Jack Leonard Davis grew up at Yarloop, Western Australia. His mother was forcibly removed from her parents, and Davis himself later discovered the details of her family history. Sent to the Moore River Native Settlement to learn farming at the age of 14, Davis' experiences there would later provide a foundation for his dramatic writing. After nine months, he left the Settlement. His father's subsequent death created a family crisis, which led to the first of many jobs for Davis. He has worked as a stockman, boxer, horse-breeder, train driver and truck driver.
While living at the Brookton Aboriginal Reserve, Davis started to learn the language and culture of his people. He was the Director of the Aboriginal Centre in Perth from 1967 to 1971 and became the first Chair of Aboriginal Lands Trust in Western Australia in the same year.
His writing spans the genres of drama, poetry, short fiction, autobiography and critical material, and reflects a lifelong commitment to Aboriginal activism. His work explores such issues as the identity problems faced by Aboriginal youth in contemporary society, the wider sense of loss experienced in Aboriginal cultures, and the clash of Aboriginal and White law.
Davis has won numerous awards and honours, including the The Order of the British Empire - Medal (Civil) in 1976, the Bicentennial BHP Award for the Pursuit of Excellence in literature and the arts in 1988 and the Swan Gold Theatre Award in 1990. Some of his poems were set to music by Chester Schultz in 1984, and he has also received honorary doctorates from Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia.
Jack Davis also made a significant contribution to Aboriginal literary life as a cultural activist and administrator. In the 1980s, he co-founded the Aboriginal Writers, Oral Literature and Dramatists' Association, was a member of the council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and the Aboriginal Arts Board. Davis was named a Living Treasure in 1998.
Jack Davis' sister Dot Collard appeared in his play 'No Sugar', which was a great success and was performed in Vancouver for the Expo '86.
Kim Scott is a multi-award winning Indigenous author from Western Australia. He grew up near Albany, in southern Western Australia, then on leaving school completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Graduate Diploma in Education at Murdoch University, in Perth. He initially worked as a secondary school teacher and later turned to writing full-time.
Scott began working on his first novel, the semi-autobiographical True Country (1993), whilst teaching at a remote Aboriginal community in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Since then he has gained widespread critical acclaim for the way in which his writing explores questions of identity, race and history, and also for his interest in finding ways that Indigenous people might connect their ancient heritage to contemporary life. His friend John Fielder has written that Scott "is an important figure in Australia today because of his creative quest to open up new and different ways of 'being black', and to provide a language for that which is otherwise un-utterable".
In 2000, Scott became the first Indigenous author to win the Miles Franklin Literary Award, with his novel Benang: From the Heart (1999). In 2011 he won both the Miles Franklin and the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal with That Deadman Dance (2010). He was a guest speaker at the 2001 Century of Federation Alfred Deakin Lecture Series in Melbourne. He presented at the 2004 Melbourne 'Globalisation and Identities' forum. He has been a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council. In 2012 he was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and also named West Australian of the Year.
Since completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia in 2009, Scott has been involved with the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and also the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Story Project. Scott was appointed Professor of Writing in the School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts of Curtin University in December, 2011. He is a member of The Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT), leading its Indigenous Culture and Digital Technologies research program.
David Unaipon was born at the Point McLeay Mission, South Australia, and attended the mission school until 1885 when he left to become a servant. Encouraged by others to pursue his interest in philosophy, science and music, Unaipon read widely and became well-known for his intellectual capacity and inventions. He spoke regularly at schools and learned societies, and often attended government enquiries.
In the 1920s, he began to study western mythology and began collecting his own people's myths and legends. He wrote for the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper from 1924, and began publishing compilations of his myths. He is considered to be the first Indigenous Australian author, publishing Aboriginal legends in the 1920s. Without permission, the publisher Angus and Robertson sold the copyright of the stories to William Ramsay Smith who published Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals (1930) without acknowledgement. W. R. Smith also published some of Unaipon's stories as Australian Legends (1984), with notes in Japanese.
Remaining a prominent voice in Aboriginal affairs, Unaipon continued to advise the state and Commonwealth, appearing before several royal commissions into the treatment of Aborigines.
David Unaipon received a Coronation medal in 1953. He continued to travel and speak widely and, late in life, returned to his inventions, seeking the key to perpetual motion. He died in 1967. In the 1990s, Unaipon's manuscript of Aboriginal legends was edited and published as Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines (2001), adopting his original title and finally acknowledging his authorship.
An annual award, The David Unaipon Literary Award, for an unpublished manuscript by and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander writer honours him. He is also depicted on the Australian $50 note.
David Unaipon was chosen as one of 150 great South Australians by a panel of The Advertiser senior writers to celebrate the 150th Anniversay of The Advertiser newspaper, 12 April 2008.
Bruce Pascoe, a Bunurong man, is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria, and an award-winning Australian writer, editor, and anthologist. His works have been published nationally and internationally, and have won several national literary competitions. He has combined writing fiction and non-fiction with a career as a successful publisher and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission. He has also worked as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, farm fence contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker, and editor. He appeared in the SBS TV program, First Australians.
His Jim Fox series of novels were partially set in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya (West Papua). As a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, Pascoe edited school readers on the history and language of the Wathaurong people, demonstrating his interest in Indigenous language retrieval and teaching. He has spoken at conferences on Aboriginal culture and edited several anthologies and translations of Australian stories.
Pascoe edited and published Australian Short Stories (1982-1998), a quarterly journal of short fiction. Publishing experimental and traditional short stories by established writers and enabling new writers to demonstrate their potential, the journal continued under the editorship of Howard Firkin at Moolton Press until 2000. Pascoe has run Pascoe Publishing and Seaglass Books with his wife Lyn Harwood.
His book exploring the history of Aboriginal agriculture Dark Emu : Black Seeds : Agriculture or Accident? has attracted considerable attention for its discussion of land management practices in Australia prior to colonisation.
In 2020, he was appointed Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture at the University of Melbourne.
His non-fiction works include:
Archie Weller grew up on a farm called Woonenup in the south-west of Western Australia and later attended Guildford Grammar School near Perth as a boarder. His grandfather's influence and encouragement were important in Weller's desire to write. He worked in a variety of mostly labouring jobs before writing his first novel, The Day of the Dog. It was written 'within a period of six weeks in a spirit of anger after his release from Broome jail for what he regarded as a wrongful conviction.' Ten years later, the novel was made into the AFI award winning film Blackfellas and the novel republished to coincide with the opening of the film.
Weller has also published poems and short stories in numerous anthologies and has had plays produced by the Kyana Festival, the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the Melbourne Workers Theatre. Nidjera : children crying softly together, a play exploring the emotions of a modern day Koori family and their survival (c. 1990), was written for the Melbourne Workers Theatre. He was commissioned to write a play for Black Swan Theatre as well. He was Writer-in-Residence at the Australian National University in 1984. In the 2000 AFI Awards, Confessions of a Head Hunter, written by Weller and Sally Riley (q.v.), won the Best Short Fiction Film award and was nominated for Best Screenplay in a Short Film.
Alf Taylor is a member of the Stolen Generations. He and his brother were removed from their family as infants and placed in the New Norcia Mission. Taylor only discovered his heritage when he left the mission at age sixteen and searched for his family.
As a young man, Taylor worked in the Perth and Geraldton areas as a seasonal farm worker, before joining the armed forces and living in several locations around Australia. Taylor and his wife had seven children, of whom only two survived. He began writing poetry when young, and started publishing it in the 1990s.
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.
Wesley Enoch is the eldest son of Doug and Lyn Enoch from Stradbroke Island and is the current  Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company. Wesley is a renowned director and writer for the stage. His written body of work includes I Am Eora, The 7 Stages of Grieving (co-written with Deborah Mailman), Little White Dress, A Life of Grace and Piety, Black Medea, The Sunshine Club, Grace and The Story of the Miracle at Cookie's Table, for which he won the 2005 Patrick White Playwright's Award and was short listed for both the New South Wales and Victorian Premier's Literary Award.
After working across several aspects of theatre in Queensland, Wesley became Artistic Director for Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts in 1994, where he directed his own work including Little White Dress (Queensland Performing Arts Centre/Out of the Box Festival), A Life of Grace and Piety (Just Us Theatre Ensemble) and The 7 Stages of Grieving, which toured the London International Festival of Theatre, Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide and went on to be re- mounted in Sydney Opera House. Other directing credits include Murri Love (Metro Theatre Brisbane), Changing Time (Salamanca Theatre Company), The Dreamers (Brisbane Festival) and Up the Ladder (Melbourne Workers Theatre, Festival of the Dreaming).
In 1998, Wesley became Associate Artist for Queensland Theatre Company, for which he directed Radiance, Black-ed Up, The Sunshine Club and Fountains Beyond. His other credits in that time include The 7 Stages of Grieving, which toured the Swiss International Theatre Festival, Stolen (Playbox Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (Bell Shakespeare). He became the Resident Director at Sydney Theatre Company in 2000 and directed Black Medea, The Sunshine Club, Black-ed Up, The Cherry Pickers (2002 UK Tour), and Stolen (Adelaide, Sydney, Tasmania and UK Tour) and remounted The 7 Stages of Grieving.
Following his term at Sydney Theatre Company, Wesley became Artistic Director of the Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative in 2003 for which he directed Shrunken Iris and Rainbow's End, and remained on the Board until 2007. In this time, Wesley directed some of the most successful and prolific works in Australian theatre. For Company B, Wesley directed several productions including The Dreamers, Conversations with the Dead, Black Medea (with Malthouse Theatre), and The Sapphires, with Melbourne Theatre Company and which went on to win the Helpmann Award for Best Production and Best New Australian Work and was remounted at the 2005 Sydney Festival.
Wesley also directed the Helpmann Award nominated outdoor event Eora Crossing (Legs on the Wall/Museum of Sydney/Sydney Festival) and Riverland for Windmill Performing Arts, staged at the Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane International Festivals. Wesley's play The Story of the Miracles at Cookie's Table was directed by Marion Potts and staged at Hothouse Theatre Melbourne and the Griffin Theatre in Sydney to critical acclaim.
As Associate Artist at Company B from 2006-2008, Wesley directed Capricornia, Paul, Parramatta Girls (nominated for 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Direction and Best Production), and Yibiyung (with Malthouse Theatre). His more recent work includes Nargun and the Stars (Performing Lines), The Man From Mukinupin (Company B/Melbourne Theatre Company), One Night, the Moon (Malthouse Theatre) and a revival of The Sapphires (Company B/Black Swan Theatre Company).
Over several years, Wesley worked with Tom Wright in the development of a play about Indigenous soldiers of World War I. Black Diggers premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 2014, with an all-Indigenous male cast and was a triumphantly received.
He directed the Indigenous section of the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, is a member of the Hothouse Theatre Artistic Directorate, a Trustee of Sydney Opera House, a member for the New South Wales Government Arts Advisory Council and numerous other Committees. In 2008 Enoch was the Artistic Director for the Australian delegation to the Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) and in June 2010 he was appointed as the Artistic Director for the Queensland Theatre Company, a position he still holds in 2018.
In 2018, he gave the Nick Enright Address at the National Playwrighting Festival.
Bill Rosser was a celebrated Aboriginal writer, historian and poet. A member of the Wadjalang people, he grew up in Queensland and left school at age eleven. Unable to read or write, Rosser educated himself with the aid of a dictionary. He travelled extensively and settled on Palm Island, where he wrote his first book (This Is Palm Island, 1978).
Rosser has published a large number of books and won many awards, including the Australian Human Rights Award, the Queensland and New South Wales Premiers' Awards and the 1991 RAKA Award for his book Up Rode the Troopers: The Black Police in Queensland (1990). He also wrote Ethnicity and the Student: A Treatise on Racism in Schools (1993).
Rosser passed away in May 2002. It was his ambition to share the beliefs and philosophies of Aboriginal people with all people, to foster greater understanding between cultures.
