Today, Indigenous Literacy Day, we celebrate Indigenous authored and illustrated children’s books on a range of topics.

The legends of Moonie Jarl by Wilf Reeves and Olga Miller

The legends of Moonie Jarl by Wilf Reeves

The first published collection of traditional stories for child readers by an Indigenous author is The legends of Moonie Jarl (1964) written by Wilf Reeves (1912-1968) and illustrated by his sister Olga Miller (1920-2003). Until 1964 non-Indigenous writers and illustrators interpreted Indigenous legends from colonial scientific records and folklore collections and disseminated a western understanding of Indigenous Australian culture. In contrast The legends of Moonie Jarl situates these stories entirely within the social group of Badtjala people, culture and lands of Fraser Island. By writing from inside their own culture Reeves and Miller embarked upon a process that has transformed the Australian children’s book industry and reader understanding of Indigenous culture.

Crabbing with dad by Paul Sedden, The grumpy lighthouse keeper by Territzita Corpus

Crabbing with dad by Paul Sedden, The grumpy lighthouse keeper by Territzita Corpus

Two recent picture books are Crabbing with dad, by Paul Seden, from the Wuthathi and Muralag people of North Queensland; and The grumpy lighthouse keeper, by Territzita Corpus, of the Yawuru and Nyul Nyul people of the Kimberley and illustrated by Maggie Prewett of the Ngarluma people of the Pilbara region. A dual language picture book Yira Boornak Nyininy by Kim Scott, Hazel Brown, Roma Winmar and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project is a story about friendship, forgiveness and survival.

Bruce Pascoe, an Elder of the Bunurong people of Tasmania, won the Prime Minister’s award for YA fiction with Fog a Dox. Here are two more recent books for younger readers: Mrs Whitlam and Seahorse.

Songs that sound like blood by Jared Thomas, Seahorse by Bruce Pascoe, Mrs Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe

Songs that sound like blood by Jared Thomas, Seahorse by Bruce Pascoe, Mrs Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe

In 2013 Jared Thomas won the black & write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship. Since then his young adult novels have been shortlisted for various literary awards. Dr Thomas, from the Nukunu people of the Southern Flinders Ranges recently published Songs that sound like blood, a book about the challenges for Roxy May Redding when she moves to the city to study music.

Remembered by heart

Remembered by heart, a collection of short stories.

Remembered by heart is a collection of short stories for older readers about the childhood experiences of Indigenous authors. For example Alice Nannup’s Life in Moore River contrasts her early life to her later Mission experience, others writers describe enduring devastating social and political policies in the 1930s, new opportunities in the 1960s and Bronwyn Bancroft’s Crossing the line is about being the youngest of seven children of an Indigenous man married to a white woman in 1949.


For more information, visit State Library Victoria’s Children’s Literature Research Guide on Aboriginality.

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