AustLit logo
person or book cover
Photo courtesy of the author.
Alexis Wright Alexis Wright i(A6167 works by)
Born: Established: 1950 Cloncurry, Far North Queensland, Queensland, ;
Gender: Female
Heritage: Aboriginal Waanyi ; Aboriginal ; Chinese
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


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.



Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Tracker Tracker : Stories of Tracker Tilmouth Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2017 11570382 2017 single work biography

'The legendary Indigenous activist ‘Tracker’ Tilmouth died in Darwin in 2015. Taken from his family as a child and brought up on a mission on Croker Island, he returned home to transform the world of Aboriginal politics. He worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council. He was a visionary and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his colourful anecdotes. The memoir was composed by Wright from interviews with Tracker before he died, as well as with his family, friends and colleagues, weaving his and their stories together into a book that is as much a tribute to the role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of a remarkable man.'  (Publication summary)

2019 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction
2018 winner Queensland Literary Awards Non-Fiction Book Award
2018 shortlisted Colin Roderick Award
2018 winner ASAL Awards The Australian Historical Association Awards Magarey Medal for Biography
2018 shortlisted Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Australian Biography of the Year
2018 winner The Stella Prize
2018 longlisted Indie Awards Nonfiction
2018 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Award for Non-Fiction
y separately published work icon The Swan Book Artarmon : Giramondo Publishing , 2013 Z1836223 2013 single work novel (taught in 14 units)

'The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city. The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.' (Publisher's blurb)

2014 shortlisted Voss Literary Prize
2014 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing
2014 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
2014 shortlisted Miles Franklin Literary Award
2014 winner ASAL Awards ALS Gold Medal
2014 shortlisted The Stella Prize
2014 shortlisted Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing Fiction
2016 shortlisted Festival Awards for Literature (SA) Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature Award for Fiction
2016 winner Australian Centre Literary Awards The Kate Challis RAKA Award
Dirtsong 2009 single work musical theatre

'Dirtsong is a music performance from Aboriginal Australia mixing traditional and contemporary songs, existing repertoire with newly commissioned music and sung in many Indigenous Australian languages.

'A narrative about country, dirtsong evokes a sense of geographical place and country as a series of encounters, memories, occurrences, obligations and nature.

'With words from Miles Franklin Award-winning author Alexis Wright (Carpentaria), these songs evoke a new conceptual and emotional map of Australia's heartland while gently awakening some of Australia's sleeping languages.'

Source: Black Arm Band website,
Sighted: 28/09/2009

2010 nominated Helpmann Awards for Performing Arts in Australia Best New Australian Work Nominated for the 2009 Arts House production.
Last amended 16 Oct 2019 13:34:20
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: