Indigenous Australian literature

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David Unaipon (1872-1967), the first Aboriginal author.

Indigenous Australian literature is the fiction, plays, poems, essays and other works authored by Indigenous Australians. Notable authors include David Unaipon, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Sally Morgan, Marcia Langton, Noel Pearson, Jack Davis, Kevin Gilbert, Kim Scott, Alexis Wright, Kate Howarth, Tara June Winch, Yvette Holt and Anita Heiss.


At the point of the first colonization, Indigenous Australians had not developed a system of writing, so the first literary accounts of Aborigines come from the journals of early European explorers, which contain descriptions of first contact.[1]

While his father, James Unaipon (c.1835-1907), contributed to accounts of Aboriginal mythology written by the missionary George Taplin,[2] David Unaipon (1872–1967) provided the first accounts of Aboriginal mythology written by an Aboriginal: Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines. For this he is known as the first Aboriginal author. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1993) was a famous Aboriginal poet, writer and rights activist credited with publishing the first Aboriginal book of verse: We Are Going (1964).[3] Sally Morgan's novel My Place brought Indigenous stories to wider notice. Leading Aboriginal activists Marcia Langton (First Australians, 2008) and Noel Pearson (Up from the Mission, 2009) are contemporary contributors to Australian non-fiction.

Noel Pearson is an Aboriginal lawyer, rights activist and essayist.

The voices of Indigenous Australians include the playwright Jack Davis and Kevin Gilbert. Writers coming to prominence in the 21st century include Kim Scott, Alexis Wright, Kate Howarth, Tara June Winch, Yvette Holt and Anita Heiss. Indigenous authors who have won Australia's Miles Franklin Award include Kim Scott, who was joint winner (with Thea Astley) in 2000 for Benang and again in 2011 for That Deadman Dance. Alexis Wright won the award in 2007 for her novel Carpentaria.

Aboriginals leaders like Bennelong and Sir Douglas Nicholls wrote letters which are part of Indigenous Australian literature. The Yirrkala bark petitions of 1963 are the first traditional Aboriginal document recognised by the Australian Parliament.[4] AustLit's BlackWords project provides a comprehensive listing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Writers and Storytellers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Genoni, Paul (2004). Subverting the Empire: Explorers and Exploration in Australian Fiction. Altona, VIC: Common Ground.
  2. ^ Jenkin, Graham (1979). Conquest of the Ngarrindjeri. Adelaide: Rigby.
  3. ^ (in English) "Modern Australian poetry". Ministère de la culture.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)