Bill Dodd spent his childhood on cattle properties in the Mitchell area of Queensland. He left school during Year 10 after the death of his father and took up work as a stockman in Queensland and the Northern Territory. While still a teenager Dodd broke his neck in a diving accident and became a quadriplegic. His spent time in rehabilitation in Brisbane and Roma, Queensland, before beginning work in the Roma office of the Community Youth Support Scheme.
Source: Broken Dreams (1992)
Herb Wharton was born in Yumba, an Aboriginal camp in the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla, one of eleven children. His maternal grandmother was Kooma, and both grandfathers were Irish. Before Wharton started writing, he worked as a stockman, a drover and a labourer. He took up writing late in life, at around the age of 50 and, with a grant from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board (ATSIAB) of the Australia Council, bought an electric typewriter and began writing poems, some of which were published in various journals.
In 1990, he entered some of his poems for the David Unaipon Award. These were highly commended and the University of Queensland Press then commissioned him to write a novel. His writing career began to flourish after the publication of this first novel, Unbranded (1992), based on his experiences as a stockman in the Australian outback. Since then, he has published several collections of short stories and poetry, and a young adult novel.
A full-time poet and fiction writer, and a recognised story teller, Wharton has also been a prominent speaker at national and international literary festivals and a lecturer in Australian Indigenous literature, and he has travelled extensively throughout Australia and abroad.
Most recently, he was involved with Ringbalin: River Stories, a documentary film mapping Indigenous stories of the Murray Darling Rivers (2013).
Archie Roach is a singer, songwriter, storyteller, and a gifted artist. Born at Framlingham Aboriginal Mission, Roach was taken from his family at an early age as part of the stolen generations. He spent some time in institutions before being fostered by a Scottish family. After learning of his Aboriginal family from a letter received from his sister, he left home. Suffering from alcoholism, Roach spent many years on the streets of Adelaide and Melbourne in search of his family and his identity. Roach met his partner Ruby Hunter, a Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia. Hunter, a singer and songwriter, had also been removed from her family.
In the late 1980s, Roach formed a band called Altogether that played at community festivals and functions around Melbourne and in 1988 played as the opening act for Paul Kelly and the Messengers. In 1990 Roach recorded Charcoal Lane that was produced by Paul Kelly and Steve Connolly. This album became famous for two songs: Took the Children Away ,which was about the forced separation of Aboriginal children from their parents during the implementation of the assimilation policy, and Down City Streets that was co-written by Ruby Hunter.
Roach has won Aria Awards, Best Indigenous Album and Best New Talent and later a Human Rights television award for The Land of Little Kings, a feature-length documentary about the Stolen Generations. This was a collaboration between independent filmmakers Paul Roberts and Des Kootji Raymond and narrated by Archie Roach. In July 1997 Roach recorded Looking for Butter Boy produced by Malcom Burn who acclaims Roach as one of the great singers. This album won three Aria Awards in 1998.
Together Roach and Hunter have toured with many bands and artists over the years, including: Paul Kelly, Weddings Parties Anything, Crowded House, and international artists such as Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Bega and Patti Smith. In 1992, Roach toured America supporting Joan Armatrading and Bob Dylan and in 1993 returned as guests to Austin's South X South-West music convention. Roach toured the UK and Germany in 1994 and the following year along with Hunter, Tiddas and Kev Carmody toured Canada's Music West convention in Vancouver and into Europe. He again toured Europe in 1997 and also China, Japan and Taiwan before returning to Australia for a six week tour in remote communities in Cape York.
HarperCollins published an anthology of Roach's lyrics in 1994 called You Have the Power. In 2010, Roach's album Archie Roach - 1988 won the Deadly Award for Album of the Year and in 2013, Roach was inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame.
Over the years, Roach has been a guest artist at many Indigenous Festivals across Australia and continues to work and be a representative for his community. He is active in many Aboriginal causes and continues to provide vocals for soundtracks for artists, albums, bands, and films.
Bill Neidjie was born at Alawanydajawany along the East Alligator River. His father was Nadampala and his mother Lucy Wirlmaka from the Ulbuk clan of the Amurrak people. He spent most of his childhood in his father's country, Bunitj Clan land on the western side of that river. Here he learnt to hunt and manage the resources of his environment. As a boy Neidjie lived for five or six years at Cape Don with his mother and her family. Billy Manilungu, a prominent ceremonial leader and buffalo hunter, taught him much of the traditional Aboriginal law. Neidjie attended school at Oenpelli Mission for two years around 1927. When his father died in 1928 he followed his mother to Coopers Creek where they camped for about four years, living on bush tucker. Prior to World War II Neidjie had a variety of jobs for which he was paid in kind with tea, sugar, meat, flour and tobacco. He worked for eight years at timber-mill camps and a short time in Darwin. During the war Neidjie provided supplies for Colonel Bill Sanderson of the Royal Australian Air Force who kept the lighthouse open at Cape Don. He was in Darwin during the 1942 bombing and assisted indigenous people affected by it. It was at this time that he was also initiated in a Ubarr ceremony at Paw Paw Beach.
Both before and after the war, Neidjie worked for Leo Hickey on a lugger along the north coast for nearly 30 years. In 1979 he returned to take up permanent residence on his Bunitj Clan land and became a claimant in the Alligator Rivers Stage II land claim. He had a large input into Indjuwanydjuwa : a report on Bunitj clan sites in the Alligator Rivers region (1982). As a result of the claim the Bunitj people of the Gagudju language group gained title to their land. Niedjie was instrumental in the decision to lease the traditional lands to the Commonwealth of Australia so it could be managed as a resource for all Australians. He became a senior elder of Kakadu National Park, where his son, Johnathan Nadji (q.v.) trained as a park ranger. In 1989 he was awarded the Order of Australia for services to conservation. When he died in late May 2002, the Gagadju tongue died with him. The last speaker of the language of the Bunidj people, he died near Kakadu, the park named after his language.
