'Aboriginal life stories during the 1980s and 1990s changed the face of Australian history and literature. Aside from a few important exceptions, prior to these times Aboriginal life stories had not emerged as a genre and the majority of life stories at this time were penned by white writers and were semi-fictional. Sally Morgan’s book My Place (Morgan 1988) marks the beginning of a new genre of Aboriginal life writing and other Aboriginal people followed her lead by publishing their stories. These stories made a significant intervention into Australian history, telling first-hand how Aboriginal people survived under the strict state government laws enforced upon them. It was something of a time of enlightenment for many of Australia’s literati and the general public as Aboriginal people penned their way to a new genre. Now there are many life stories told by Aboriginal people and a developing critical literature growing up around Aboriginal life writing. Oliver Haag has written a comprehensive study of Aboriginal biography and autobiography in his paper, ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream’ (Haag 2008) and traces Aboriginal writing from David Unaipon in 1951, and Theresa Clements in 1954, to the current times. Anne Brewster’s two books on Aboriginal autobiography and biography, Literary Formations: Post-colonialism, nationalism, globalism and Reading Aboriginal Women’s Autobiography (Brewster 1995, 1996), are significant contributions to the field. Both books give insights into Aboriginal writing of life stories, especially the latter, which studies Aboriginal women’s life-story writers such as Ruby Langford and Doris Pilkington (Langford 1988; Pilkington 1991). Drawing on these surveys of the field, I argue that Aboriginal autobiographies are conceptually different from western forms of autobiography in that they spring from prior Indigenous sovereign traditions.' (Introduction)
Epigraph: ‘Like myself, my ego. Half wants to belong to the white world; the other yearns for the black of my mother’s people.’ Thomas Corbett.
(van den Berg 1994, p. 2)