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Learn more about First Nations’ peoples: ideas on what to read, watch and listen to

Meet historians, artists, community leaders, comedians, academics and journalists. Hear firsthand from survivors of the Stolen Generations, learn what it’s like to grow up Aboriginal and more.

At Australian Red Cross we are on our own journey to learn more, to stand up to racism and cultural ignorance and work harder to build a more equitable country. And while we’ve been supporting First Nations peoples for decades, we know we could have done better and done more to address systemic discrimination and disadvantage. 

We hope our list of suggestions for what to read, watch and listen to, might help you in your own journey to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and peoples.  

Together we can listen and learn. Together we can heal the hurt, build trust and empower First Nations’ peoples. Together we must. 

* This web page may contain the names and/or images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are now deceased.

Want to take action?

Take part in a National Reconciliation Week event (May 27 to June 3)

READ

Lowitja

By Stuart Rintoul. A biography of Lowitja O'Donoghue, a great Australian who, against the greatest of odds, became one of Australia's most respected and recognisable Indigenous leaders.

The Yield

By Tara June Winch. The story of a people and a culture dispossessed - a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity. Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award and Book of the Year.

Black Politics

By Sarah Maddison. Drawing on interviews with activists and politicians, this book explains the dynamics of Aboriginal politics. It reveals the challenges and tensions that have shaped community, regional and national relations over the past 25 years.

Songspirals

By the Gay’Wu Group of Women. Connect with the living tradition of women's songlines, as recounted by Yolngu women from far north Australia. Joint winner of the 2020 Prime Minister's Award for Non-Fiction and shortlisted for the 2020 Victorian Premier's Award for Non-Fiction.

Am I Black Enough for You?

By Anita Heiss. Winner of the Vic Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing. The story of an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.

Because a White Man’ll Never Do It

By Kevin Gilbert. This expose of past and present race relations in Australia is a story of land theft, attempted racial extermination, oppression, denial of human rights, slavery, ridicule, denigration, inequality and paternalism.

Australians: Origins to Eureka

By Thomas Keneally. In this widely acclaimed volume, Keneally brings to life the vast range of characters – from First Nations’ peoples, to settlers and soldiers, to gold seekers and bushrangers – who have formed our national story.

Mullumbimby

By Melissa Lucashenko. A darkly funny novel of romantic love and cultural warfare from one of Australia’s most admired Indigenous voices.

The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island

By Chloe Hooper. One morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and 40 minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. Winner of the Victorian, New South Wales, West Australian and Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.

Tell Me Why

By Archie Roach. 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.

Butterfly Song

By Terri Janke. This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Indigenous law graduate Tarena Shaw and the love story of her grandparents.

Truth-telling

Influential historian Henry Reynolds shows exactly why our national war memorial must acknowledge the frontier wars, why we must change the date of our national day and makes it clear the Uluru Statement carries the weight of history and law and gives us a map for the future.

The White Girl

By Tony Birch. A leading Indigenous storyteller explores the lengths we will go to in order to save the people we love. This novel shines a spotlight on the 1960s and the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families.

Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People

Australia’s First Nations peoples taught themselves how to build a sustainable society in our fragile landscape. In a unique collaboration, a Swedish professor finds out from an Aboriginal cultural custodian how they did it, and what we can learn from them.

Dark Emu

Bruce Pascoe argues for a reconsideration of the 'hunter-gatherer' tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians and attempts to rebut the colonial myths that have worked to justify dispossession. Winner of the 2016 Indigenous Writer's Prize and Book of the Year in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

Gulpilil

Derek Rielly’s biography of David Gulpilil, a Yolngu man beloved around the world as a hunter, dancer, actor and artist. Long-listed for ABIA Biography of the Year 2020.

Listening to Country

By Ros Moriarty. One woman's journey into the remote Tanami Desert with the matriarchs of her husband's family. Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year and The Australian Human Rights Commission Literature Award.