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)
Dick Roughsey was born near Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1924. His name is translated from his tribal name Goobalathaldin, meaning 'water standing on end' or 'Rough sea'. He received a traditional upbringing in the bush until the age of eight, when he was educated at a Presyterian mission school. After completing primary school he returned to tribal life. At the age of sixteen he went to the Australian mainland, to work as a stockman on cattle stations in North Queensland and as a deckhand on ships near Cairns.
He began to paint using traditional methods with bark. In 1962 he met former Ansett pilot, Percy Trezise, who became his mentor and encouraged him to also use Western methods of painting in oils. Roughsey held successful exhibitions of his work in many Australian cities. He and Trezise collaborated for many years, producing picture books which retold traditional stories. These were among the first to introduce Aboriginal culture to children. Roughsey also illustrated The Turkey and the Emu (1978), a traditional tale retold by his wife, Elsie Roughsey
Roughsey lived with his wife and their six children on Mornington Island, but usually spent half of each year on the North Queensland mainland. With Percy Trezise he discovered and studied the art in Aboriginal cave galleries in the Laura region of Cape York. One of these was the Quinkin gallery, which inspired the award-winning books The Quinkins and Turramulli the Giant Quinkin.
He was the first chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council in 1973.
Phillip Hall lived for many years in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands of NSW, and more recently in Far North Queensland. In 2011 Hall moved to Borroloola, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where he has worked in remote Indigenous education. During his time in Borroloola, he has collaborated with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and the Northern Territory Writers’ Centre to establish Indigenous poets’ groups, poetry festivals and the Barkly Poetry Wall. Hall has been made a Gudanji man, known also by his skin name of Jabala and his traditional name of Gijindarraji where he is a member of the Rrumburriya clan; he is Jungkayi (custodian) for Jayipa.
In 2012 Hall completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong, supervised by Alan Wearne and Peter Minter. In 2014 his first book of poetry, Sweetended in Coals, was published by Ginninderra Press. [Source: NT Writers Centre http://ntwriters.com.au/nt-writers/published-nt-authors/ and Reading Across the Pacific http://antipodesjournal.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/phillip-gijindarraji-hall-sweetened-in.html ]
Playwright, poet, and political activist Jim Everett is descended from the Ben Lomond people, a clan of the Cape Portland nations in North-east Tasmania. His name Pura-lia Meenamatta meaning 'paperbark' from the Ben Lomond area, is taken from his main ancestory, the Plangermairreenner people.
Everett left primary school at age 14 to begin work. His working life included thirteen years at sea and over thirty years of formal involvement in the Aboriginal struggle. He has had a long history in the public service in Aboriginal Affairs, as well as lecturing in Aboriginal heritage, culture and history, producing radio and television progams, and has also been a Writer-in-Residence at Risdon Cove in Tasmania and has travelled extensively in Australia visiting many remote Aboriginal communities.
Jim began writing poetry at an early age. He wrote his first play, 'Survivors' in 1984 after seeing Jack Davis' play The Dreamers. His written works now include plays, political papers and short stories and he has been published in many major anthologies. Jim's other work includes, television documentaries, educational videos and theatre productions. He has lived on Cape Barren Island writing and operating his consultancy business.
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.
Sam Watson was from the Birri-Gubba (from his grandfather) and Munaldjali (from his grandmother) nations. He was a well-known activist on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. He studied law and arts at The University of Queensland in the early 1970s where he became increasingly engaged in Aboriginal politics. His political activism began as a student in the 1960s over the White Australia Policy. He went on to play support roles in the 1967 Referendum campaign, the Gurindji land rights struggle and other campaigns for equality and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
As these were tumultuous times Watson decided to defer his studies in order to devote more time to Aboriginal community projects at a state, national and international level. He pioneered programs in law, medicine and housing focusing on the community needs and was notably co-founder of the Brisbane chapter of Black Panther Party of Australia with Denis Walker. He was a Socialist Alliance candidate for the Queensland Government Senate in 2001 and 2004.
As well as being a poet, activist, lecturer, writer and storyteller Watson was a film producer. His first film Black Man Down (1995) dealt with Aboriginal deaths in custody. It was featured in the Sand to Celluloid collection of short films.
In February 2007, Watson made his playwriting debut with 'The Mack', which was written in association with the Brisbane-based Kooemba Jdarra theatre group and first performed at the Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. He worked again with Kooemba Jdarra in 2007 on 'The Oodgeroo Project', a play about the life and times of Aboriginal writer Oodgeroo Noonuccul, also known as Kath Walker. It was staged in 2009.
Boori Pryor is a descendant of the Kungganji and Birri-Gubba people of North Queensland. Boori has worked in the film and television industry and also theatre-in-education. He is best-known as a storyteller, travelling widely to introduce his culture to young Australians.
In collaboration with Meme McDonald, he has published a series of books based on his life and the stories of his family. Their first collaboration, Maybe Tomorrow (1998), received a Special Commendation from the Human Rights Awards and their second, My Girragundji (1998), won a Children's Book Council of Australia Award. They have since published several more books, most notably The Binna Binna Man (1999), which won several awards, including the Ethnic Affairs Commission Award in 2000.
In 2012-2013, Pryor was the joint inaugural Australian Children's Laureate. His work has been taught in universities across Australia, and has won multiple awards, including the Prime Minister's Literary Award, the Victorian Premier's Literary award, and the New South Wales Premier's Literary Award (which he won in three categories, for the same novel, in 2000).
Boori's father was Monty Prior.
Boonerung Elder, Jack Charles was born at the Cummeragunja Mission on the Murray River and was a child of the Stolen Generations. He was taken from his mother and spent many of his formative years in a Melbourne boys' homes. Charles originally believed he was a Yorta Yorta man, but later discovered he belonged to the Bunurong people. In 1971 he co-founded the first Aboriginal theatre company, Nindethana, with Bob Maza.
Charles has acted in feature films, TV series and hundreds of plays including, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Bedevil, Ben Hall and the 1972 play Bastardy, about his own life. Bastardy is also the title of the 2008 film about Charles' life by filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson.
