Author and activist Stephen Hagan is a descendant of the Kullilli people of south-west Queensland. His early years were spent living in a fringe camp on the outskirts of Cunnamulla but at the age of seven the family moved to the town.
Hagan was educated at the Marist Brothers College in Ashgrove, Brisbane, and began training as a teacher in 1979. Before completion, he moved to the public service to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs. During his time with the Department he was posted to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Hagan worked with Charles Perkins on issues around social justice for Aboriginal people. He also spent some time working among the destitute in Calcutta with Mother Theresa. Hagan has worked in various public service roles as well as venturing into cultural tourism in the private sector before becoming an academic and in 2006 was awarded the NAIDOC Person of the Year.
Hagan had lectured at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba, Queelnsland, and also became the editor of the National Indigenous Times newspaper, and wrote a regular column on Indigenous Australian issues in the Koori Mail ,the fortnightly national Indigenous newspaper, and also writes regular opinion pieces for online and print publications. Recently, Hagan with his wife Rhonda are editors for the First Nations Telegraph a free online daily news website.
Cathy Freeman is an Australian sprinter who specialises in the 400-metre race. She won her first gold medal at a school athletics championship when she was eight years old. Like many Australian Aboriginal people, Freeman's family was poor and experienced racial discrimination. Her family worked hard to raise the money needed to take her to national competitions. The family moved to Brisbane in 1989 to be near Freeman, who had won a scholarship to Kooralbyn International School, where she was being professionally coached. After moving to Melbourne in 1990, she won a gold medal as a member of the 4 x 100-metre relay team at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, becoming the first Australian Aboriginal woman to win a gold medal at an international athletics event. In 1990, Freeman was named Aboriginal Athlete of the Year.
At the 1994 Commonwealth Games, held in Victoria, Canada, she made world headlines after winning the 400-metre race, because she flew the Aboriginal flag instead of the Australian flag during her victory lap. Although the Australian team leader barred her from flying the Aboriginal flag, Freeman defied him by flying the Aboriginal flag again after she won the 200-metre race. She used the publicity to explain the symbolism of the Aboriginal flag: red for the earth, the ochre used in ceremonies, and Aboriginal people's spiritual relationship to the land; yellow for the sun, the giver and protector of all life; and black for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Freeman lit the cauldron at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Also in 2000, she was awarded an Australian Sports Medal, recognising her achievements as World Champion in 1997 and 1999, Commonwealth Champion in 1994, and winner of the Victorian Institute of Sport Award of Excellence in 1997. Freeman was named World Sportswoman of the Year in 2001. On 15 July 2003, she announced her retirement from competitive running. Her last official sporting engagement was in 2006, when she was one of the final runners in the Queen's Baton Relay, bringing the baton into the Melbourne Cricket Ground at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Victoria.
Since retiring, Freeman has dedicated her time to the Cathy Freeman Foundation and the numerous other charities of which she is a patron.
Cathy was inducted into Sport Australia Hall of Fame in October 2011.
Historian, Professor John Maynard is a descendant of the Worimi people of Port Stephens, New South Wales. His main field of research interest is Australian Aboriginal history, focusing on Aboriginal politics, social, sporting, health, oral history and traditional/contemporary aboriginal history in the Newcastle region of New South Wales. Maynard grew up in the world of racing and visited racecourses from an early age with his jockey father, Merv Maynard. Having this family history inspired him to write his Dymocks Reader Choice Award winning book Aboriginal Stars of the Turf, on Indigenous identities in racing. In 2012, Maynard had also won a Deadly Award for outstanding Achievement in Literature for his book The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe, known as a first in sporting literature, because of its content being the untold history of Aboriginal involvement with the ‘world game’.
In his academic career, Maynard had gained a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies from the Wollotuka Institute (The University of Newcastle), a Bachelor of Arts with the University of South Australia, and PhD from the Umulliko Indigenous Higher Education Research Centre (The University of Newcastle), 2003. His thesis Fred Maynard and the Awakening of Aboriginal Political Consciousness and Activism in Twentieth Century Australia, examines the rise, in the 1920s, of the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association which was the first organised Aboriginal political protest movement. Maynard has also held several important fellowships including the Aboriginal History Stanner Fellowship for 1996 at The Australian National University and the New South Wales Premier’s Indigenous History Fellowship for 2003-04. He also served as a member of the executive committee of the Australian Historical Association, in 2000-2002, and the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Committee 2006-2007. Additionally, Maynard has worked with and within many Aboriginal urban, rural and remote communities. (Source: AIATSIS website: Australian National University website; Co-op blog website)
Maynard, John, 1954- Awabakal word finder : an Aboriginal dictionary and dreaming stories companion. Keeaira Press, Southport, Qld, 2004.
