This collection of essays has been produced for teachers, students, researchers, and readers in order to highlight AustLit’s BlackWords project, the most comprehensive resource of Indigenous Australian writing available. The essays aim to assist readers to better understand the impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing and publishing on Australia’s literary landscape.
The essays showcase recent trends in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing and highlight the diversity of voices, the range of themes, the genres authors are publishing in, and the ongoing importance of storytelling in contemporary Indigenous society. Common themes emerge in the concerns of Indigenous writers: identity; connection to country; urban life; language maintenance and reclamation. While Indigenous authored books to assist with literacy at a community level is a growing aspect of publishing.
A range of terminology has been used in these essays in order to define Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers who make up the BlackWords dataset. In each case, the chosen term reflects the context of the work being considered. The term ‘First Peoples’ and ‘First Nations’ will mean Aboriginal only, while Indigenous and Black are inclusive of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The author, Dr Anita Heiss, would like to thank Emeritus Professor Gus Worby, Flinders University and Yunggorendi First Nations Centre, for his professional support and good will in undertaking a scholarly edit of these essays; and to Kerry Kilner for textual editing and for recognising the importance of having them as part of the AustLit database.
Dr Heiss would also like to acknowledge the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council who granted her a literature fellowship to research and write these essays, and thereby making them freely available to visitors to BlackWords. AustLit maintains BlackWords through the support of The University of Queensland and the generosity of our subscribers.
In this essay Heiss not only illustrates the breakdown of stereotypes of what Indigenous relationship with land is, but she showcases the wealth of literature being penned nationally by writers who express the diversity of their experiences of 'country'. Whether it be their traditional lands, places they have chosen to relocate to; those that they or their families were removed to; places that people call home and/or connect to; and those who embrace a physical landscape. An historical, social and political space that renders them specifically and culturally significant to individuals, families and community.
In this essay Heiss demonstrates that stories, poetry, songs, plays and memoirs are 'living' evidence of truths otherwise untold or appropriated (Source: Introduction)
In this essay Heiss discusses and explains the important role of anthologies in the creation of communities of writers and in acknowledging, consolidating and launching writing careers.
In this essay Heiss addresses the increasing number of Aboriginal authored children's and young adult literature published that focuses on the 'meaning of place' in an Indigenous context. She demonstrates this by selecting writings and stories from regions such as remote, semi-remote and desert to tropics, which showcase the diversity of life in different parts of Indigenous Australia and the essence of Aboriginal storytelling.
'This essay explores how some recent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authored titles have used local languages and personal histories - including complex stories which deal with the Stolen Generations - to engage and educate young Australian readers, while providing much needed inspiration to nurture Indigenous audiences.' (Source: Heiss, Anita, Aboriginal Literature for Children: More Than Just Pretty Pictures, 2015)
In this essay Heiss discusses Indigenous-authored works that are targeted for upper-primary and young adult readers, that address issues of identity, self esteem, relationships and peer-group pressure that are available for both educators and students. Heiss recommends that these works discussed in this essay, will not only engage young Indigenous students, but also non-Indigenous students and other readers with a sense of sameness in terms of coming of age, facing friendships, and the growing pains that all teenagers face.