While his year of birth is unrecorded it was most likely Percy Mumbulla was born sometime between 1890 and 1905.
His parents, known as King Jack and Queen Rose, represented all the traditional ways. Mumbulla, an elder of the Aboriginal people and an expert on bush medicine, became a well-known and respected storyteller. He was also very active in the struggle for land rights in New South Wales.
Mumbulla developed a close friendship with Roland Robinson (q.v.) and related his stories to Robinson in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1979, as an Elder for his people, Percy Mumbulla was invited, along with Guboo Ted Thomas, to speak at the New South Wales Parliament House in Sydney about the cultural significance of the sacred sites on Mumbulla Mountain.
Born in Broome in 1948 to a Bardi Aboriginal mother with Scottish heritage and a Broome born father whose parents were Chinese and Japanese, Jimmy Chi embodies his hometown's cultural diversity. Although he left Broome to undertake an engineering degree in Perth, the cultural dislocation caused him to abandon his studies to return home. Broome's blend of cultural and creative influences was the right environment for Chi. In this respect they played a significant role in nurturing a rich artistic society where music was the dominant expression. Indeed, by the late 1970s the town had developed a distinctive style which became known as the "Broome Sound"). In 1981 Chi and several other musicians from Broome formed the band Kuckles in Adelaide while they studied at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM). After recording an audition tape titled Milliya Rumarra (1982), the band won a trip to Germany to perform at the Third Annual International Cologne Song Festival in 1982.
The band returned to Broome and with Chi (as author) later became the inspirational heart and creative drive behind the acclaimed stage musical Bran Nue Dae. A hit at the 1990 Festival of Perth, the musical eventually toured Australia winning numerous awards (including the prestigious Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award). Bran Nue Dae, which celebrates family, forgiveness and reconciliation, has not only become one of Australia's most successful musicals but also brought acclaim for many Aboriginal artists including Ernie Dingo, Josie Ningali Lawford and Leah Purcell, as well as helping to play an instrumental role in the formation of the Black Swan Theatre. Its success led Chi to creating a second musical Corrugation Road, which similarly toured Australia and broke box office records. With Corrugation Road Chi has sought to break down the ignorance surrounding mental health, abuse, sexuality and religion through the use of humour and optimism.
Jimmy Chi's dedication to Australian artistic endeavour and justice for Indigenous people has seen him recognised a number of prestigious awards. He has been honoured by the State of Western Australia as a Living Treasure and the Australian federal Government awarded him the Centenary Medal for his contribution to Australian society. Chi, who is the patron of SANE Australia, was also presented with the Red Ochre Award at a ceremony in Broome in 1997.
Jared Thomas is an Indigenous author, playwright, poet, and academic. He grew up in Port Augusta on Nukunu country, and his mother's Aboriginal family came from Winton, Queensland.
Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing, and a Masters in Creative Writing from Adelaide University. He has been a freelance journalist, film script editor, and writer, and since, 2006 has lectured in communications, film, literature, and art at the University of South Australia. He has also worked as the Manager of the Indigenous Arts and Culture Division of Arts, South Australia, and has coordinated Nukunu Peoples Council cultural heritage, language, and arts projects.
His first play 'Flash Red Ford' toured Uganda and Kenya in 1999, performed by a Ugandan company. In 2002, his work 'Love, Land and Money' was performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. At this time, Thomas began working as Manager of Indigenous Arts and Culture, a role in which he advocated and supported the development and aspirations of South Australian Aboriginal artists.
As well as being a playwright, Thomas began to develop his skills 'as a fiction writer with several short stories and poems being published in anthologies.' (Heiss and Minter 2009). His first novel Sweet Guy published by IAD Press was shorted listed for both the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and the Festival Awards for Literature, South Australia.With his forthcoming novel Calypso Summer, Thomas was awarded the Kuril Dhagun Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2013.
Songwriter and composer Kev Carmody, of Aboriginal and Irish descent, grew up on a cattle station near Goranba, Queensland. At the age of ten he was removed from his parents and sent to a Christian school. He later returned to rural Queensland where he worked as a labourer for 17 years.
At the age of 33 Carmody began studying at university, later progressing to work on a PhD on the history of the Darling Downs between 1830 and 1860. His music career began during this phase of his life and he subsequently became a travelling singer/songwriter touring Australia and the world. Carmody's songs have been covered by various artists including Paul Kelly and his album Cannot Buy My Soul was shortlisted in the 2007 Deadly Awards, Album Release of the Year.(Source: Carmody's website)
An Aboriginal activist and respected community leader, Noel Pearson came from the Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal community at Hope Vale, a Lutheran Mission on Cape York Peninsula. He graduated with an honours degree in history from the University of Sydney. His honours thesis focused on the history of the Hope Vale Lutheran Mission from 1900-1950. Pearson completed a law degree in 1993.
In 1990 Pearson co-founded the Cape York Land Council where he was Executive Director until he resigned in 1996. He was also a legal advisor for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. He continues to advise a number of Indigenous organisations in Cape York, and advocates self-determination and land rights for Indigenous people.
Noel Pearson's 2009 essay 'Radical Hope', published in Quarterly Essay, was shortlisted for the 2010 John Button Prize. In 2015, Pearson had been name a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow of the University of Melbourne.
Pearson, Noel 2014, A Rightful Place : Race, Recognition and a More Complete Commonwealth, Collingwood, Vic. Black Inc. Books.
David Milroy has been a musician, writer and theatre director. He has worked as a tutor with AbMusic, an Aboriginal Corporation formed in 1986 to support and nurture Aboriginal musicians in Western Australia and was the first Artistic Director of the Yirra Yaakin Nyoongar Theatre from 1995-2003. Milroy's music has featured in films (Blackfellas, Exile and the Kingdom) and as the theme to a number of radio programs (ABC Radio National's Speaking Out program). In Sistergirl and Dead Heart for Black Swan Theatre Company and Perth Theatre Company's production of Wild Cat Falling he provided the musical direction.