2014 Fellow of the Esteemed Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA).
Gaele Sobott is a writer from Sydney. She spent twenty-four years living in Botswana where, among other roles, she taught in the English department of the University of Botswana. She is the director of Outlandish Arts, a disabled-led, not-for-profit organisation that supports artists.
Sobott has published speculative fiction short stories and children's fiction.
Wally Carr grew up in New South Wales during the 1950s and '60s, moving to Sydney at the age of sixteen. Wally Carr became an Australian Commonwealth champion boxer, holding twelve titles in six divisions. In his life story, My Longest Round, Wally Carr recounts his experiences of inner-city life in Sydney, his life as a boxer, and the issues affecting Aboriginal people during the years of his career and retirement.
'Eric Hayward, a Noongar Elder, comes from the Weelman, Goreng and Kaneang Noongar groups whose traditional country stretches across the Great Southern and south-west areas of Western Australia. He was born on the Gnowangerup Mission, where his mother and father were married, and as a child he lived in Broomehill.
Although he grew up in an era of rigid governmental controls and marginalisation of his people, he did get the opportunity to conclude his education in Perth while living in an Aboriginal hostel run by the Native Welfare Department. This lead to employment in government and adult education throughout his life. Eric had maintained close ties to his family, community and the broader Aboriginal society, and had been active in the struggle for better conditions and opportunities for his people.'
(Source: cover, No Freekicks: Family, Community and Football: A Noongar Story (2006); Fremantle Press website)
Syd Jackson is a member of the Stolen Generations. He was removed from his family along with two sisters and sent to Roelands Mission while his sisters were sent elsewhere. Jackson became well known as a champion professional football player with the Carlton Football Club. In 1966 he was reunited with his sister, and met his father again in 1985.
Jackson's story was recorded by the National Library of Australia for the Bringing Them Home oral history project and appeared in the associated publication Many Voices: Reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, edited by Doreen Mellor and Anna Haebich (2002).
Michael O'Loughlin is a Ngarrindjeri and Nurrunga man. He is a former champion Australian rules football player. He grew up in South Australia, and initially played senior football in the SAFL for Central District. In 1996 he joined the AFL team the Sydney Swans, with whom he played over 300 games until retirement in 2009. Since then he has continued in the game in coaching positions.
In 2009, O'Loughlin and fellow Swans team-mate Adam Goodes established the Goodes O'Loughlin Foundation, which seeks to develop and empower the next generation of Indigenous role models by promoting education, employment and healthy lifestyles and encouraging greater interaction between business and Indigenous people.
Professor Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales and is one of Australia’s most prolific and well-known authors of Aboriginal literature. She has a PhD in Communication and Media which resulted in a history of Indigenous publishing titled Dhuuluu-Yala : To Talk Straight. Other published works include the historical novel Who Am I? : The Diary of Mary Talence : Sydney, 1937, the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, which she co-edited with Peter Minter.
In 2007 Anita released three titles: the novel Not Meeting Mr Right, the poetry collection I'm Not Racist, But... : A Collection of Social Observations, and the children's novel, Yirra and Her Deadly Dog, Demon. These were followed by Avoiding Mr Right and Manhattan Dreaming in 2008 and 2011 respectively. In 2011, Anita released Paris Dreaming and Demon Guards the School Yard, which was written with the students of La Perouse Public School in Sydney for the award-winning Yarning Strong series. Her novel Tiddas is set in Brisbane and was published in 2014. It was followed by Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms in 2016. Anita also edited the anthology Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, which was released in 2018 by Black Inc.
In 2004 Anita was listed in the Bulletin magazine’s 'Smart 100'. Her memoir Am I Black Enough for You? was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards and she was a finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards (Local Hero). Anita has made guest appearances on many television programs including the Einstein Factor, Message Stick, Vulture, Critical Mass, A Difference of Opinion (all ABC), The Catch Up (Channel 9), Living Black (SBS), The Gathering (NITV), 9am with David and Kim and The Circle (both Channel 10).
Anita is a sought after public speaker and performer, delivering keynote addresses at universities and conferences across the USA, Canada, the UK, Tahiti, Fiji, New Caledonia, Spain, Japan, Austria, Germany and New Zealand. She has also presented at Australian Embassies and Consulates in Vienna, Paris, New York, Atlanta and Shanghai. She is an Ambassador for the GO Foundation, Worawa Aboriginal College and the Sydney Swans, and a Lifetime Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
Anita is a tireless advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing and has been involved in AustLit's BlackWords project since its inception in 2007.