The Boy from the Mish

By Gary Lonesborough. A funny and heart-warming queer Indigenous young adult novel. This is the story of 17-year-old Jackson finding the courage to explore who he is, even if it scares him.

Born-again Blakfella

By Jack Charles. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, a candid and uplifting memoir from one of Australia’s finest and most beloved actors.

Me Write Myself

By Leonie Stevens. The fate of the First Nations peoples of Van Diemen’s Land is one of the most infamous chapters in Australian, and world, history. Exiled to Flinders Island in the 1830s & 40s, they’ve often been written about but never allowed to speak for themselves. This book changes that.

Top End Girl

Miranda Tapsell co-wrote, produced and starred in the box office hit Top End Wedding. This is her memoir about being bold, Black and brave in work, life and love.

My Place

In 1982, Sally Morgan travelled back to her grandmother’s birthplace. What started as a tentative search for information about her family, turned into an overwhelming emotional and spiritual pilgrimage.

Tasmanian Songman

Musician, storyteller and craftsman, Ronnie Summers recalls the freedom of growing up on Cape Barren Island and how the island’s music shaped his life.

Forgotten War

By Henry Reynolds. This powerful book makes it clear that there can be no reconciliation without acknowledging the wars fought on our own soil. Winner of the 2014 Victorian Premier's Award for non-fiction.

  • Blood – by Tony Birch. Set on the back roads of Australia, Blood is a boy’s odyssey through a broken-down adult world. 
  • Talking To My Country – journalist Stan Grant’s book talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Winner of the 2016 Walkley Book Award and the 2016 National Trust Heritage Award. 

  • Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody – in 1987 a royal commission investigated Aboriginal deaths in custody over a 10-year period, giving over 330 recommendations. Its recommendations are still valid today, but very few have been implemented. Every year, Aboriginal people continue to die in custody. 

WATCH

Documentaries

  • Zach’s Ceremony – watch on YouTubeGoogle PlayiTunesVimeo and Fetch. One boy’s transition to manhood, in both the modern world and his ancient culture. SBS reviewer Stephen A Russell says this should be mandatory viewing for all Australians. 

  • First Australians – watch on SBS On Demand. Seven-part series chronicling the birth of contemporary Australia from the perspective of its first people.  
  • The Australian Dream – watch on ABC iView. This documentary about Indigenous AFL legend Adam Goodes explores race, identity and belonging in Australia today.
  • Stuff Everyone Should Know About Australia – watch on 10play. A documentary web series about busting myths and celebrating truths. 

Movies​

  • Mabo – watch on YouTube. This docudrama is the  story of Eddie Koiki Mabo who spearheaded the High Court challenge that overthrew the fiction of terra nullius.
  • Rabbit Proof Fence – watch on StanSBS On Demand or YouTube. In 1931, three Aboriginal girls escape after being taken from their families to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a journey across the Outback. Based on the true story. 

  • Charlie’s Country – watch it on YouTubeGoogle PlayiTunes, and Prime Video. Displeased with the intervention of whitefella laws, Charlie takes off to live the old way and sets off a chain reaction of enlightening difficulties.  

 

TED Talks and TED events 

  • A real history of Aboriginal Australians, the first agriculturalists. Indigenous writer and anthologist Bruce Pascoe draws on first-hand accounts from colonial journals to dispel the myth that Aboriginal people were hunters and gatherers and "did nothing with the land that resembled agriculture". He demonstrates a radically different view of history.

  • From lawyer to jester, the grain of truth in every joke. Leon Filewood, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyer, shares his journey from law to comedy. Throughout his career, he has been searching for a platform to leverage important conversations that, as Australians, we all need to have.  

  • Mentoring Indigenous inmates. Uncle Jack Charles is an actor, musician, potter and gifted performer, but he has also been homeless, a heroin addict and in prison. A member of the Stolen Generation, Jack has spent his life in between acting gigs, caught in the addiction/crime/doing time cycle. Today — no longer caught in the cycle — he lives to tell the extraordinary tale. Uncle Jack made headlines when he was refused a taxi unless he paid the fare upfront, just moments after he was named Victorian Senior Australian of the Year. 