Milroy's theatrical involvement has also included writing and directing a number of plays in Perth including including King Hit, 'Runumuk' and One Day in '67.' With Sally Morgan, he co-wrote and directed 'Cruel Wild Woman' and Barking Gecko's production of 'Own Worst Enemy' for the Festival of Perth.
In 2011, David Milroy was nominated for the Western Australian Citizen of the Year Award in the category of Arts, Culture and Entertainment, for his long standing contribution.
Dr Gary Foley began writing for Tracker in April 2011. His column The Contrarian appears regularly. However, Foley is better known as an activist, academic, writer and actor and his role in establishing the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972, and established an Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s. Also Foley co-wrote and acted in the first Indigenous Australian stage production, Basically Black.
Charles Perkins was an Aboriginal activist who spent most of his life fighting for equality for Indigenous Australians. His skin grouping was Purula in the Arrente community. His totem was the Caterpillar.
For most of Perkins' childhood, he lived on a reserve near Alice Springs. When he turned ten he went to St Francis House in Adelaide to study at Le Fevre Boys Technical School. He was at St Francis House the same time John Moriarty lived there. While staying at St Francis House, he discovered a love for soccer. At sixteen, Perkins was made to leave St Francis House because he did not get along with the house parents.
From 1952 to 1957, Perkins completed a fitter and turner apprenticeship at British Tube Mills. Meanwhile his skills on the soccer field gained him the position of the vice-captain of the South Australian team and the opportunity to play for Everton (in the English Football League). He also played for the Pan-Hellenic Club (Sydney) and the Croatian Club (Adelaide).
In 1961, he was elected Vice-President of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines. He began talking on the media circuit, discussing the injustices of the Aborigines Protection Act. In the same year, Perkins found himself hospitalised due to kidney complications. On a personal level, Perkins met his future wife, Eileen Munchenburg, in January 1961 and by September 1961 they were married.
Perkins was encouraged by Reverend Peter Noffs to further his education. He studied at the Metropolitan Business College before continuing his education at the University of Sydney. He was the first male Indigenous Australian to graduate from Sydney University. In 1965, Perkins participated in the Freedom Rides around New South Wales to highlight the discrimination towards Indigenous Australians.
Perkins visited Europe and the United States of America. It was in America that he had the opportunity to meet with African-American activist Jessie Jackson. By 1969, Perkins was in Canberra working as a senior research officer for the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
In 1970, Perkins fainted while playing soccer. It was discovered that his kidneys had collapsed. He thought he was going to die so he made a promise to himself that if he got his health back he was going to dedicate himself to Indigenous affairs. In 1972, Perkins suggested to Aboriginal activists, Michael Anderson and Kevin Gilbert, that they should set tents up outside Parliament House and name it the Aboriginal Embassy.
Over the next couple of years, Perkins spent time highlighting the disadvantages Indigenous Australians were suffering. Due to the controversial nature of his campaigning, he found himself without support from his non-Indigenous colleagues in the public service. By 1980, Perkins was promoted to Deputy Secretary in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA); later he was to divide his time between this position and the Chairman of the Aboriginal Development Commission. From 1984 to 1988, Perkins was the Secretary for the DAA. In 1988, he was sacked from the public service for maladministration and nepotism - these allegations were later withdrawn and Perkins was exonerated. In 1993, Perkins was awarded Aboriginal of the Year. In the same year he was appointed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and was Deputy Chair from 1994 to 1995.
In his lifetime, Charles Perkins held numerous positions for different Indigenous Australian organisations, councils and boards such as the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, and the Australia Council Aboriginal Arts Committee, and was President of the Arrente Council of Central Australia (1991-1994). With his determination and tenacity he contributed to improved rights for Indigenous Australians.
Bob Maza was born on Palm Island, a Murri Reserve in Queensland. His father was from Murray Island in the Torres Strait and his mother from the coastal Yidinjdji people. He completed his schooling in Cairns, spent some years as a manual labourer and then worked as a store clerk in Darwin. Maza began acting in Melbourne in 1969 with little formal training. He was a founding member of the National Black Theatre in Sydney in 1972. In 1970 Maza was a delegate to the 25th United Nations Assembly in New York to highlight the Third World status of Indigenous Australians. In that year he was also involved in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, where he often used theatre as a means of showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. In 1981 he was an official delegate to the World Indigenous Festival held in Canada.
Maza directed his first play, the premiere of Richard J. Merritt's The Cakeman, at the National Black Theatre in 1975. After that he worked as an actor, director, playwright and a consultant in theatre, radio, film and television. Maza's pioneering role in the ABC program Bellbird, which saw him playing a barrister, was vital in changing the way Indigenous people were portrayed in the media. His eminent acting career included countless roles on television, in theatre and feature films such as The Fringe Dwellers, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Reckless Kelly. In 1993, in recognition of his work in the Arts and for his people, Maza was awarded an Order of Australia (AM). During his years as an AFC commissioner (1995-98) he made a significant contribution not only to the development of Indigenous filmmakers in Australia but to the Australian filmmaking community generally. Maza is the father of Lisa Maza and actor and director, Rachel Maza Long (qq.v).
Jimmy Pike was born and grew up in the Great Sandy Desert and was a member of the Walmajarri people, one of the last groups to leave the desert and settle on cattle stations in the Kimberley during the 1950's. A former stockman on Kimberley cattle stations, Pike was imprisoned for murder in 1981. He took up painting while in prison, studying under Steven Culley and David Wroth and while imprisoned, he met Pat Lowe (q.v.).
He was released from prison in 1988 and soon after, Lowe and Pike went to live at Kurlku, about 200 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing. In the early 1990s, they moved to Broome and Pike's career as an artist began to flourish. This country, its ancient culture and symbols are the inspiration for Jimmy Pike's work. In 1999, he became the first Australian artist to have his work displayed in the Chinese National Gallery in Beijing.
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.
'At 23 Richard Walley was chairing the Aboriginal Advisory Board and was actively involved in the formation or operation of the Aboriginal Housing Board, Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Alcoholism Committee, Aboriginal Sports Foundation and the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship.
