Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 7, 2018

First Nations Reading Week – a Reading List of First Nations Women Writers

NB Indigenous Literature Week was renamed as
First Nations Reading Week in June 2022.

Indigenous Literature Week at ANZLitLovers begins tomorrow to coincide with NAIDOC Week here in Australia. (8 to 15 July).

NAIDOC Week is when Australians celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and this year the NAIDOC Week theme is Because of her, we can, celebrating the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made – and continue to make – to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation.

Indigenous women have been prominent in the development of Indigenous writing as a distinctive genre.  Through their words and storytelling, they have given voice to Indigenous history, culture, lives and ambitions, leading readers on a journey of learning and understanding.  Although I had read and been shocked by Sally Morgan’s My Place back in 1988, and I had read some memoirs since then, I did not I read my first novel by an Indigenous author until 2005: it was Butterfly Song by Terri Janke, and it made me realise that for Indigenous women, there are all sorts of extra barriers and cultural expectations that surround empowering experiences like graduating from university.  It made me realise that Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Australian are distinct and by implication, that there were other distinctive Indigenous cultures for me to discover.  And it also made me realise that although I had been reading voraciously since childhood, in over forty years in this country, I had never before read any First Nations fiction.   Because of Terri Janke, I can…

If you’ve never read a book by an Indigenous Australian woman author, find out more about 2018 Indigenous Literature Week here, and begin your journey with one of these books.

Please feel free to recommend others not included here!

Larissa Behrendt of the Eualeyai/Kamilaroi people

Ngarta Jinny Bent, with Jukuna Mona Chuguna of the the Walmajarri people

Hazel Brown, of the Noongar people of the southern coast of Western Australia

Vivienne Cleven of the Kamilaroi people

  • Bitin’ Back Shortlisted for the SA Premier’s Award, 2002, Winner of the David Unaipon Award, 2000
  • Her Sister’s Eye Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, Prize for Indigenous Writing, 2004

Claire G Coleman who identifies with the South Coast Noongar people of Western Australia

Dylan Coleman, member of the Kokatha Mula Nation

Editors Pat Dudgeon from the Bardi people of the Kimberley area in Western Australia, Jeannie Herbert, an Indigenous woman born and raised in the Kimberley area and Darlene Oxenham, a Malgana woman from Shark Bay on the coast of Western Australia

Ali Cobby Eckermann who identifies with the Yankunytjatjara / Kokatha people from the north west desert country of South Australia

Lizzie Marrkilyi Ellis, of the Ngaatjatjarra, one of the language groups making up the Western Desert people of Central Australia

Pictures from my Memory: My story as a Ngaatjatjarra woman, see

Liz Hayden, an indigenous woman from Western Australia

Anita Heiss member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales

Rita Huggins, an elder and Jackie Huggins, of the Bidjara Central Queensland and Birri-Gubba Juru North Queensland peoples,

Terri Janke descendant of the Wuthathi/Yadaighana and Meriam people

  • Butterfly Song (I enjoyed this when I read it before starting this blog)

Ruby Langford Ginibi

Jeanine Leane, a Wiradjuri woman

Melissa Lucashenko of the Ygambeh/Bundjalung people

Keelan Mailman, of the Bidjara people

Sue McPherson, of Wiradjuri descent

Sally Morgan from the Palku (or Bailgu) people of the Pilbara

Marie Munkara, of Rembarranga descent

Margo Neale, an Indigenous woman from Queensland, of Indigenous and Irish descent

Oodgeroo Noonuccal a.k.a. Kath Walker of the Quandamooka people of Stradbroke Island, Queensland

NT Writers Centre

  • This Country Anytime Anywhere, IADPress,  featuring works by emerging writers as well as many winners of Northern Territory literary awards, including Marie Munkara, winner of the 2008 David Unaipon Award for Every Secret Thing (also judged the 2010 Northern Territory Book of the Year Award).

Siv Palmer from the Yuwallaraay Aboriginal Nation in far west New South Wales.

Doris Pilkington Garimara, of the Martu,

Ellen Van Neerven, a writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage who identifies with the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim

‘The Sweetest Thing’ in Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 10, No 4, May 2014 see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums

Lesley Williams a Murri Elder, and Tammy Williams, a Murri woman

Tara June Winch of the Wiradjuri people

Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung, of Mbaiwum descent

Alexis Wright of the Waanyi people

Reviews to come for ILW 2018 include

PS Please use the #IndigLitWeek & #NAIDOC hashtags on Twitter.


