National Reconciliation Week May 27-June 3

National Reconciliation Week logo 2021

Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2021, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action.

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(Source: Reconciliation Australia, 2021)

Everybody has a role a play in the reconciliation process and working towards collectively valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and histories. To mark National Reconciliation Week 2021, and the nearly three decades of Australia’s formal reconciliation process, the University of Sydney Library is featuring highlights from the collection by First Nations authors. These can be found through Library search either online, in our physical collection or at the Wingara Mura Research Centre.

Dark Emu: Black seeds agriculture or accident?

Pascoe, Bruce
2014


Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for precolonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources.
Find Dark Emu in Library Search

Finding the Heart of the Nation: The Journey of the Uluru Statement Towards Voice, Treaty and Truth

Mayor, Thomas
2019

This is a book for all Australians. Since the Uluru Statement from the Heart was formed in 2017, Thomas Mayor has travelled around the country to promote its vision of a better future for Indigenous Australians. He’s visited communities big and small, often with the Uluru Statement canvas rolled up in a tube under his arm. Through the story of his own journey and interviews with 20 key people, Thomas taps into a deep sense of our shared humanity. The voices within these chapters make clear what the Uluru Statement is and why it is so important. And Thomas hopes you will be moved to join them, along with the growing movement of Australians who want to see substantive constitutional change. Thomas believes that we will only find the heart of our nation when the First peoples – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – are recognised with a representative Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution. Thomas’s compelling work is full of Australian Indigenous voices that should be heard.
Find Finding the Heart of the Nation in Library Search

Kindred

Saunders, Kirli
2019

Kindred, Kirli Saunders debut poetry collection, is a pleasure to lose yourself in. Kirli has a keen eye for observation, humour and big themes that surround Love/Connection/Loss in an engaging style, complemented by evocative and poignant imagery. It talks to identity, culture, community and the role of Earth as healer. Kindred has the ability to grab hold of the personal in the universal and reflect this back to the reader.
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My Tidda, My Sister : Stories of Strength and Resilience from Australia’s First Women

Silva, Marlee
2020

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and society has existed on this continent for millennia. It’s a culture that manifests itself as the ultimate example of resilience, strength and beauty. It’s also a culture that has consistently been led by its women. My Tidda, My Sister shares the experiences of many Indigenous women and girls, brought together by author and host of the Tiddas 4 Tiddas podcast, Marlee Silva. The voices of First Nations’ women that Marlee weaves through the book provide a rebuttal to the idea that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. For non-Indigenous women, it demonstrates the diversity of what success can look like and offers an insight into the lives of their Indigenous sisters and peers. Featuring colourful artwork by artist Rachael Sarra, this book is a celebration of the Indigenous female experience through truth-telling. Some stories are heart-warming, while others shine a light on the terrible realities for many Australian Indigenous women, both in the past and in the present. But what they all share is the ability to inspire and empower, creating a sisterhood for all Australian women.
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Tell me why: the story of my life and my music

Roach, Archie
2019

A powerful memoir of a true Australian legend: stolen child, musical and lyrical genius, and leader. No one has lived as many lives as Archie Roach – stolen child, seeker, teenage alcoholic, lover, father, musical and lyrical genius, and leader – but it took him almost a lifetime to find out who he really was. Roach was only two years old when he was forcibly removed from his family. Brought up by a series of foster parents until his early teens, his world imploded when he received a letter that spoke of a life he had no memory of. In this intimate, moving and often shocking memoir, Archie’s story is an extraordinary odyssey through love and heartbreak, family and community, survival and renewal – and the healing power of music. Overcoming enormous odds to find his story and his people, Archie voices the joy, pain and hope he found on his path through song to become the legendary singer-songwriter and storyteller that he is today – beloved by fans worldwide. Tell Me Why is a stunning account of resilience and the strength of spirit – and of a great love story.
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Growing Up in Aboriginal Australia

