonial rule. There is no place for these terms in the 21st century. There are other alternatives people can use, like group, people or where a person originally comes from, like Nyoongar, Wongki or Yamitji, or Koori, as many Aboriginal people from the eastern states are known. These terms don’t categorise Aboriginal people from the 19th and 20th centuries and are more identity-friendly to the Indigenous people.

    — Dr Rosemary van den Berg, author of No Options No Choice! The Moore River Experience

  • Custodians and Makers


    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are the traditional keepers of their oral history, we are the custodians presiding over Indigenous Australian literature, each time we translate Black Words onto white paper we are reclaiming an integral piece of our heritage, culture and language. We canvass an essential and significant position on the vast Australian literary landscape, infusing contemporary and ancestral values through all genres including but not restricted to: Fiction, Non-fiction, Biography, Autobiography, Poetry, Academic works, Short stories.

    Yvette Holt, poet and BlackWords contributor

  • The Map of Australia

  • The Horton Map of Australia

    Click on the map to explore the ABC map of Australia showing the nations and lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

  • Foundational Texts For Indigenous Literature