The most recommended books about Indigenous Australians

Who picked these books? Meet our 23 experts.

23 authors created a book list connected to Indigenous Australians, and here are their favorite Indigenous Australians books.
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What type of Indigenous Australians book?


Book cover of The White Girl

Katherine Johnson Author Of Paris Savages

From my list on "new" histories.

Who am I?

I studied Human Zoos, the subject of Paris Savages, for my PhD. Tens of thousands of performers were transported to Europe and America for exhibition, reaching a peak in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, the stories of this time are largely Eurocentric. I sought to shine a light evocatively into this largely forgotten part of history, and to see it through fresh eyes. Paris Savages is an epic and very human tale that saw me reflect on teenage memories of exploring Fraser island. I also travelled to Europe to follow in the footsteps of the three Aboriginal performers the story is based on: Bonny, Jurano, and Dorondera.

Katherine's book list on "new" histories

Katherine Johnson Why did Katherine love this book?

I had the privilege of interviewing Tony Birch at Perth Festival 2020, just before COVID struck with force. I was deeply moved by The White Girl and felt so much for the characters, especially the matriarch, Odette, and her love for her granddaughter. Seeing the world through Odette’s eyes was a powerful way of exposing how prejudice, policing laws and the removal of children impacted Aboriginal communities throughout Australia. Tony spoke beautifully in our interview about the strength of the Aboriginal women in his family and how those experiences inspired the award-winning novel.

By Tony Birch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The White Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A profound allegory of good and evil, and a deep exploration of human interaction, black and white, alternately beautiful and tender, cruel and unsettling."-Guardian

Australia's leading indigenous storyteller makes his American debut with this immersive and deeply resonant novel, set in the 1960s, that explores the lengths we'll go to save the people we love-an unforgettable story of one native Australian family and the racist government that threatens to separate them.

Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane-secrets that could explain why…

Book cover of The Yield

Courtney Angela Brkic Author Of The First Rule of Swimming

From my list on really complicated families.

Who am I?

My mother, father, and I were each born in different countries, and into different languages. In my childhood, we were a hybridized wonder—one part jetsam, one part flotsam—and a country unto ourselves. Our house was filled with all kinds of books, our dinnertimes with lively conversation (and occasional shouting), our plates with food cooked according to the recipes of family ghosts. I can honestly say that no other family was like ours, especially not in the American suburbs of the 1980s. As a writer, I have always been fascinated by the tug-and-pull of intergenerational trauma, and by the dislocation of immigration and exile.   

Courtney's book list on really complicated families

Courtney Angela Brkic Why did Courtney love this book?

When August’s grandfatherthe bedrock of a multi-generational Wiradjuri familydies, she must return to Australia, and to the town of Prosperous. There, she comes face-to-face with the things that have driven her out, a process that began long before her birth. The book’s three narrators chart the casualties of colonialism: the loss of indigenous culture, the stamping out of language, the land that is taken and forever altered. But the book is so much more than a catalogue of losses, and Winch’s song is ultimately one of identityand historyreclaimed.  

By Tara June Winch,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Yield as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A beautifully written novel that puts language at the heart of remembering the past and understanding the present."-Kate Morton

"A groundbreaking novel for black and white Australia."-Richard Flanagan, Man Booker Prize winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North

A young Australian woman searches for her grandfather's dictionary, the key to halting a mining company from destroying her family's home and ancestral land in this exquisitely written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful novel of culture, language, tradition, suffering, and empowerment in the tradition of Louise Erdrich, Sandra Cisneros, and Amy Harmon.

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert "Poppy" Gondiwindi…

Book cover of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World

Julian Caldecott Author Of Water: Life in Every Drop

From Julian's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Ecologist Joiner-upper SCUBA-diver Sensitive Strategic

Julian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Julian Caldecott Why did Julian love this book?

I've long puzzled over the alien and elusive Australian Aboriginal peoples. I've been moved by their landscapes and art, and read much about them. But this book pulled it together.

