The Aboriginal Studies Press was established in 1963 'to compensate for the lack of interest by commercial publishers in Aboriginal studies'. The encouragement and publicisation of Aboriginal culture and writing was a requirement of the act under which the Aboriginal Studies Press and its parent body, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) were founded.
By the late 1980s, the Press had broadened its role to include the promotion of its texts. In 1994, the publication of The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Studies (ed. David Horton) 'shifted Aboriginal studies out of the hands of the specialists' into a mainstream market. In the 1990s, the press 'began a concerted effort to find and encourage and publish Aboriginal authors' and 'in a move to expand beyond the academic market, more books were published for a general readership', including fiction, poetry and children's books. [Louise Poland, 'An Enduring Record: Aboriginal Publishing in Australia 1988-1998', AustralianStudies, 2001, p. 93.]
In 1998, the press was repositioned as the publishing arm of AIATSIS, and its publishing program was reduced in size. Despite this, the Press remains the leading publisher of works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies. At the beginning of the new millennium, Sandra Phillips was appointed to manage the list - the Press's inaugural Indigenous publisher - and an increase in manuscripts submitted by Aboriginal authors is a 'welcome trend'. (Anita Heiss, Dhuuluu-Yala (To Talk Straight), Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003, p. 57 and 66-67.)
See: Anita Heiss, Dhuuluu-Yala (To Talk Straight)(Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003), which offers a valuable comparative study of the politics of publishing Indigenous writers.