In contemporary Australia as well as pre-contact Australia there is no single right way or one way to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Identities will vary according to place, time, language group and socio-historical context of the author.
This trail, created by Professor Anita Heiss, collects just a sample of BlackWords records and other internet resources with themes of identity in Indigenous culture. Explore the entries in the list to see the contents in more detail. Some of the resources are readily available, but some will require a visit to a library or bookshop.
Find more BlackWords information by going to AustLit's Advanced Search form where you can limit your search results to the BlackWords project by selecting BlackWords in the 'Limit to AustLit Project' option, or search for authors with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage by selecting cultural heritage under the 'Personal details' option.
'Nancy is worried. She's said she has a Venus Flytrap, but she hasn't really got one, and now the teacher wants her to bring it in to show the class. Nancy wants so much to be the centre of attention at school that she makes up a story - a wish, really. At home Nancy is grabbing stories out of the air. Maybe the flytrap ate so many blowflies it got sick? But with the help of stories from both sides of her family - white Australian and Aboriginal - she learns something about what is true for her, and what she herself has to offer.(...more)
'In 1982, Sally Morgan travelled back to her grandmother's birthplace. What started as a tentative search for information about her family, turned into an overwhelming emotional and spiritual pilgrimage. My Place is a moving account of a search for truth into which a whole family is gradually drawn, finally freeing the tongues of the author's mother and grandmother, allowing them to tell their own stories.' Source: Publisher's blurb.(...more)
'The remarkable life story of a leading Aboriginal community activist who grew up in a camp in northern NSW, and worked on health, education and other social issues across the state.
"And I said that to this old fella to this old fella at the ticket box: I want you to come and fix this. Take these ropes off! What do you think we are? Our money is as good as anyone else's and we want to sit where we want to sit. I kept standing there in front of the ticket office, and by then my sister-in-law was there too.(...more)
'Born of an Aboriginal mother, and a white father, Ella was raised by her Aboriginal grandparents. Her grandmother, Kundaibark was a Christian and through her Ella grew up a Christian. In the year of her birth, Ella's grandfather moved his family, together with several other Aboriginal families from the crowded and depressed fringe camp at Taree to a new site further out of town. They constructed their own homes, and a UAM missionary was appointed to work there. A church and school were built, the beginnings of the Purfleet Mission.(...more)
'Marnie Kennedy's story begins with her birth in 1919 on the banks of Coppermine Creek in Western Queensland. She tells of her journey to Palm Island where she grew up 'under the act' which dominated the lives of Aboriginal people in Queensland.
The book includes descriptions of Kennedy's hard working life on the cattle stations throughout the north and the people she encountered there. She wrote her story so that white people would come to know and understand the plight of her people by reading of her own life as a 'half-caste'.(...more)
'Lorraine McGee-Sippel was just a small girl when she asked her parents what a half-caste was. It was the 1950s and the first step on a journey that would span decades and lead her to search for her birth family.
'In the historic climate of the Rudd Government's Apology, McGee-Sippel aligns herself with the Stolen Generations as she reveals the far-reaching effects of a government policy that saw her adoptive parents being told their daughter was of Afro-American descent.
'This is not just a story of displacement, but an honest telling that explores the fragility of reconnection, cultural identity, and the triumphs of acceptance.(...more)
'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)
'When Ruby Langford Ginibi was eight years old, her father collected his daughters from the Box Ridge mission and drove them to safety out of reach of the white authorities and the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families. Today an established author and Aboriginal activist, Ruby travels back to her home in Bundjalung country to trace and record the history of her community, her roots. The reader is taken aboard on the journey home, down the backroads of northern New South Wales into the homes and conversations of cousins, aunties, and tribal elders.(...more)
'This absorbing and personal account of Wik activist Jean George Awumpun offers a rare understanding of Aboriginal identity and traditional land. To illustrate her proud Alngith Wikwaya beginnings, Awumpun's early history is told through family member and Alngith descendant Fiona Doyle. This ancestral history combines with the story of Awumpun's struggle in the Wik native title claims, which advanced the earlier Mabo Decision onto mainland Australia.(...more)
"Most people call me Auntie Rita, whites as well as Aboriginal people. Auntie is a term of respect of our older women folk. You don't have to be blood-related or anything. Everyone is kin. That's a beautiful thing because in this way no one is ever truly alone, they always have someone they can turn to."