It explains with wit and clarity the meaning of ancient patterns that can be sketched in sand, and how they apply to us now. They flow from the troublemaking Emu and wise Echidna to the five human minds: kinship, story, dreaming, ancestor, and pattern. These are how we relate to each other and to nature, the deep past, the continuous act of creation in which we live, and the future.

It makes nonsense of settler Australia rejecting 65,000 years of wisdom by refusing an Aboriginal Voice in parliament. They should have queued around the block to say 'yes.' Those who read this book will see why.

By Tyson Yunkaporta,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sand Talk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, Small Publishers' Adult Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards 2020

This remarkable book is about everything from echidnas to evolution, cosmology to cooking, sex and science and spirits to Schrödinger’s cat.

Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. He asks how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?

Sand Talk provides a template for living. It’s about how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about…

Book cover of My People

Who am I?

I come from the Dusun hilltribes of Indigenous Borneo. My mountain is Kinabalu, and my river is Kiulu. My upbringing gives me a new way to talk about the world. I have participated in ongoing rituals, witnessed the loss of once-abundant wilderness, and shared in stories that are filled with ancient wisdom. My Elders’ knowledge about the land, sea, and sky is etched in my memory, grounding me to cultural roots and prompting reflection on life’s essential questions. In my travels, I have found that these universal questions intersect with the stories and experiences of Indigenous communities worldwide. This worldview urges me to not let these stories fade.

Olivia's book list on books about Indigenous experiences by Indigenous writers (about us by us and why that matters)

Olivia Guntarik Why did Olivia love this book?

Poetry like this is crucial to telling the other side of the story. It’s a counternarrative, and that’s why Oodgeroo’s work has shaped my thinking and experiences in life-affirming ways.

Oodgeroo sees her work as an extension of the songkeeping and oral storytelling so intrinsic to Indigenous social life and survival. Her poems are not simply about a bygone past, as every line is relevant today (but hush, you mustn’t say so, Oodgeroo teases). That’s why I treasure her wit and writing – they give me life, a lifeline to a reality often denied us in Western thought.

It is written with so much beauty, elegance, and hope. Full of love for her people and full of grace, passion, and rage. Because there is so much to rage about (but that is another story)…

By Oodgeroo Noonuccal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

my people

Oodgeroo’s writing has a unique place in Australian literature. When her poetry was first published in the 1960s, Kath Walker, as she was known then, provided a brave new voice for marginalised Aboriginal Australians. For the first time, an Aboriginal Australian was analysing and judging white Australians as well as her own people. She often made provocative and passionate pleas for justice:

We want hope, not racialism,
Brotherhood, not ostracism,
Black advance, not white ascendance:
Make us equals, not dependants.

This collection of poetry and prose is a reminder of Oodgeroo’s contribution to Indigenous culture and the journey…

Book cover of The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of Australia

Judith Brett Author Of From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

From my list on politics in Australia.

Who am I?

I'm a political historian who writes for my fellow citizens and I have chosen books by writers who do the same. Books which are written with passion and purpose: to shift political understanding, to speak truth to power, to help people understand their country and the world, and to inspire a commitment to improving them.

Judith's book list on politics in Australia

Judith Brett Why did Judith love this book?

A confronting history of the British invasion of Australia, documenting the massacres but also the resistance of indigenous people across the continent as they defended their tribal lands well into the twentieth century. No longer could anyone imagine that Australia had been settled peacefully. The book had a profound impact on Australians’  understanding of their history, but also on the continuing political struggle for indigenous rights.

By Henry Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Other Side of the Frontier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The publication of ""The Other Side of the Frontier"" in 1981 profoundly changed the way in which we understand the history of relations between indigenous Australians and European settlers. It has since become a classic of Australian history. Drawing from documentary and oral evidence, the book describes in meticulous and compelling detail the ways in which Aborigines responded to the arrival of Europeans. Henry Reynolds' argument that the Aborigines resisted fiercely was highly original when it was first published and is no less challenging today.

Book cover of The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the early colony, 1788-1817

Kristyn Harman Author Of Aboriginal Convicts: Australian, Khoisan and Maori Exiles

From my list on the Frontier Wars fought downunder.