In 2019, Anita was appointed a Professor of Communications at the University of QLD. She currently sits on the Board of the State Library of QLD.
Evonne Goolagong Crawley's parents were fruit-pickers. For the first two years of her life she travelled with them, and at one point in her journey she came across a tennis ball which became a 'security blanket' that she squeezed in her hands. Goolagong's older brother, Larry, grabbed one of her tennis balls and used a stick to hit it against the tin wall of their shack in Tarbogan. Soon Goolagong was joining in. Her father fashioned a wooden racket out of a fruit box for his children to use, but it was Goolagong who claimed it as her own.
Goolagong started school in 1956. This was also the year that the War Memorial Tennis Courts were built behind the Goolagong's house. At this time Goolagong was playing her own form of tennis, practising her forehands and backhands against the brick-wall of the tennis club house. When she was seven, she was given a dispensation to join the War Memorial Tennis Club at Barellan, where the joining age was ten. In her first game, she was paired with her sister, Barbara, for a doubles match that they won.
In 1961, the Victor A. Edwards Tennis School (VAETS) held a clinic in Barellan. The clinic was held again the following year, and the clinic coaches Colin Swan and Faith Martin were impressed with Goolagong's improvement. They telephoned Vic Edwards, telling him to come see her play.
In 1963, Goolagong found herself flying to Sydney. While there she stayed at Vic Edward's house and trained in the VAETS, having one-on-one tutoring with him. Before she was thirteen, she had won over 80 singles and doubles age titles.
Goolagong continued to play tennis until she retired in her thirties. She was the first Indigenous Australian to compete at Wimbledon or to represent Australia in world tennis. During her career she won many matches, including Wimbledon in 1971 against Margaret Court, and in 1980, against Chris Evert. Her second win was the first time in 66 years a mother had won Wimbledon. Goolagong was the French Open winner in 1971, Italian Open winner, 1973, and the Australian Open winner, 1974-1977.
Goolagong and her husband worked together in hotel development. She also played tennis matches for corporate functions. In 1986 she played in the over 35s tennis tournaments against other retired tennis greats. In 1988 she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In 1992, Goolagong and her family headed from the United States of America to Australia to live. While back in Australia Goolagong concentrated on writing her autobiography. She travelled across her people's country visiting places of importance and made contact with the older members of her community, listening to their stories about her family. In 1993, her autobiography Home! : The Evonne Goolagong Story was published.
Googlagong has been Ambassador for the Sport of Tennis in Australia (1998-2005, 2012-2021), and Board member of the Indigenous Land Corporation (2007-2011). In 2011 she received the Ella Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sport, and established the Evonne Goolagong Foundation in 2012.
Goolagong also holds honourary doctorates from Charles Sturt University, Griffith University, The University of Sydney and University of South Australia.
In 2018, she was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
Kevin Coombs suffered spinal injuries at the age of twelve after a gun accident that left him paralysed in 1953. Coombs played in his first Wheelchair Olympics at the age of eighteen and has since represented Australia in five Olympic Games. He has also been in twelve overseas Australian teams and on three occasions was Team Captain. On two occasions he was Captain and Coach of the Australian Basketball Team. In 1983 Coombs was awarded the Order of Australia medal for his contribution to disabled sport and Aboriginal welfare. He has served as the Manager of the Koori Health Unit in the Victorian Department of Health and in 1984 was the Australian Champion at the Wheelchair Olympics in Alylesbury England.
Keith Saunders refers to himself as a 'black country boy' from Cardiff in Newcastle, New South Wales. His mother left her alcoholic husband and along with her children came to Sydney looking to find employment in the entertainment business and eventually settled in Redfern.
His sister Joan was a singer and brother Alan was a competent musician with the guitar and leader of the band The Drifters. Keith had two other brothers Colin, a jack of all trades and his brother Noel, a boxer like himself. A well known boxer, Keith later married and had six children. At the age of forty four he completed a Diploma of Swedish Massage from the Academy of Natural Therapeutics. In his later years Keith was a boxing trainer who helped to keep kids of the streets.
Mitch Torres began an extensive career in the performing arts in 1986 as a theatre and film actor, researcher, writer, film director, film producer, radio broadcaster, television presenter and locations manager. Mitch has also been a children's author and a media consultant. Mitch Torres has been active in Film and TV as a Director/Writer working on a number of important documentaries detailing Indigenous histories and people.