  1. This is a wonderful list. I definitely need to read more of these women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aren’t they wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hear, hear – thank you Lisa, much valuable work and expertise compiling this, thank you. Many names which are new to me.


      • Ah yes, but it’s a shared enterprise – look at all those reviews from other readers as well as mine:)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lisa, I have read some of the books mentioned. I am in Hobart at the moment and the library I visit is quite small. However, I will try to find some of the ones I haven’t read. I would also suggest Sister Heart by Sally Morgan. It is about the Stolen Generation from a child’s perspective. In verse, beautifully written, but so sad.


    • I certainly will chase that one up, but as you will see later in the week, I have a review of a novel called Barga Boy Jackson that tells the story of child removal in WA. It’s heartrending without being maudlin.


  3. Great list Lisa. And thanks for all the links. Your list is getting bigger and bigger. As I think I’ve said, I’ve started Munkara’s memoir but probably won’t be able to post a review until we get to Darwin. We have Internet here in Gore but leave here for the bush on Monday morning.


  4. You bet it’s a great list – my goodness! I’m plugging along with my indigenous Americans – (I read some indigenous Austraians once in awhile, too, though).

    This year I caught There There by Tommy Orange which is about urban natives in today’s world. Excellent – and I want to read N. Scott Momaday’s
    House Made of Dawn, too (a classic) . (so many books, sigh)

    There There –


    • Yes, isn’t it amazing! I never thought when I started #IndigLitWeek that it would grow to something like this – these days it’s even listed on the official NAIDOC week website. But I hadn’t realised until I did this post, just how many of the authors I’d read were women!!
      Thanks for sharing your post about Tommy Orange:)
      PS I can’t comment on your review, is it meant to be blocked to comments?


  5. Great list Lisa, Indigenous women are certainly leading the way in Oz Lit, and thanks for including my reviews. Alexis Wright is amongst the top 2 or 3 of all our writers, but I hope also that I can persuade a few of your readers to sample the little known Two Sisters and Pictures From My Memory – memoirs by women born and raised in the deserts of WA. Meanwhile, from a WA point of view, you’ve pointed me to a couple of others I must read.

    I wonder also if you would include Kayang and Me in this list.


    • Oh yes, *smacks forehead* I missed Kayang and Me because I had it listed under Kim Scott’s name because it’s co-authored with him. I’ll fix that, thanks for reminding me!


  6. […] list of sensational Indigenous women writers here, […]


  7. Such a great resource, Lisa. Thanks for putting it together (and for linking to my review).


  8. Reblogged this on WordMothers and commented:
    NAIDOC week kicks off today, with 2018 dedicated to celebrating women. Check out Lisa Hill’s wonderful list of Indigenous women writers!


  9. Hello Lisa and fellow blog readers,

    It’s Sonia. I’m in awe of NAIDOC’s 2018 theme, ‘Because of Her We Can’, and Lisa’s evocation of it through her listing of literature produced by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women authors. However, I noticed this year that Maori writers weren’t included in the listing despite its focus on Australian indigenous writers. Part of my literary research and scholarship is inclusive of Black Australian indigenous women’s writings.

    I first became aware of Australian Aborigines when I read the essays “On the Line and the Black Pen” by Eva Johnson from the anthology, Word.: On Being a [Woman] Writer (On Writing Herself). As Lisa emphasized in her statement, indigenous women writers in particular have presented nuanced provocative perspectives on the history, culture, and social values of Aboriginal people and communities. Since reading Johnson’s essay, I’ve read compiled and read other Aborigine writers like Sally Morgan, Larissa Behrendt, Doris Pilkington, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Marie Munkara, Gayle Kennedy, etc.

    In observance of 2018 Indigenous Literature Week, I’m currently reading Tony Birch’s story collection Common People, selected essays from Anita Heiss’ anthology Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, and selected stories from Maori writer Patricia Grace’s Collected Stories. I look to reading Lisa’s book reviews and commentary from blog readers this week.


  10. *snap*! I am currently reading Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia too: what a wonderful collection it is!
    You will be pleased to hear that I do have a review of a Maori author later in the week, but I don’t think I’ll have time to finish Patricia Grace’s Katrina and Ned, it’s quite long. And I’m quite cross with myself, I do have a novel called Bloom by a Maori woman, but I cannot find it where it should be on my shelves. I can’t think where it might be…


  11. […] ANZ LitLovers Indigenous Literature Week […]


  12. […] a book review to finish for Lisa Hill’s wonderful celebration of Indigenous Literature she holds each year during […]


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