Who am I?

Kristyn Harman is an award-winning researcher who successfully completed doctoral research investigating the circumstances in which at least ninety Australian Aboriginal men were transported as convicts within the Australian colonies following their involvement in Australia’s frontier wars. She has published extensively on historical topics, and currently lectures in History at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. Having lived in both countries, Kristyn is fascinated by the different understandings that New Zealanders and Australians have of their nation’s respective pasts. She is particularly intrigued, if not perturbed, by the way in which most New Zealanders acknowledge their nation’s frontier wars, while many Australians choose to deny the wars fought on their country’s soil.

Kristyn's book list on the Frontier Wars fought downunder

Kristyn Harman Why did Kristyn love this book?

By the latter decades of the twentieth century, the so-called ‘history wars’ pitted those Australians who acknowledged the violent foundations of the Australian nation against others who denied that the frontier wars ever took place, and who advocated instead that Australians ought to celebrate the heroism of white colonists. The story of Australia’s founding as a nation starts in Sydney. It was the site of the initial encampment established by the British when they invaded a tiny area on the eastern edge of Australia in 1788, then claimed the entire east coast of the continent for the Crown. Stephen Gapps carefully analyzes a wide range of historical evidence to demonstrate how Sydney and its surrounding regions were the initial sites at which British and Aboriginal forces refined their military tactics during violent strategic encounters along the expanding frontier. These violent encounters set a pattern that played out, with local variations,…

By Stephen Gapps,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sydney Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Described by one early colonist as 'this constant sort of war', The Sydney Wars tells the history of military engagements between Europeans and Aboriginal Australians around greater Sydney.

Telling the story of the first years of colonial Sydney in a new and original way, this provocative book is the first detailed account of the warfare that occurred across the Sydney region from the arrival of a British expedition in 1788 to the last recorded conflict in the area in 1817. The Sydney Wars sheds new light on how British and Aboriginal forces developed military tactics and how the violence played…

Book cover of First Knowledges Astronomy: Sky Country

Heidi Wedd Author Of Wild Flower Walker: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track

From Heidi's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Plant whisperer Flower lover Nature course facilitator Herbalist Homeopath

Heidi's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Heidi Wedd Why did Heidi love this book?

I loved this book for uncovering the incredibly ancient wisdom the indigenous peoples of Australia have around the sky, some of which is only now being “discovered” by astronomers. 

Written by two indigenous women, one an astronomer, and the other an astrophysicist, they take a broad look at indigenous astronomy and its interrelationship with daily life, the seasons, weather predictions, and food availability, as well as various implications in today’s world.

Most fascinating is how the stars were used as maps across the land, each star indicating a place on the path and containing layers of stories that would guide the journey not only on the physical plane but through layers of learning. For me, this is essential reading.  

By Karlie Noon, Krystal De Napoli, Margo Neale (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Knowledges Astronomy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What do you need to know to prosper for 65,000 years or more? The First Knowledges series provides a deeper understanding of the expertise and ingenuity of Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest scientists in human history.

Many First Peoples regard the land as a reflection of the sky and the sky a reflection of the land. Sophisticated astronomical expertise embedded within the Dreaming and Songlines is interwoven into a deep understanding of changes on the land, such as weather patterns and seasonal shifts, that are integral to knowledges of time, food availability, and ceremony.…

Book cover of Baby Business

Alys Mendus Author Of Searching for the Ideal School Around the World: School Tourism and Performative Autoethnographic-We

From my list on picture books for a 2.5 year old.

Who am I?

With our 2.5-year-old we read all the time. She is a great critic, letting us know if the book is to be read ‘again’ or to be put ‘away!’ As well as a PhD in Education, I am also a trained teacher, having worked with preschoolers running Steiner Waldorf inspired parent and child groups and playgroups, so I am fascinated by the power of story. I try and choose books that are inclusive and age-appropriate, keeping the child in a magical space, as well as allowing for lots of laughs! I also love to share books that I am happy to read three times in a row!