Joe Williams is a former NRL player, world boxing title holder and proud Wiradjuri First Nations man. After a career in rugby, he switched to boxing in 2009. He has subsequently become a mental health advocate after experiencing his own struggles.
In 2017, Joe was a finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards for his work with suicide prevention and fighting for equality for Australia’s First Nations people.
Arthur Beetson was an international rugby league player and coach. He began playing senior football at Roma, then in 1964 went to play for Brisbane first grade team Redcliffe. During his lengthy career he gained a reputation as one of the greatest attacking forwards in the game. In all, he played 28 tests for Australia and over 200 first grade games for club sides Redcliffe, Balmain, Hull Kingston Rovers, Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta. He captained Australia on 2 occasions and in so doing became the first Indigenous person to captain any Australian sporting team. Following his retirement as a player, he continued in the game as a coach, selector and mentor to young players.
Julie Andrews teaches in Humanities and Social Sciences . She is a La Trobe University graduate in archaeology, sociology and anthropology. Andrews has been employed at La Trobe University for over 22 years and during this time has established and managed the Koori Centre; established and managed the Aboriginal Academic Support and Liaison Unit; taught cultural awareness to university staff and developed the La Trobe University Indigenous Employment Strategy.
In 2015 she was made convenor of Aboriginal Studies at La Trobe University Bundoora campus. She taught a first year undergraduate subject titled ‘Introduction to Aboriginal Australia’ to Bundoora, Mildura and Albury Wodonga campuses. She also teaches an On Country subject at the Shepparton campus.
Andrews research interests include Indigenous demography, Indigenous families, Indigenous identity, community development, Indigenous education and employment, Indigenous urban community space, child identity construction, mobility impact upon employment and education. She has undertaken a Doctorate in Anthropology titled Aboriginal Melbourne – where we are today – revisiting Diane Barwick’s 1963 study on the Melbourne Aboriginal community titled A Little More Than Kin – Regional Affiliation and Group Affiliation Among Aboriginal Migrants in Melbourne.
She is a member of the Museum of Melbourne Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee. In 2015 Andrews became a member of the La Trobe University Academic Board. (Source : http://www.yapaneyepuk.com/presenters/julie-andrews/
Della Walker lived on Ulgandahi Island Aboriginal reserve in the Clarence River delta near Maclean, New South Wales before her family moved to Yamba. At the age of seventeen her family moved again to the Tabulam reserve west of Casino, there she worked as both domestic aid and an assistant to her husband in his seasonal farming jobs. She also became an unofficial midwife at the reserve and was involved in a number of community activities: "organisation of church services and the Djunagun dance troupe; promotion of her mother tongue, Aboriginal education, the teaching of Aboriginal Studies at regional TAFE colleges; and counselling of prisoners at the Grafton gaol." Further to these activities Walker was a "member of the Aboriginal advisory council of the College of Advanced Education in Lismore, president of the Housing Association and the local Land Council at Tabulam, a director of the Yamboora Aboriginal Corporation at Yamba, and chair of the Nungera Aboriginal Cooperative Society at Maclean." (Source: Australian Women's Register website)
Dr Tony Birch was born in inner-city Melbourne, into a large family of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. His upbringing was challenging and difficult, and much of this is captured in his remarkable debut, the semi-autobiographical Shadowboxing.
An altar boy and exceptional student at his local Catholic primary school, in adolescence, Birch went 'off the rails' as a teenager. He was expelled from two high schools for fighting and found trouble with the police for the same reason. Although somewhat adrift following his expulsions, he remained a voracious reader – once, when he was arrested by police, all they found when they patted him down was a copy of Camus’ The Outsider, which remains his favourite book.
Returning to night school to complete his studies, Birch met his mentor, Anne Misson, whose credo was very simple: 'You’ll be great, but only if you work your arse off.' Birch still lives by this and applies it to everything including his passion for running, which is where his writing is created and shaped.
Studying as a mature-age student at the University of Melbourne, Birch holds a Masters degree in Creative Writing, and, a PhD in History, which won the university's Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in 2013.
Birch has been publishing short stories and poetry regularly since the 1980s, although his first collection, Shadow Boxing, only appeared in 2006. Since this, he has published four more collections of short stories and poetry (Father's Day , The Promise , Broken Teeth , and Common People  and two novels (Blood  and Ghost River ).