Heiss, Anita (Ed)
2018

What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss, attempts to showcase as many diverse voices, experiences and stories as possible in order to answer that question. Each account reveals, to some degree, the impacts of invasion and colonisation – on language, on country, on ways of life, and on how people are treated daily in the community, the education system, the workplace and friendship groups.Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside newly discovered voices of all ages, with experiences spanning coastal and desert regions, cities and remote communities. All of them speak to the heart – sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.This groundbreaking anthology aims to enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today.Contributors include: Tony Birch, Deborah Cheetham, Adam Goodes, Terri Janke, Patrick Johnson, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Jack Latimore, Celeste Liddle, Amy McQuire, Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Miranda Tapsell, Jared Thomas, Aileen Walsh, Alexis West, Tara June Winch, and many, many more.
Find Growing Up in Aboriginal Australia in Library Search

The Yield

Winch, Tara June

2019

The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha. Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind. August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land — a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river. “The Yield” is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.
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The White Girl

Birch, Tony
2019

A searing new novel from leading Indigenous storyteller Tony Birch that explores the lengths we will go to in order to save the people we love. Odette Brown has lived her whole life on the fringes of a small country town. After her daughter disappeared and left her with her granddaughter Sissy to raise on her own, Odette has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. When a new policeman arrives in town, determined to enforce the law, Odette must risk everything to save Sissy and protect everything she loves. In The White Girl, Miles-Franklin-shortlisted author Tony Birch shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families.
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Truganini : Journey through the apocalypse

Pybus, Cassandra
2020

Cassandra Pybus’s ancestors told a story of an old Aboriginal woman who would wander across their farm on Bruny Island, in south-east Tasmania, in the 1850s and 1860s. As a child, Cassandra didn’t know this woman was Truganini, and that Truganini was walking over the country of her clan, the Nuenonne. For nearly seven decades, Truganini lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than we can imagine. But her life was much more than a regrettable tragedy. Now Cassandra has examined the original eyewitness accounts to write Truganini’s extraordinary story in full. Hardly more than a child, Truganini managed to survive the devastation of the 1820s, when the clans of south-eastern Tasmania were all but extinguished. She spent five years on a journey around Tasmania, across rugged highlands and through barely penetrable forests, with George Augustus Robinson, the self-styled missionary who was collecting the survivors to send them into exile on Flinders Island. She has become an international icon for a monumental tragedy – the so-called extinction of the original people of Tasmania. Truganini’s story is inspiring and haunting – a journey through the apocalypse.
Genre
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Australia Day

Grant, Stan
2019

As uncomfortable as it is, we need to reckon with our history. On January 26, no Australian can really look away. There are the hard questions we ask of ourselves on Australia Day. Since publishing his critically acclaimed, Walkley Award-winning, bestselling memoir Talking to My Country in early 2016, Stan Grant has been crossing the country, talking to huge crowds everywhere about how racism is at the heart of our history and the Australian dream. But Stan knows this is not where the story ends. In this book, Australia Day, his long-awaited follow up to Talking to My Country, Stan talks about reconciliation and the indigenous struggle for belonging and identity in Australia, and about what it means to be Australian. A sad, wise, beautiful, reflective and troubled book, Australia Day asks the questions that have to be asked, that no else seems to be asking. Who are we? What is our country? How do we move forward from here?
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Too Much Lip

Lucashenko, Melissa
2018

A dark and funny new novel from the multi-award-winning author of Mullumbimby. Too much lip, her old problem from way back. And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions. The avalanche of bullshit in the world would drown her if she let it; the least she could do was raise her voice in anger.

Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley. Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.

Gritty and darkly hilarious, Too Much Lip offers redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible.
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Butterfly Song

Janke, Terri
2005

Tarena Shaw has just finished her law degree but isn’t sure she wants to be a lawyer after all. What place does a black lawyer have in a white system? Does everyone in Sydney feel like a turtle without a shell?

Drawn to Thursday Island, the home of her grandparents, Tarena is persuaded by her family to take on her first case. Part of the evidence is a man with a guitar and a very special song . . .