  • Australia, we need to talk. Is reconciliation between Australia's Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples possible? Cally Jetta maintains that it is not. Instead, she proposes that to build a harmonious future, we need to think differently and address our nation's history honestly.  

  • Systemic racism: Australia's great white silence. Jonathan Sri shows how Australia's white supremacist history continues to influence present-day political, legal and cultural institutions. A son of a Tamil migrant, Jonathan has lived and worked in remote Aboriginal communities in north-east Arnhem Land. 

  • My stolen childhood, and a life to rebuild. As a child Sheila Humphries was taken from her parents and placed in an orphanage by authorities who thought they knew best. One voice of the Stolen Generation, Sheila suffered cruelty and neglect that has shaped her as an adult, for good and for ill.

  • What is it like to be Aboriginal? Tui Raven gives her perspective on growing up as an Aboriginal person in the city and in country Western Australia. 

  • Do we own the land? Yankunytjatjara elder Bob Randall is one of the Stolen Generations and is a traditional owner of Uluru. He has worked as a teacher and leader for Aboriginal land rights, education, and cultural awareness. 

Drama and comedy 

  • Redfern Now – watch it on Stan. A highly celebrated and multi-award-winning series about contemporary inner-city life, following the lives of six families who live in this inner-city Sydney suburb.

  • Black Comedy – watch on StanGoogle Play, and iTunes. The irreverent, provocative and just a little bit wrong, award-winning sketch comedy,  Explore what it means to be black in contemporary Australia in this show written and performed by some of the funniest blackfellas in the country. 

  • Robbie Hood – watch it on SBS On Demand. Robbie Hood is only 13, but already he's famous in Alice Springs. Famous for being a precocious misfit with a heart of gold who does the right thing, even when it's a little bit wrong. 

Also … 

  • National Apology to the Stolen GenerationsOn 13 February 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations whose lives had been blighted by past government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation.

LISTEN

Podcasts

  • Healing Our Way – by the Healing Foundation, featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and experiences, to promote truth-telling and inspire listeners to learn more about the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation. A space for young people to share their ongoing healing needs, aspirations and discuss healing and intergenerational trauma. 

  • Word Up –  with Daniel Browning from ABC Radio National looking at the diverse languages of black Australia from Anmatyerre to Arrernte, from Yankunytjatjara to Yorta Yorta and beyond – one word at a time. 

  • The Art of Inclusion – by the Diversity Council Australia. Exploring the lives of fascinating people, whose stories shed light on the wider social issues facing Australia, and the world. Flipping the script on who to include, who not to, and how we can do better in everything from gender, race, mental health and disability, to the inclusion of LGBTQI+ and Indigenous communities. 

  • Awaye – a weekly show from ABC presenting diverse and vibrant Aboriginal arts and culture. 

  • Tiddas 4 Tiddas – a Mamamia podcast. Candid conversations with Indigenous sisters, hosted by Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman, Marlee Silva. 

  • Deadly Voices from the House – by Sydney Opera House and featuring prominent Indigenous leaders from the music, arts and culture sector. A platform to discuss critical issues facing the Indigenous community and giving voice to a variety of upcoming indigenous music, arts and cultural projects. 

  • A Cuppa and A Yarn – by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. 

  • Blacademia – yarns with First Nations academics in Australia.

  • Take It Blak – from SBS's NITV news online team. 

Radio

  • Race Matters – in this live weekly show on FBi Radio, Sara Khan and Darren Lesaguis chat race, culture, arts and current affairs with a range of guests.  
  • NITV Radio and Living Black Radio – from SBS. NITV Radio covers news, events and issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It is broadcast nationally three times a week; you can listen any time online. Living Black Radio is a current affairs program.

Music

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