If you are joining in for the annual Indigenous Literature Week please sign up on the ILW blog post, not here, thanks.
Put 2017 ILW in your reading diary for July and watch out for announcements beforehand.
Indigenous readers please be aware that this page contains the names of deceased persons.
Introduction: please read first:
As a non-indigenous Australian, I am mindful that I do not and cannot know or understand all aspects of indigenous Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori culture or experience, and I hope that nothing here gives offence or causes distress. Within the limits of my opportunities for research, I have tried to create this page with good will and respect for the cultures included here.
Readers are warned that this page contains the names of deceased persons and may inadvertently use terminology that reflects attitudes or language used at the time of publication that are considered inappropriate today.
Please also note that for the purposes of identifying these authors as indigenous, the nation/language group of Aboriginal authors has been included (where known) but it is beyond the scope of this page to include non-indigenous ancestral heritage as well. My sources for biographical information have been the AustLit database BlackWords; the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature edited by Anita Heiss, Peter Minter and Nicholas Jose; and author and publisher websites. For Maori writers I have relied on the NZ Book Council website.
Please also note that this reading list is by intention confined to literary fiction i.e. literary novels and a few memoirs that I’ve read and reviewed on this blog. Indigenous people write in a wide variety of genres and there is a wealth of fabulous work available, but it is beyond the scope of this blog to cover them all and literary fiction for adults is the primary focus of this LitBlog. However, as of 2014 I will also be including the children’s books that I have reviewed at my LisaHillSchoolStuff blog. For Aboriginal books in the list that I have not yet read myself, I have relied on a title’s classification at the AustLit database BlackWords, supplemented by my reading of extracts in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature. For the Maori list, I have relied on recommendations from others and my own limited knowledge.
For those interested in indigenous short stories, memoir, biography, history, poetry, drama, popular fiction including crime, YA (Young Adult) or children’s books, please visit
- AustLit database BlackWords,
- the reading list at Anita Heiss’s blog,
- this helpful list at Christchurch City Library or The Modern Novel (New Zealand)
- Yvonne Perkins list of histories and biographies.
Also see reviews from participants in ANZ LitLovers Indigenous Literature Weeks
Many of the authors I’ve listed below have written more books than have been listed here, and to discover more, I also suggest a visit to GoodReads as a reliable user-friendly database (with reader reviews).
NB Some of these books are out of print. Where I haven’t been able to find a supplier, I’ve linked to Fishpond where used copies sometimes crop up for sale, and which (even if the book is out-of-stock) provides the publishing information and ISBN to help with further hunting. In Victoria, I also recommend using Z-portal to book an inter-library loan. (Other states probably have something similar and if anyone can supply me with links for interstate portals I’ll add them.) A Google search brings up copies available from AbeBooks and you can also search Brotherhood Books.
To keep up with new titles, UQP is a strong supporter of indigenous writers in Australia and their Black Australian Writing catalogue is well worth a look. Another publisher worth checking out is Magabala Books Australia’s oldest indigenous publishing house. Mademoiselle S from Twitter recommends Huia Publishers for Maori titles and I welcome more independent suggestions for New Zealand equivalents.
I welcome suggestions for additional authors and literary fiction titles. Please provide as much information as you can in comments if you’d like to add to this list.
Last updated 1/5/16.
Australian Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Literary Fiction, YA, & Memoir
Larissa Behrendt of the Eualeyai/Kamilaroi people
- Home Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best First Book, 2005
- Legacy Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Prize for Indigenous Writing, 2010 (see my review)
- Finding Eliza, Power and Colonial Storytelling (on my wishlist), see
- ‘Under skin, in blood’ (short story), see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums
- Blood , nominated for the 2012 Miles Franklin Award, see my review
- “Spirit in the night” in Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 10 No 4, May 2014, see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums
- Ghost River, nominated for the 2016 Miles Franklin Award, see my review
John Muk Muk Burke of the Wiradjuri people
- Bridge of Triangles Winner of the David Unaipon Award, 1993
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
Dylan Coleman, member of the Kokatha Mula Nation
Jack Davis, poet, of the Noongar people, see
- Mairi’s homage at Up the Creek with a Pen
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
Stan Grant of Aboriginal ancestry from the Wiradjuri
- Talking to My Country, see my review
Anita Heiss member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales
- Am I Black Enough for You? See my review.
- I’m Not Racist, But…: A Collection of Social Observations (Salt Modern Poets S.)