Among his awards are the Scanlon Prize and the Prize for Indigenous Writing (Victorian Premier's Literary Awards). He has also been shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction (NSW Premier's Literary Awards), the Steele Rudd Award (with both the original Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and the later Queensland Literary Awards), and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
In 2015, he joined Victoria University as the first recipient of its Dr Bruce McGuinness Indigenous Research Fellowship. His role sits within the Moondani Balluk Academic Unit and is linked to the University’s creative arts and writing programs. He has also taught creative writing at the University of Melbourne for many years.
Birch’s work is widely read and loved including by those who might normally avoid books, particularly teenage boys. Through his outreach work, he visits many schools to speak to students, and takes particular pleasure in returning to the two schools that expelled him, as both of his previous books are on the syllabus.
Agnes Burchill spent her early life living in China Camp which is in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland and is part of her tribal land. She moved with her family to the township of Daintree around the time of World War 2 to attend school.
After leaving school at around 13 years of age Burchill was taken away to work for farmers at Rocky Point. She also did similar work on other farms in Ravenshoe, Spring Hill and Gordonvale. She is the sister of Linda Camilleri (q.v.).
Stan Grant's father was a Wiradjuri man and his mother was a Kamilaroi woman. Grant's childhood was spent travelling from place to place while his father searched for work. When his family moved to Canberra they stayed there and he was able to stay in school. While a young man, Grant spoke with Marcia Langton who helped him to realise that he could dream, and that his dreams could become real.
With Langton's encouragement, Grant attended the University of New South Wales where he studied politics and sociology. After university, he was a cadet at the Macquarie Radio network. As a well-known journalist, Grant travelled widely, reporting from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. From 1987 to 2001, he worked for the ABC, SBS, and the Seven Network. He has served as political correspondent with the ABC, and has written for various newspapers and been featured widely on radio.From 2001 to 2012, he worked for CNN as an anchor in Hong Kong and then a correspondent in Beijing.
In 2015, Grant published Talking to My Country; in the same year, his coverage of Indigenous affairs was recognised with a Walkley Award.
Ambrose, also known as Ambi McDonald was born and grew up in northern Tasmanian. His writing career began when he participated in a writing programme, designed to promote literacy in Risdon Prison, Hobart. Exhibiting an unusual talent for writing, the co-ordinator of the programme, was convinced that Ambi's writing should be shared with the public at large. And, in 1983, the Kingborough Jaycees, decided to adopt the publication of a collection of Ambi's work as a special project.
In 2008, Ambrose was inducted into the Tasmanian Aboriginal Sports Hall of Fame for his contribution in Football. His first game at the age of 19, was during a stint in prison in 1979. Scouts from Tasmanian Premier League side Sandy Bay had watch Ambrose play in prison and secured him after his release in 1985. Further, to his football career he is known to be a renowned sprinter, and an accomplished artist and poet. (Source: Koori Mail Ed. 441, 2008; Foreword in The Caged Beast; and in Effects of Light)
Dr. Ruby Langford Ginibi was born at Box Ridge Mission, Coraki, on the north coast of New South Wales in 1934. A proud Bundjalung woman, she grew up in Bonalbo and attended high school in Casino. When she turned fifteen, she moved to Sydney where she qualified as a clothing machinist. Married at an early age, she had nine children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For many years, she lived and camped in the bush around Coonabarabran, working at fencing, lopping and ring-barking trees and pegging kangaroo skins. At other times, she lived in Sydney and was employed in clothing factories.
Ginibi made her literary debut at fifty-four, when her first book Don't Take Your Love To Town was released in 1988, Australia's Bicentennial Year. This book, which revealed the struggles and trials faced by Aboriginal women, won her a Human Rights Award.
Her second book, Real Deadly, was published in 1992 and her third, My Bundjalung People (1994), is an account of her return to the mission in Coraki to locate and reconnect with her extended family. Her fourth book, Haunted By the Past ,was published in 1999 and recounts the story of her son Nobby's incarceration.
Ginibi was not only an author, but also a lecturer and historian in Aboriginal history, culture, and politics at various universities and colleges. Recognised as a spokesperson, educator and recorder of Koori culture, she has travelled and lectured at home and abroad.
Ginibi received an inaugural History Fellowship from the Ministry of Arts in 1990, an inaugural Honorary Fellowship from the Australian National Museum in 1995, and an inaugural Doctorate of Letters (Honors Causia) from La Trobe University in 1998.
Her tribal name 'Ginibi' (black swan) was given to her in 1990 by her aunt, Eileen Morgan, a tribal elder of Box Ridge Mission.