Must Read Books by First Nations People

‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ is the official theme of NAIDOC Week (8-15 November 2020), recognising and celebrating that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this land for over 65,000 years.

With this year turning our outlook inwards, and as we look to supporting local, it is also important for us to educate ourselves on our history and the importance that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had on the land where we now live, and acknowledge that their history and culture has been suppressed for centuries.

While there are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and voices bringing to light their complex history and cultural stories, here are just 3 powerful and moving must read books to add to your reading list, as recommended by The Gospel staff.

Talking To My Country (2016) by Stan Grant (a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man)

This incredibly moving book by Stan Grant, one of Australia’s leading journalists, touches on race, culture and national identity. It is in part a memoir, of Grant’s personal story as he struggles to deal with the concept of being Australian, of being Indigenous and the ongoing racism that still exists in this country today. It is also in part a plea, for the Australian people to wake up, asking us how we can be better and to not remain complacent in the fight to overcome racism. The writing is raw, direct, and honest - it challenges us on what has been and what could be. An essential and valuable read for all Australians.

Buy here

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (2017) edited by Dr Anita Heiss (from the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales)

A collection of stories, compiled by award-winning author Dr Anita Heiss, brings to light what it is like to grow up as an Indigenous person in Australia. It showcases colourful and confronting stories of family, country and belonging, from the perspective of First Nations peoples. Each story is different. It will enlighten, inspire and educate.

A range of diverse voices, featuring words from Adam Goodes, Terri Janke, Miranda Tapsell, Aileen Walsh, Marlee Silva, Tara June Winch, and many more, calls for empathy, challenges stereotypes and demonstrates the long-lasting impact of invasion and colonisation on language, country, family and way of life.

Buy here

Dark Emu (2014) by Bruce Pascoe (a Bunurong man)

A substantiated rebuttal to the ‘hunter-gather’ myth of pre-colonial Aboriginal people, Dark Emu references a number of historic texts from early explorers to lay evidence that systems of food production and land management existed right across the continent. While the repetition of cross-referencing from multiple sources may appear a little dry at times, the stories of fire management, bread making, harvesting and irrigation stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. It is a conversation starter, that will hopefully help us to reconsider how we teach this history and learn how tend to the land.

Buy here


Other books on our list:

-- My Tidda, My Sister (2020) by Marlee Silva (a Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman)
-- Am I Black Enough For You (2012) by Dr Anita Heiss (from the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales)
-- Tell Me Why (2019) by Archie Roach (a Gunditjmara and Bundjalung man)
-- Finding the Heart of the Nation (2019) by Thomas Mayor (a Torres Strait Islander man)
-- Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia (2018) by Marcia Langton (a Yiman and Bidjara woman)
-- Australia Day (2019) by Stan Grant (a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man)

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Learn more here.


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