- The Intervention, an Anthology (Edited, with Rosie Scott) See my review
- Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight, see Bill’s review at The Australian Legend
Rachel Hennessy, of Aboriginal descent
- The Heaven I Swallowed: A Novel, see
Rita Huggins, an elder and Jackie Huggins, of the Bidjara Central Queensland and Birri-Gubba Juru North Queensland peoples,
- Auntie Rita, see the review by Yvonne from Stumbling Through the Past
Terri Janke descendant of the Wuthathi/Yadaighana and Meriam people
- Butterfly Song (I enjoyed this when I read it before starting this blog)
Stephen Kinnane, a Miriuwung Marda-Marda man from the East Kimberley of Western Australia
Kenny Laughton of the Arrernte people
- Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys (This is ‘faction’ based on Laughton’s military experiences in Vietnam)
Jeanine Leane, a Wiradjuri woman
Yami Lester, a Yankunytjatjara man from northern South Australia
Melissa Lucashenko of the Ygambeh/Bundjalung people
- Steam Pigs (Winner of the 1998 Dobbie Award for Women’s Fiction; shortlisted for the l999 New South Wales Premier’s fiction award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, First Published Book)
- Hard Yards
- Too Flash, see Emma’s review at My Book Corner
Keelan Mailman, of the Bidjara people
Philip McLaren, of the Kamileroi People
Sue McPherson, of Wiradjuri descent
- Grace Beside Me review by Jeniwren at GoodReads , and see Sonia’s comment from Sonia a.k.a. smaxine27 about why she enjoyed this book here).
Sally Morgan from the Palku (or Bailgu) people of the Pilbara
- My Place: Autobiography,
- Sister Heart, see smaxine27’s review and Louise’s at A Strong Belief in Wicker (which is, BTW, the best source of YA reviews that I know of)
Mudrooroo a.k.a. Colin Johnson of the Narrogin people
Marie Munkara, of Rembarranga descent
- Every Secret Thing, winner of the 2008 David Unaipon Award and the 2010 NT Book of the Year, see my review
- A Most Peculiar Act (See Sonia’s comment from Sonia a.k.a. smaxine27 about why she enjoyed this book here).
- Of Ashes and Rivers That Flow to the Sea, see my review
Bill Neidje, an Elder of the Kakadu and the last remaining speaker of the Gaagudju language
Oodgeroo Noonuccal a.k.a. Kath Walker of the Quandamooka people of Stradbroke Island, Queensland, and author of We Are Going (1964), the first book to be published by an Aboriginal woman
Siv Palmer from the Yuwallaraay Aboriginal Nation in far west New South Wales.
Bruce Pascoe of the Bunurong people
- Shark FAW Australian Literature Award, Melbourne University Press Literature Award., 1999
- Earth (see Lisa Hill’s review at ANZ LitLovers)
- Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?,
Doris Pilkington Garimara, of the Martu,
- Follow the Rabbit-proof Fence, review by Bill from The Australian Legend
Boori Monty Prior, of Kunggandji and Birri-Gubba descent
Wenten Rubuntja , an Arrernte man from Central Australia
- The Town Grew up Dancing: Life & A: The Life of Wenten Rubuntja with Jenny Green, review by Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers
Brenda Saunders, artist and writer of Wiradjuri and British descent.
- Looking for Bullin Bullin (NB this is a poetry collection that came my way but I’m including it because Saunders is a significant poet.)
Kim Scott of the Noongar people of WA
- True Country (on my TBR)
- Benang: From the Heart, Miles Franklin Literary Award, joint winner 2000,
- That Deadman Dance, Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2011; Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best Book, 2011 and a swag of other awards,
- Kayang and Me (with Hazel Brown), see my review
Jared Thomas of the Nukunu / Nuguna people
- Sweet Guy (shortlisted for the 2006 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing)
- Calypso Summer(YA), (see my review)
Ellen Van Neerven, a Yugambeh woman from South-East Queensland
- ‘The Sweetest Thing’ in Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 10, No 4, May 2014 see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums
- Comfort Food, see Jess White’s review at Jessica White, Writer and Researcher
Sam Watson of the Birri-Gubba Juru/Munaldjali people
- The Kadaitcha Sung (I can’t find this anywhere, not even in a library. It’s very frustrating because the excerpt in the Macquarie PEN Anthology looks so tempting!)
Herb Wharton born in Yumba, an Aboriginal camp in the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla
Lesley Williams a Murri Elder, and Tammy Williams, a Murri woman
- Not Just Black and White, see my review
Tara June Winch of the Wiradjuri people
- Swallow the Air Winner of the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers,
- After the Carnage (2016)
Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung, of Mbaiwum descent
Ellen Van Neerven, a writer of Mununjali and Dutch heritage who belongs to the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim
- Heat and Light. This book won the David Unaipon Award in 2013, and has been widely reviewed and shortlisted.
