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Dr Anita Heiss’ Classic Reads for Indigenous Literacy Day 2014

September 3, 2014


This Indigenous Literacy Day, I want to share a few of my favourite Aboriginal authored “classic reads”.

Of course the definition of a classic is one that can be argued ad nauseam, and it’s difficult to argue against a title that the academy has decided is a “classic”. Trust me, I have tried!

So my personal classic reads are works by those I think were / are pioneers and change makers. These are the works I believe continue to make an impact on readers today, even though they may be decades old. These are works that I think all Australians should read to grasp a better understanding of our history, political landscape and the relationship of Australia’s First Nation peoples with the rest of the country.


I’ve decided to choose just a few works across genres and one anthology to make it slightly easier on myself, and to ensure there is something for every reading taste.
Why not add your classic to the list, and then take it to your local library or book club!


  • Poetry – Kath Walker’s We Are Going (Jacaranda Press, 1964) was the first collection of poetry published by an Aboriginal person.  It includes the “Aboriginal Charter of Rights” which calls for equality on all levels.


  • Play – Kevin Gilbert’s The Cherry Pickers written in 1968, it was first performed in 1988 as a protest against the bicentenary. Its also been performed by the Sydney Theatre Company under direction of Wesley Enoch.


  • Fiction – Kim Scott’s Benang: from the heart (FACP, 2000) It was joint winner of the 2000 Miles Franklin Award and the QLD and WA Premiers’s Literary awards in the same year. The work has been translated into French and Indian, and in past few years has been taught on 21 separate university courses.



  • The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature (Allen & Unwin, 2008) This ground-breaking work has 81 authors from Bennelong’s first letter in English in 1976 right through to Tara June Winch’s Swallow the Air in 2007. It brings back into print works that show the evolution of Aboriginal writing over time, but also the themes and issues that remain to Aboriginal writers across genres.


Find more recommendations for reading by Anita here:






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