Monday, March 23, 2009

Black Words e-news – March – April 2009

Welcome to our latest edition of Black Words e-news aimed at keeping you up-to-date with new books going into the Black Words Research Community and with what’s happening on the ground with our team members around the country.

Dr Anita Heiss (National Coordinator, based in Sydney) gave a presentation on Black Words and Aboriginal literature generally at the New York University New School in January. Some students had seen the movie Rabbit Proof Fence but were unaware it was adapted from the novel Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington and first released through UQP in 1996.

Anita was also the ‘celebrity guest’ on this year’s first episode of the First Tuesday Book Club on the ABC. If you missed the show, you can still watch it on-line at:

Words from Anita:
A friend on Facebook asked me who my Top 20 Aboriginal writers were. Naturally, that was near impossible for me to answer because there are almost 2000 published writers on our database and I have read hundreds. Off the top of my head though, and looking quickly at my bookcase I gave her the following list (in no particular order). How many of these authors have YOU read???

Romaine Moreton, Terri Janke, Melissa Lucashenko, Bruce Pascoe, Richard Frankland, Peter Minter, Ruby Langford Ginibi, Doris Pilkington, Kim Scott, Jackie Huggins, Stephen Hagan, Samuel Wagan Watson, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Pat Torres, Larissa Behrendt, Jared Thomas, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Kevin Gilbert, Jack Davis and Alexis Wright.

Some words from Yaritji Green, Indigenous Trainee Librarian and Black Words Researcher located at Flinders University Library in Adelaide.

It is sometimes hard to believe that for work I get to read, research and write about Deadly Indigenous Australians. This month I've read about people who have had to struggle through life yet managed to not only do well for themselves but also help others in the process. One of the lives I read about was my Tjamu (Grandfather) Yami Lester, in his self-titled biography, Yami: The Autobiography of Yami Lester. As a young boy Lester worked on stations in Central Australia and was a child when the Maralinga nuclear bombs were exploded over country. He claims the bombs were the reason why he became blind by the time he was twelve. Being blind did not stop Lester from helping his people: from doing consulting work at IAD, to land negotiations with government, and managing the Mimili Cattle Company. Those are just a few of the things detailed in Lester's autobiography.

New to the bookshelves is Written in the Land: The Life of Queenie McKenzie, written by Non-Indigenous author, Jennifer Joi Field. Queenie McKenzie was a law woman in the Kimberley, Western Australia. McKenzie was a teacher to the younger generations, making sure they learned their Indigenous heritage, the stories and songs, and their connection with the land. To find out more about Written in the Land: The Life of Queenie McKenzie check the website:

A great read for busy people is Skins: Contemporary Indigenous Writing. Skins gives the reader a viewing of some of Indigenous Australia's top writing talent: Alexis Wright, Bruce Pascoe and quite a few more. Skins also includes the writings of other Indigenous writers from around the world.

And from Elizabeth Hodgson at the University of Wollongong:
Indexing the collection of autobiographical stories in Steppin’ Out and Speakin’ Up published by the Older Women’s Network, I realise there are some very remarkable and strong Aboriginal women around whose stories are both representative and personal. The women in this book are all older women but they forged an Aboriginal identity despite the racism, the sexual politics and the poverty of the early to mid/late 20 century. These women have turned to art, religion, spirituality and/or family for strength to accomplish their goals for a better life for Aboriginal people.

Working on the Black Words Community for AustLit is wonderful as I get to read biographies, stories and poetry as well as learning, all while I’m working.

Welcome to you new team member Jake Milroy at the University of Western Australia.
Jake started on March 16, and here’s a little about the man himself:

I began working full-time at the age of seventeen and never believed I would return to study and be given the opportunity to pursue a career involving Indigenous issues. Through the support and inspiration of family and friends I have now attained a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Political Science and History. Over the years of my study at UWA I had been working part-time, studying full-time and was vice-president of Western Australian Students Aboriginal Corporation one year and president the next.

I have been aware of the importance that Aboriginal writers have in Australia from an early age. To be able to contribute to such a positive and important project is an honour. I was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, and my people are Palyku from the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia. I will be assisting in researching the WA side of Black Words.

I enjoy seeing and being part of developments that encourage the incorporation of our history into a national system of record and believe that by having an abundance of Aboriginal writing readily available on the internet will assist in the proliferation and creation of more great works. Being part of the Black words team is an energising experience and I look forward to getting more of WA's Aboriginal artists that are out there some further recognition by recording them in Black Words. For a book with some great stories that has the ability to draw on every emotion, try opening a page of the book Speaking from the Heart (Fremantle Press). Enjoy the site!

And farewell to our Queensland team member Yvette Holt
Yvette began working with Black Words in 2007 and she’s about to leave us for a new a position working in Workplace English Literacy and Language in Alice Springs. We will miss Yvette but we know her new work involving - detailing literary resources, teaching practices and generally working towards improving adult English and literacy/numeracy amongst some of the nation's most disadvantaged groups – is very important.

If you would like to make sure Black Words is available in your community, ask at your local library if they subscribe to AustLit, or email us at to get a free trial for your library.

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