In 1978 Richard Walley began his illustrious career in the Arts, when, with three friends, he formed the Middar Aboriginal Theatre. Aiming to take the Nyungar culture from the South West corner of Western Australia to as many people as possible, Middar's success can be gauged by its results. During its lifetime, the Middar group performed in thirty-two countries, on every continent, to live audiences totalling almost ten million people.
After acting in theatre and TV, Walley went on to further develop his theatre skills, holding the role of either director or assistant director in 10 productions in theatre and TV from 1982 through to 1993. Several of these productions took place in the USA and London. During this period he also wrote several screenplays.
His versatility and thirst for new challenges saw him branch out into other areas of the arts. He is a renowned didgeridoo player and has produced a CD collection of didgeridoo music that is inspired by the six seasons of the Nyungar calendar. One of his musical project is 'Two Tribes', a collaboration with a group of artists which has resulted in an eclectic selection of songs combining traditional Indigenous music with contemporary styles including rap and hip hop.
His didgeridoo playing live performances have been at the Albert Hall in London, in Greece, Slovenia, Japan, Mexico, the USA, and Canada, to name but a few. In 2001 he performed in Westminster Abbey for dignitaries, including the Queen of England, as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations.
Walley is also a visual artist, with his works in much demand by collectors in Australia and overseas.
Richard Walley has been a recognized indigenous leader of the Arts in Australia and in 2001 was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Murdoch University in Western Australia for his contribution to Nyungar culture and the wider community.
As a past Chair of the Australia Council's Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Board Richard has played an integral role in focusing the direction of indigenous arts in Australia.'
Source: www.multicultural.online.wa.gov.au (Sighted 11/02/08).
Dr Chris Sarra has been principal of Cherbourg State School, Queensland, the first Aboriginal principal of the school.
Sarra was raised in Bundaberg, the youngest of ten children. He became principal of Cherbourg State School in 1998, and instituted the 'Strong and Smart' philosophy, seeking to radically improve student learning, attendance, and community involvement. Leaving Cherbourg in 2005, Sarra established the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute (2006), which was followed by the Stronger Smarter Institute; the latter was part of Queensland University of Technology from 2008 to 2013, and has been run as an independent not-for-profit organisation since late 2013.
In 2004, he was Queenslander of the Year. Other accolades include Australian of the Year, the Regional Local Hero Award for Queensland, and the Bulletin's list of smartest 100 people in Australia.
In 2018, Dr Chris Sarra, was appointed director-general of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP)
The childhood experiences of Noel Tovey were cruel and painful. He was subjected to a violent environment where he suffered an array of abuse, was abandoned by his parents and grew up on the street. The abuse and discrimination continued and Tovey was seventeen when he was sentenced to jail. At this point in the life of Noel Tovey, he was close to defeat when he turned his life around by pursuing a career in acting and dancing.
His work in the radio, television and theatre industry led him to England in 1960 where he became a respected choreographer at Sadler's Wells Opera. Before his return from England, Tovey had established a leading Art Gallery in London with his former partner David who died. Tovey became more conscious of his identity as an Indigenous Australian and sought to connect and work closer with the Aboriginal community upon his return to Australia in 1991. Along with working on boards and in committees over the years, Tovey was the Artistic Director for the Indigenous Welcoming Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Jack McPhee was born around 1905 in the Pilbara of north Western Australia. His mother's name was Mary and her traditional name was Marduwanyjawurru. Jack McPhee belonged to the Garimarra skin group and his family name was Yirrabinyah. Throughout his life he gained a great deal of respect and friendship from many while working as a stockman before the introduction of motor vehicles, gold and tin prospecting, mechanical work, as a blacksmith and truck driver.
During his life, Jack McPhee witnessed the introduction of the Exemption Certificate and Citizenship, the end of the First and Second World War, improvements in the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and a number of other milestone events in Australian history. Jack McPhee worked hard to raise his family and had six children who attended school in Marble Bar. Bee Hill River Man is a biography of Jack McPhee by Patricia Konigsberg. Wananmurraganya is another biographical account of his life that was recorded by his granddaughter Sally Morgan .
David Burrumarra was born into a large family of fifteen children in Dholtji situated near Cape Wilberforce in the Northern Territory. Burrumarra comes from the Warrimiri clan who are saltwater people, his wife's name was Lawuk and she was from the Galpu clan. Lawuk and David Burrumarra had seven children named Leku, Yumbulul, Magutu, Manda, Malwanany, Lambu and Rrapu.
Philip Morrissey worked in the field of Aboriginal arts and cultural administration before taking a position as lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Morrissey has contributed chapters to several recent publications including Unfinished Constitutional Business?: Rethinking Indigenous Self Determination and Sovereign Subjects: Indigenous Sovereignty Matters.
Ray Martin 'has spent more than forty years working in the media as a journalist, television presenter and interviewer. He has worked for the ABC, as well as Channel 9, where he was the front man for A Current Affair and 60 Minutes...' He has also been a member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Source: Koori Mail no. 466, 16 December 2009
Albert Holt is a respected Aboriginal Elder from Inala in Brisbane's south-west. He grew up at the Cherbourg mission after his family was forcibly removed from their home, overcoming adversity to become a respected role model. Towards the end of 2001 Uncle Albert Holt retired from full time work. His last employment was with the Queensland Police Service, where he worked as a Police Liaison Officer for more than seven years. Upon retirement, he became more engaged with the Brisbane community. Along with other distinguished Aboriginal Elders, he was integral in establishing the Queensland Murri Courts, which is a voluntary service. He saw the Murri Courts expand to seventeen throughout Queensland. This was possible because of the invaluable contributions of the Elders. Sadly, the Murri Courts became a victim of the Newman government cuts which was a profound disappointment for Uncle Albert and a backward step for our community.
