Look for a Book! First Nations fiction, history and poetry

In his introduction to this extraordinary book, author Dr Tyson Yunkaporta speaks directly to his reader: ‘Us-two, you and I meeting in these pages, we are here to find out what is useful and interesting in dialogue.’

Right Story is a conversation between writer and reader about the critical importance of First Nations knowledges and ways of thinking. Looking at just about everything wrong with the world, from environmental collapse to the dysfunctional state of our communities, it uses First Nations knowledge as a lens to view such problems.

Yunkaporta attempts to have the reader recognise the differences between the ‘right story’ and the ‘wrong story’, and to identify the ways that First Nations thinking might turn ‘Wrong Story’ into ‘Right Story’. With writing both elegant and whimsical, however, even avoiding the dense language of academia, it can be difficult for a non-Indigenous reader to navigate the concepts he proposes. This is a book that needs to be taken in slowly and thoughtfully; read a little, think a lot!

‘This book is my contribution to truthtelling… Telling our ancestors’ stories is a way to address this unfinished business.’

Shauna Bostock follows the threads of her family back through centuries, tracing strands of archival records and oral history to pluck out stories of suffering, courage, conviction and joy. From Nellie Solomon, who kicked the powers at the Aborigines Protection Board; to Sam Anderson, who caught Donald Bradman out for a duck; to the author’s father and uncles who went to Vietnam, then fought on the homefront for Aboriginal rights, art and activism their weapons of choice; to the arrival of the Bostock name in Australia in the shape of a convicted slave-trader, Bostock characterises her ancestors with a storyteller’s flair.

This is a significant book, and as Bostock says, she is the only one who could have written it – Aboriginal Affairs NSW only allows ‘directly related’ people to access materials on First Nations people. But if the richness of experience in Bostock’s ancestry suggests anything, it is that there are thousands of true Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories that need to be told.

Returning by Kirli Saunders

Magabala Books


Returning is a new collection of poems and artwork by Gunai woman Kirli Saunders, exploring returning to your true self, connecting with kin, Country and queerness, and the ongoing fight for self-determination. Deeply emotional, the collection features an array of artworks in watercolour, digital imagery, weaving, hand-crafted possum cloaks and ink on hand-dyed silk.

Written in the backdrop of the pandemic, bushfires, floods and the global Black Lives Matter movement, Kirli says, ‘the issues that our ancestors and we have been fighting become mainstream (for a time).’

Truth-telling is a motif and Kirli shines an inescapable spotlight on our very real history, listing the countless ways First Nations people’s lives have been impacted by unpaid labour, domestic servitude and abduction from family homes.

Returning is an intimate look into the life and epiphanies experienced by Kirli during times of global and local uncertainty and loss, and what was found among the wreckage.

‘Let’s walk together through the oldest, biggest library of knowledges on earth. This library is not made of books. Its knowledge is held in the land, the sea and the sky… We call the knowledge held in this enormous library the Songlines.’

Songlines is a young reader adaptation of the popular First Knowledges book series that delved into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander design, innovation and astronomy.

Written to explain how knowledges were and continue to be shared through the ‘world’s oldest library’, Songlines is an immersive and engaging introduction for young readers, with striking illustrations from award-winning artist Blak Douglas.

Both authors bring a wealth of knowledge and insight into the topic. Margo Ngawa Neale is the head of the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, senior Indigenous curator, and principal adviser to the director of the National Museum of Australia. Lynne Kelly is a science writer working as an honorary research associate at La Trobe University and the author of The Memory Code and Memory Craft.

Each chapter ends with a chance for young readers to get involved in their learning by taking part in activities that deepen their knowledge and help them understand the Country they are on, what they can learn from it and the Songlines around them.

An engaging read not just for young readers, but for parents, caregivers and grandparents, too.

Weaving together narratives of two different Meanjin-Brisbanes, Lucashenko’s Edenglassie provides an Aboriginal viewpoint to the upcoming bicentenary of John Oxley’s trip up the Brisbane River. It shows a tantalising glimpse of what could have been – when convicts were no longer being sent to the area, and populations of First Nations people and foreigners were close in numbers.

We first meet our protagonists – Dalapai, Yerrin Murree, Dawalbin, Mulanyin and Nita – in the early 1850’s at a ceremony at the Woolloongabba pullen pullen grounds. Yerrin expects the white strangers will be gone by the next mullet run, but colonial violence ramps up, land is being taken at a pace, and the river eco-system is ruined.

In the present day, feisty and funny Granny Eddie, her granddaughter, a young doctor who’s just started identifying, a healer/Aunty, and an annoying white journalist are the characters that help build the connections to past and present, as history, ways of knowing, being and learning, are wrangled between their lives.

This story has been on Lukashenko’s mind for years, but she didn’t start writing till she was back in the city and with the advice of Elders: ‘I wanted have novel out there at the bicentenary of Brisbane that says, this is one version of what was happening at the birth of what’s now Brisbane,’ she says. ‘And if you don’t understand there was a civilisation here, there was government here, and that there were people with flourishing lives here and complex lives then have a read of this and maybe you’ll think differently.’

This article is from the 51st edition of Reconciliation News magazine. Read the rest of the issue. 

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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