Alexis Wright, activist and award-winning writer, is from the Waanji people from the highlands of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. After her father, a white cattleman, died when she was five, she grew up with her mother and grandmother in Cloncurry, Queensland. She has worked extensively in government departments and Aboriginal agencies across four Australian states and territories as a professional manager, educator, researcher, and writer.
Wright was coordinator of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Constitutional Convention in 1993 and wrote 'Aboriginal Self Government' for Land Rights News, later quoted in full in Henry Reynolds's Aboriginal Sovereignty (1996). Her involvement as a writer and an activist in many Aboriginal organisations and campaigns has included work on mining, publications, fund raising, and land rights both in Australia and overseas.
Besides being published widely in magazines and journals, Wright has edited Take Power Like this Old Man Here, an anthology of writings on the history of the land rights movement in Central Australia, which she edited for the Central Land Council. She has also written Grog War (1997) a book dedicated to the achievements of the traditional Aboriginal Elders of Tennant Creek in their war against alcohol.
Her first novel, Plains of Promise (1997), was nominated for national and international literary awards. However, it was her second novel, Carpentaria that made Wright a figure in world literature, when she won the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2007. Previously, this work had been rejected by every major publisher in Australia until published by Giramondo in 2006. Subsequently, Carpentaria was nominated for and won five national literary awards and has been re-published and translated in the United States and in Europe. Wright’s third novel, The Swan Book (2013), was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin.
Wright has participated in many writers' festivals, conferences, readings and writers workshops in both Australia and overseas, and has been community writer-in-residence for the Central Land Council. Although Wright received a rudimentary education while at school, she has completed degrees in social studies, media and creative writing at universities in Adelaide and Melbourne, and has been a Distinguished Research Fellow at The Writing & Society Research Centre, University of Western Sydney. In November 2017, she was appointed as the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.