Butterfly Song moves from the pearling days of the Torres Strait to the ebb and flow of big-city life, with a warm and funny modern heroine whose story reaches across cultures.
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Song Spirals : Sharing women’s wisdom of Country through songlines

Gay’wu Group of Women
2019

We want you to come with us on our journey, our journey of songspirals. Songspirals are the essence of people in this land, the essence of every clan. We belong to the land and it belongs to us. We sing to the land, sing about the land. We are that land. It sings to us.’ Aboriginal Australians are the longest surviving human culture on earth, and at the heart of Aboriginal culture is song. These ancient narratives of landscape have often been described as a means of navigating across vast distances without a map, but they are much, much more than this. Songspirals are sung by Aboriginal people to awaken Country, to make and remake the life-giving connections between people and place. Songspirals are radically different ways of understanding the relationship people can have with the landscape. For Yolngu people from North East Arnhem Land, women and men play different roles in bringing songlines to life, yet the vast majority of what has been published is about men’s songlines. Songspirals is a rare opportunity for outsiders to experience Aboriginal women’s role in crying the songlines in a very authentic and direct form.
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Fire Country : How indigenous fire management could help save Australia

Steffensen, Victor
2020

Delving deep into the Australian landscape and the environmental challenges we face, Fire Country is a powerful account from Indigenous land management expert Victor Steffensen on how the revival of Indigenous fire practices, including improved ’reading’ of country and undertaking ’cool burns’, could help to restore our nation.

Victor developed a passion for traditional cultural and ecological knowledge from a young age, but it was after leaving high school that Victor met two Elders who became his mentors, particularly to revive cultural burning. Developed over many generations, this knowledge shows clearly that Australia actually needs fire – with burning done in a controlled manner – for land care and healing.

Victor’s story is unassuming and honest, written in a way that reflects the nature of yarning. And while some of the knowledge shared in his book may be unclear to western world views, there is much evidence that, if adopted, it could benefit all Australians.
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Welcome to Country : a travel guide to Indigenous Australia

Langton, Marcia; Fitzgerald, Nina; Atkinson, Amba-Rose
2018

This book is essential for anyone travelling around Australia who wants to learn more about the culture that has thrived here for over 50,000 years. It also offers the chance to enjoy tourism opportunities that will show you a different side of this fascinating country — one that remains dynamic, and is filled with openness and diversity.
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A Question of Colour : My journey to belonging

Lees, Patricia and Lees, Adam
2020

‘These two children have been in our Home in Townsville for more than two years, and in view of their very dark colouring, have not been assimilated into the white race. Every effort has been made to place them in a foster home without success because of their colour.’ Queensland State Children’s Department correspondence, 21 June 1960. The removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families remains a dark chapter in Australia’s history. Pattie Lees was just ten-years-old when she and her four siblings were separated from their mother on the grounds of neglect and placed into State care. Believing she was being shipped and exiled to Africa, Pattie was ultimately fated to spend the rest of her childhood on the island once dubbed ‘Australia’s Alcatraz’ -Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement, off the coast of Queensland. A Question of Colour; my journey to belonging provides a first-hand account of Pattie’s experiences as a ‘fair-skinned Aboriginal’ during Australia’s assimilationist policy era and recounts her survival following a decade of sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a Ward of the State. A Question of Colour is a deeply moving and powerful testimony to the resilience of a young girl, her identity and her journey to belong.
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Salt : Selected Stories and Essays

Pascoe, Bruce
2019

A collection of stories and essays by the award-winning author of Dark Emu, showcasing his shimmering genius across a lifetime of work. This volume of Bruce Pascoe’s best and most celebrated stories and essays, collected here for the first time, traverses his long career and explores his enduring fascination with Australia’s landscape, culture and history. Featuring new fiction alongside Pascoe’s most revered and thought-provoking nonfiction – including from his modern classic Dark Emu – Salt distils the intellect, passion and virtuosity of his work. It’s time all Australians know the range and depth of this most marvellous of our writers.
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Films

Undermined: Tales from the Kimberly

Umbrella Entertainment
2018

Australia’s vast and unspoiled Kimberley region is under threat, with mining, pastoralism and irrigated agriculture driving an unprecedented land grab. UNDERMINED investigates the politics of an area branded “the future economic powerhouse of Australia”, and what this means for our First People and their unique cultural landscapes.