Rita Huggins told her memories to her daughter Jackie, and some of their conversation is in this book. We witness their intimacy, their similarities and their differences, the '"fighting with their tongues".(...more)
'When Doris Kartinyeri was a month old, her mother died. The family gathered to mourn their loss and welcome the new baby home. But Doris never arrived to live with her family - she was stolen from the hospital and placed in Colebrook Home, where she stayed for the next fourteen years.
The legacy of being a member of the Stolen Generations continued for Doris as she was placed in white homes as a virtual slave, struggled through relationships and suffered with anxiety and mental illness.(...more)
'Alec Kruger was stolen as a child from his family and his country. From this early time he knew the cold and harsh reality of institutions and not the caressing love of his mother or the warmth of other close relations. Still young, he was taken again - to the cattle stations of Central Australia where, even as a boy, he was expected to display all the independence and ingenuity of someone much older. In isolation. Alec faced possible death, till the arrival of Old People from country who saved him, taught him and made him culturally strong.(...more)
'I'm Aboriginal. I'm just not the Aboriginal person a lot of people want or expect me to be.
'What does it mean to be Aboriginal? Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity? Anita Heiss, successful author and passionate campaigner for Aboriginal literacy, was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but was raised in the suburbs of Sydney and educated at the local Catholic school. She is Aboriginal - however, this does not mean she likes to go barefoot and, please, don't ask her to camp in the desert.(...more)
The booklets in this series were produced by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Each booklet describes 'the cultural attachment Aboriginal women have to their local landscape' and in total the booklets record 'the personal stories of 53 Aboriginal women from six NSW regional centres.'
Source: New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service website, http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/Aboriginal+womens+heritage
'Noel Tovey has an amazing story. A street kid in the slums of Carlton, he survived a childhood - buffeted by the horrors of poverty, sex abuse and neglect - which would have killed some, and certainly twisted most beyond hope. This is the story of how he lived and survived the years of childhood and adolescence - and all along the way held on to a sense of hope and optimism which allowed him to realise his potential as a dancer and choreographer in London and the United States.
Little Black Bastard is also a journey back to the Melbourne of the late 1940s and 1950s - and wonderfully evokes the sights and sounds and social mores of the times.(...more)
Swallow the Air follows the life of 15-year-old May Gibson, an Aboriginal girl from New South Wales whose mother commits suicide. May and her brother go to live with their aunt, but eventually May travels further afield, first to Redfern's Block in Sydney, then to the Northern Territory, and finally into central New South Wales. She travels to escape, but also in pursuit of a sense of her own history, family, and identity.(...more)
'My story cannot be painted onto a canvas - it is skin painting.
Brave, haunting and evocative, this powerful volume is poetry as memoir. From her early experiences in an institution and the effect of this on her family to the illustration of her strength as an adult, Elizabeth Hodgson helps make a slice of Aboriginal experience accessible and resonant. Skin Painting explores themes of art, identity, sexuality and loneliness. It is both universal and intimated, honest and important.(...more)
'Jim Bloke's your typical Aussie, sort of. Being an orphan he's done it tough in the past, but he knows how to take care of himself and he has an affinity with life's important things. So when he takes a job as a sea-urchin diver on a stretch of coastal paradise, he's right at home with the morwong, pearl perch and butterfish.
He's less at home with the people - apart from the woman who works as his deckhand - since the industry's crookeder than your average banker. And because Bloke's already done a season in the big gym, he makes a perfect fall guy when things go wrong.(...more)
'Culture and identity, suffering and the triumph of survival thread their way through the short stories, poems, legends, song lyrics, essays and commentaries in this... anthology of Aboriginal writing.
Representing a range of regional and cultural differences, age groups and social circumstances, it is a testimony to the importance of the past in the construction of a better future.' Source: Publisher's blurb(...more)
What do They Call Me? raises questions regarding both lesbian and Aboriginal identity. The three monologues which comprise the play are intricately interwoven and each presents a different view on the impact of legislation from the 1940s through to the 1970s.