For most of his life, Uncle Albert Holt has been passionately committed to encouraging all students to maximise the educational opportunities that are available to them. He is always encouraging them to seek educational pathways which benefit themselves, their community, and above all, their country. In acknowledgement for his community work he was awarded the 2005 NAIDOC Week National Male Elder of the year. In 2007 he was awarded the Queensland Premier's Senior Citizen Community Volunteer Award. In his local suburb of Inala, a Community Housing development has been named the Uncle Albert Holt Terraces. Since 2006, he has been a member of the Queensland Indigenous Consultative Committee, a ministerially-appointed committee that gives advice to governments on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders' education.
His passion is centred on education and school visits and has been 'adopted' in over 8 local Schools. He regularly speaks to students on topics such as Aboriginal culture and history with an emphasis on reconciliation. Through Education Queensland, he has been part of the School Principal for a Day event. He says this had a huge impact on students, the Principal, teachers and staff. That a Community Elder could give his time freely to promote the value of what they can achieve with a decent education, was very empowering. For Uncle Albert, he says the joy and respect he receives is rich and rewarding and always looks forward to Education Queensland Week: Principal for a Day.
His most recent endeavour has been as one of the 2012 Australia Day Ambassadors. In this role he got to travel to Charters Towers and be part of their Australia Day celebrations where he spoke in the true spirit of reconciliation. He hopes to continue in this role next year.
Uncle Albert is a published author and has just re-released his autobiography Forcibly Removed to great acclaim. He is working on a second book and hopes to have it published as an eBook. What a long way he has come since his days on the mission!
(Source: Vanessa Kerley 2012)
Stephen Kinnane was raised in Noongar country in south-west Western Australia and is a descendant of the Miriwoong people of the East Kimberley, through his maternal grandmother. He has worked as a writer and researcher on community cultural heritage projects.
As co-writer and co-producer of an ABC television documentary, 'The Coolbaroo Club', he was awarded a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Human Rights Award for the Arts in 1996. In 2017 he was a member of the Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography working party.
Yami Lester was born at a place called Wallatina, in northern South Australia. His wapar, dreaming, is the ngintaka. Lester has been a strong advocate for his people.
Lester was nearly eleven when he started his first job minding goats at Cullinan Station. His family lived at Wallatina, at the time of the Maralinga bomb tests; shortly after the explosions Lester lost sight in one eye. He learned how to muster, brand and castrate cattle, but a few years later his remaining eye began to lose vision also. In 1956, Lester was sent to Adelaide where he had an operation to remove his second eye.
Lester was sent to Colebrook Children's Home in Adelaide, where he lived for four and a half years. While at Colebrook he started working at the Institute for the Blind, making brooms and paint brushes, and he worked there for thirteen years, before doing interpreting work in the Pitjantjatjara language. In 1970, Lester moved to Alice Springs to work as an Interpretor with Jim Dowling and Indigenous Australians living in Alice Springs. He also worked as a consultant for the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) for several years before moving to Mimili, South Australia, in 1975.
In Mimili, Lester managed the Mimili Cattle Company, where he turned the company's finances around and got it making a profit for the community. Once this was done he moved back to Alice Springs to work for IAD again. By 1980, Lester was the Director of IAD, a position he held for six years.
Active within his community, Lester was nominated the Mimili, Fregon and Indulkana representative on the Pitjantjatjara council. He was involved with meetings for land rights on Anangu lands in Central Australia. Lester was a part of a delegation that travelled to Adelaide to discuss mining on Granite Downs with the South Australian Government. As a result of this delegation's discussions, the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act and the Anangu Pitjantjatara Lands (AP Lands) were established. Lester was also involved in the negotiations surrounding Uluru's land lease.
Robert Bropho's childhood years were spent in the 'fringedweller' camp in Swanbourne. He continued this lifestyle into adulthood. Bropho moved his family into Allawah Grove, and when he sought to occupy an empty house, he was denied access by the 'Native Department'. Bropho moved his family just outside Allawah Grove, where he and his wife made a shelter out of sheets of tin. Eventually Allawah Grove was shut down and the Native Welfare department relocated Bropho's family several times until they moved into his sister's house. Due to the cramped quarters, with nineteen people in his sister's four bedroom house, he applied to live somewhere else, and the Native Department sent the family to live on the York reserve.
While living at the York Reserve, Bropho and his wife were sent to court for neglecting their children and their seven children were taken away to New Norcia Mission for two years. Bropho and his wife moved back to Bropho's sister's house to wait out the two years their children would be gone.
In 1977, Bropho led a convoy of thirty-five people, including women and children, from Lockridge campsite in Western Australia to Canberra. Their intention was to protest against their living standards and the treatment the indigenous community received from the Australian Government. Three members of the convoy and Bropho had a meeting with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Viner, and were thus given the opportunity to put forward their situation and request change. Bropho was disappointed in what he felt was a lack of understanding and compassion by non-indigenous people.
After the convoy returned from Canberra, Bropho and the Lockridge community received two visits from the Minister for Community Welfare, Ray Young, who was assessing their situation. Frustrated by the government's inaction, Bropho and his 'fringedwelling' community moved to the grounds of an Anglican Church in Guildford before relocating to Heirisson Island on the Swan River. The lack of water and toilet facilities on the island meant that they had to walk for many miles to use the amenities or get a drink. After Heirisson Island, Bropho spent time travelling to other indigenous communities, that he felt needed support for issues such as better living conditions, protection of sacred sites, or self-empowerment. Robert Bropho became instrumental in establishing Swan Valley, a Nyungah camp situated in Perth, Western Australia, one of the oldest Aboriginal settlements in Perth.
In the late 1980s, Bropho was chosen by his community to be their spokesperson against development on the Waugul, the Rainbow Serpent, sacred sites in the Swan Valley area. He helped write letters to Peter Dowding (Western Australian Premier from 1988-1990), and made petitions protesting the development. The Waugul struggle went before the courts until June 1990 when the High Court of Australia decided in favour of Bropho against the Western Australian Government.
In 2000 an inquiry was set up to investigate sexual and drug abuse in indigenous communities in Western Australia, and amidst public controversy the Swan Valley camp was closed in 2003. Bropho's daughter, Bella, continued the campaign against the Western Australian government's 2003 closure of Swan Valley.