As pressure from industry exposes the limits of Indigenous land rights, what will remain of over 200 remote Aboriginal communities? Nominated for Best Documentary at the Melbourne International Film Festival

Find Undermined: Tales from the Kimberly on Kanopy

Vote Yes for Aborigines

Ronin Films
2007

A documentary about the 1967 Referendum and the fight for citizenship rights for Aborigines. It marks the 40th anniversary of the occasion, celebrating its historical significance and contemporary relevance.

“The referendum was a point that gave incredible uplift and joy to Aboriginal people right across this country. In that sense we did gain something from it. But if you looked at it from that point on, I just say that we never took another step forward.” – Dr John Maynard, 2006.

“A FILM EVERY AUSTRALIAN SHOULD SEE.” – Canberra Times

Find Vote Yes for Aborigines on Kanopy

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Why Me? – Stolen Generations

Ronin Films
2007

This documentary is one of the most compelling films on this subject that we have yet seen. We are confident that it will become a landmark film in the fullness of time. Much of its power comes from its beautifully staged re-enactments of key moments in the lives of the individuals who tell their stories in the film.

WHY ME? contains the stories of five stolen children who are now adults trying to get on with their lives. The stories are told using powerful period re-enactments, which put the viewer in touch with the emotional journeys of the five children.

The film places the children’s experience in the context of the government policies that led to their removal. These members of the most recent stolen generations had a different experience and were removed under different conditions than the earlier more publicised generations. The government’s philosophy had changed and its methods were more subtle, but the results were as cruel as ever, and children were removed more efficiently and in greater numbers than before.

The film looks at the enormous impact that being taken from their families had on these five people. Children who are taken away at a young age miss the opportunity to bond with their parents and their families, and this is something that affects them for life. The loss of family has tremendous repercussions, this is a simple human truth.

A recurring theme through the film is the sense they all experience of being an outsider wherever they are. But the film is not just a description of blighted lives. Each of the people featured here has struggled courageously to find a direction for themselves, often against difficult odds. In the end everyone has to deal with the hand they have been dealt in life, and this film documents and celebrates the courage and hope that these individuals have displayed on their particular journeys.

Find Why Me? – Stolen Generations on Kanopy

In My Blood It Runs

Bonsai Film
2019

An intimate and compassionate observational documentary from the perspective of a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy in Alice Springs, Australia, struggling to balance his traditional Arrernte/Garrwa upbringing with a state education.

Find In My Blood It Runs on Kanopy

Putuparri and the Rainmakers

Ronin Films
2015


Putuparri and the Rainmakers is a universal story about the sacred relationship between people and place. It takes audiences on a rare and emotional journey to meet the traditional rainmakers of Australia’s Great Sandy Desert who have fought a twenty-year battle to win back their traditional homeland.

The film spans ten transformative years in the life of Tom ‘Putuparri’ Lawford as he navigates the deep chasm between his Western upbringing and his growing determination to fight for his family’s homeland. A trip back to his grandparents’ country in the desert begins the process of cultural awakening. Putuparri is shocked to learn that the dreamtime myths are not just stories, that there is a country called Kurtal and a snake spirit that is the subject of an elaborate rainmaking ritual.

Putuparri is a man caught between two worlds: the deeply spiritual universe of his people’s traditional culture and his life in modern society where he struggles with alcoholism and domestic violence. As he reconnects with his ancestral lands and learns about his traditional culture he begins to accept his future as a leader of his people and shoulders his responsibility to pass this knowledge on to the next generation.

Set against the backdrop of their long fight to reclaim their traditional lands, Putuparri and the Rainmakers is an emotional, visually breathtaking story of love, hope and the survival of Aboriginal law and culture against all odds.

Find Putuparri and the Rainmakers on Kanopy

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