Although thrown into jail, Connie Brumbie is at least allowed her Aboriginality. On the other hand, Connie's daughter Regina has been denied knowledge of her true racial background. Having uncovered the fiction of her Eurasian heritage, Regina spends ten years trying to come to terms with her blackness.(...more)
'Ruby's Story is a passionate and emotionally moving concert about stolen children and stolen water, sung and recounted by Ngarrindjeri woman Ruby Hunter and her partner in music and life, Archie Roach (Yorta Yorta).
The much loved and respected Ruby and Archie, both members of the Stolen Generation, are accompanied by Paul Grabowsky and the Australian Art Orchestra in this truly unique performance. The concert recounts Ruby's birth by the side of a billabong near the banks of the Murray River in SA.(...more)
Susan is an Aboriginal girl with red curly hair and fair skin. She shows her Aboriginal story books, clap sticks and boomerangs to the class at school for show and tell. The other children don't believe she is Aboriginal until they are invited to her birthday party. Back at school after the party there is a common resolve to explore identity and harmony.
The story is told as a short video and is available on YouTube here.(...more)
The Heart of the Journey is a multimedia sound and slide show of over three hundred fifty still photographs with digitally recorded and mixed interviews and music as well as a live performance component. The show moves in a linear fashion telling the true story of Lucy Dann's personal journey. Source: The Heart of the Journey website (Sighted 9 June 2009)(...more)
A ground-breaking television series, Women of the Sun was, according to Moran in his Guide to Australian TV Series, born out of co-writer Sonia Borg's desire for a more balanced televisual representation of Indigenous Australians: 'Angry at the plight of Aborigines, she was concerned that many scriptwriters could conceive of Aboriginal women only as prostitutes.' To counter this tendency, she contemplated a series that showed Australian history from the perspective of Aboriginal women, a project for which she sought the colloboration of sociologist and social worker Hyllus Maris.(...more)
Women of the Sun has been a television series, a novel, and a screenplay. See the related AustLit work records.
'Over the last 100 years, the Torres Strait Islanders in far north Australia have been the subject of many anthropological expeditions. The resulting depletion of their cultural artefacts has left them with nothing but a history of remembered loss. The only people in the Pacific to make elaborate turtleshell masks have none left; all their material culture now resides in foreign museums.
'In a quest to reclaim the past, Ephraim Bani, a wise and knowledgeable Torres Strait Islander, travels with his wife to the great museums of Europe where his heritage lies.(...more)
'B.L.A.C.K. is a cypher scribed by independent and indigenous Hip Hop artist, Wire MC, which stands for Born Long Ago Creation's Keeper. Through interview and observation the song is visually and dialectically deconstructed to speak of contemporary issues around Aboriginal blackness, politics and culture. The filmmaker with his own roots in hip hop aligns himself with Wire and through a rapped narrative adds antoher layer of complexity to notions of blackness, by pulling apart his own identity.(...more)
'A Sister's Love is an observational, reflective documentary featuring Rhoda Roberts, best known as an Australian arts presenter and journalist. But behind her smile lies the tragedy of family turmoil, bigotry and the brutal murder of her identical twin sister.
We accompany Rhoda on a road trip home to Lismore in northern NSW to confront the terrible events surrounding the death of her twin sister, Lois, who disappeared while hitchhiking in 1998. Although the local police refused even to file a missing persons report because they assumed she had "just gone walkabout", Lois's brutally murdered remains were found in an isolated part of her Bundjalung homeland some time afterwards.(...more)
‘This article might come as a surprise to some, but to many of my colleagues, both Black and white, who know me more intimately, the following is a brief synopsis of my construction of Aboriginality in response to Bain Attwood's 'Portrait of an Aboriginal as an Artist: Sally Morgan and the Construction of Aboriginality'.’ (Opening lines.)(...more)
'Ray Cotti was born to Aboriginal parents but adopted at a young age by a Swiss German family in Sydney. Growing up in a European culture, he thought of himself as white. Then at the age of eight, Ray was removed from his adoptive family and, after living in a series of institutions, placed in foster care. By the time he was in his teens, confusion about his identity was taking a devastating toll. This is a portrait of a young man on a journey of self-discovery, searching for his origins. Now an active member of an Indigenous community with a family of his own, he has found a sense of belonging.(...more)
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