Waipuldanya, a.k.a. Phillip Roberts, of the Alawa people, as told to Douglas Lockwood
- I, the Aboriginal (see Bill’s review at The Australian Legend)
Alexis Wright of the Waanyi people
- Carpentaria (winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2007. I read it before starting this blog.)
- Plains of Promise (Black Australian Writers)
- The Swan Book, shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award 2014, see my review
Arapera Blank, of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu descent, and winner of the Katherine Mansfield Award in 1959
Marino Blank, of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu and Swiss descent
- Crimson (a collection of poetry)
Lisa Cherrington of Maori, Niuean, Samoan, Irish and Danish descent
- The People-Faces
Alan Duff of Ngāti Rangitihi and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent
- Once Were Warriors (Once Were Warriors Trilogy #1), see Nadine’s review at 5 in a Bus
- What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (Once Were Warriors Trilogy #2) (On my TBR)
- Jake’s Long Shadow (Once Were Warriors Trilogy #3)
- Who Sings for Lu?
- Dreamboat Dad
James George of Nga Puhi descent (recommended by Mademoiselle S)
Patricia Grace of Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa descent
- Potiki, see my review, and Marilyn’s review at Me, You and Books
- Baby No Eyes, see my review
- Tu, see my review
- Cousins, see my review
- Chappy, see my review
- Dogside Story (Nominated for the Booker 2001, I can’t find a copy of this anywhere yet).
- Mutuwhenua (Popular Penguins)
Whiti Hereaka of Ngati Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa descent
- The Graphologist’s Apprentice shortlisted for First Book in the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Asia/Pacific region) 2011.
Keri Hulme of Kai Tahu, Kāti Mamoe descent
- The Bone People (I read this when it won the 1985 Booker Prize, an unforgettable novel )
Witi Ihimaera of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki descent
- The Parihaka Woman, recommended by Helen NZ of the ANZ LitLovers online reading group
- The Uncle’s Story (on my TBR)
- Bulibasha (see my review)
- The Dream Swimmer (on my TBR)
- The Whale Rider
- Pounamu, Pounamu (Popular Penguins)
- Nights in the Gardens of Spain
- ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You Sister’ (short story) (see my review)
Tina Makeriti of Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Maniapoto descent.
- Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa, recommended by Mademoiselle S via Twitter, who also suggests Alice Tawhai and James George, Paula Morris and Kelly Ana Morey
- Where The Rekohu Bone Sings (2014)
Kelly Ana Morey of Ngati Kuri descent
Paula Morris of Ngati Wai descent
Kelly Ana Morey of Ngati Kuri descent
Alice Tawhai of Tainui and Nga Puhi descent (recommended by Mademoiselle S)
For more information about Maori writers visit the NZ Book Council.
Huia Publishers specialises in Maori authors, and Fishpond (NZ) have a wide range as well. (Sometimes they have second-hand copies of out-of-print editions). Links above are all to Fishpond Australia but I think they work for Kiwis just the same.
Thanks to Sandra and to Mademoiselle S for these contributions.
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell of NZ/Cook Island descent
- The Frigate Bird, novel, regional finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize
- Fantasy with Witches
Sia Figiel from Samoa
- Where We Once Belonged 1997 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Best First Book for the South East Asia-South Pacific regions
- They Who Do Not Grieve
- Freelove (2016) 2016
John Puhiatau Pule, an artist/novelist born in Niue and living in Auckland, New Zealand. His books are hard to find.
- The Shark that Ate the Sun
- Burn My Head in Heaven
- Restless people
Lani Wendt-Young (born in Apia, Samoa) is a published author living in Auckland, New Zealand. Follow the links from her Sleepless in Samoa blog to buy the books.
- Telesa – The Covenant Keeper.
- When Water Burns
- The Bone Bearer
- I am Daniel Tahi
- Scarlet Lies
- Scarlet Secrets
- Afakasi Woman (A Collection of Short Fiction)
- Pacific Tsunami – Galu Afi.
And from elsewhere round the world…
Lemona’s tale by Ken Saro-Wiwa, a member of the Ogoni people of Nigeria (see Stu’s review at Winston’s Dad)
April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton, of the Métis people in Canada, review by Marilyn from You, Me and Books
The Indian Killer by Sherman Alexis, a Native American with ancestry from several tribes. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Review by Marilyn from You, Me and Books.
The Lone Man by Bernardo Atxaga of the Basque region of Spain, review by Stu from Winston’s Dad
Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe of the Basque region of Spain, review by Stu from Winston’s Dad
(All these reviews are on my professional blog, LisaHillSchoolStuff.
Thanks to everyone for their helpful suggestions for this list.