Alys' book list on picture books for a 2.5 year old

Alys Mendus Why did Alys love this book?

Our whole family loves this book about an Indigenous child’s smoking ceremony. As a white settler-colonial family in Australia we are keen to read and learn from Indigenous authors and the publisher, Magabala press, are outstanding in the quality of the books they publish. The simple yet effective computer-created artwork gives an intimate insight into the importance of the first lesson of law, connecting to Country, which leads to great conversations and reflection. The inclusion of Indigenous words within the story adds to the depth of sharing with the audience and allows the voices of the women to be heard beyond those who usually attend such an important rite of passage. A real treasure. I wish it came as a board book as our copy has had to be taped together many times!

By Jasmine Seymour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Baby Business as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Book cover of The Broken Shore

Katherine Kovacic Author Of The Shifting Landscape

From my list on Australian crime fiction.

Who am I?

I’m an Australian crime writer and I love reading crime with a real sense of place and/or time. Growing up in Australia, most of the time I read international authors, so finding fabulous books by local authors was a thrill every time, and that excitement has never left me. This list crosses the genre from cosy to hard-boiled crime, which hopefully means something for everyone. If nothing here grabs you, there’s a lot more fantastic Australian crime fiction to discover (did you know Australian author Charlotte Jay won the first ever Edgar Award in 1954?) and I can passion-talk about it anytime!

Katherine's book list on Australian crime fiction

Katherine Kovacic Why did Katherine love this book?

Crime but with such achingly good prose, I sometimes have to stop and re-read a sentence just to admire the way Temple wrote it. It’s a slow-burn, with a very dark, noir feeling, and the more you learn about the backstory of protagonist, Detective Senior Sergeant Joe Cashin, the more intriguing he becomes. A great plot, and I love the way Temple weaves different threads together to bring about the slick resolution. If you’re unfamiliar with Australian slang, expect a crash course in the first part of this novel. What makes this book one I return to again and again is the way Temple takes the standard formula of crime fiction and bends it to his will. This is not just a great crime, it’s a great novel.  

By Peter Temple,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Broken Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A masterpiece' John Lanchester

'Read page one and I challenge you not to finish it' Independent on Sunday

Haunted by his last case, homicide detective Joe Cashin has fled Melbourne and returned to his hometown, running its one-man police station while his wounds heal and his nightmares fade.

But when a local man is attacked and left for dead, Cashin's recovery is put on hold. And in a small town where everyone knows everyone, he finds himself…

Book cover of The Boy from the Mish

Tobias Madden Author Of Anything But Fine

From my list on growing up gay in Australia.

Who am I?

As someone who grew up in Australia without any gay literary characters to relate to, I’m incredibly passionate about queer stories set in our beautiful country. We now have a wealth of brilliant books by LGBTQ+ authors, and I hope that by sharing my recommendations, our stories find even more of the readers they’re meant to find. I’ve focused on books featuring gay male protagonists, as that’s how I identify, and they’re the type of queer stories I relate to the most. Some of the books are fiction, others are memoir, some are written for teens and others are for adults, but all of them share an incredible level of authenticity.

Tobias' book list on growing up gay in Australia

Tobias Madden Why did Tobias love this book?

This is a heartwarming contemporary story about a gay Aboriginal teen exploring his sexuality and falling in love for the first time, set against the vivid backdrop of a fictional, rural Indigenous community. It’s evocative and heady and compelling. It’s one of those stories that makes you want to reach into the book and hug all the characters and tell them everything is going to be okay. Such an important story from a brilliant new voice in Australian YA.

By Gary Lonesborough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Boy from the Mish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED: 2022 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers

'I don't paint so much anymore,' I say, looking to my feet.

'Oh. Well, I got a boy who needs to do some art. You can help him out,' Aunty Pam says, like I have no say in the matter, like she didn't hear what I just said about not painting so much anymore. 'Jackson, this is Tomas. He's living with me for a little while.'

It's a hot summer, and life's going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It's almost Christmas, school's out, and he's hanging…