Wednesday 25 January 2017

Invasion Day: Indigenous Australian women you should be reading

On this island continent, the 26th of January is usually known as Australia Day, a celebration of the country’s colonial formation. To put it relative to US holidays, it’s a combined Independence Day and Columbus Day. But for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (and a growing contingent of more recent Australians), it’s less a celebration and more a day of mourning, and commonly referred to as Invasion Day or Survival Day. There are plenty of resources about Invasion Day (not least A.B. Original’s Reclaim Australia album), but for now, I’d like to recommend just a few Aboriginal women writers, across platforms and genres, for those not yet familiar with their excellent work.

Twitter is often a great place to start, and there’s no shortage of passionate, insightful voices. IndigenousX, a rotation curation account, doesn’t only feature women, but the account and associated Guardian Australia channel is always good value.

One writer I discovered through IndigenousX is Celeste Liddle. Liddle is Arrernte, active on Twitter and is published regularly in Australian media on racism, police brutality, domestic violence and how the mainstream ignores Indigenous women’s voices.

Siv Parker, from the Yuwallaraay nation, writes achingly beautiful memoirs on Twitter as TweetYarns and her blog; a book is also forthcoming. Parker’s use of language and the medium she’s working on are masterful and moving; previous TweetYarns are also available via her blog.

Where to begin with Dr Anita Heiss? Heiss is from the Wiradjuri nation and has written children’s books, contemporary and historical novels, a memoir, poetry, and more. She’s an engaging orator (hearing her read children’s books is a special delight), and she’s fun and educational on Twitter.

Alexis Wright is an award-winning author from the Waanji people. Thus far, I have only read her 2007 novel, Carpentaria, but all these years later, the aftershocks of her lush description and exquisite characterisation still resonate with me.

Lastly, Ambelin Kwaymullina, from the Palyku people, is a writer, illustrator, and educator. Perhaps best known for her dystopian young adult series The Tribe (which is excellent and I wish teenage me had been able to read it!), she also writes and speaks about writing as it relates to Indigenous people. Many essays are available on her website or elsewhere.

These are just a few of my favourites, and I’m sure I’m missing many wonderful voices. Hit me up with your suggestions of other Indigenous Australian women writers.

Rivqa Rafael is a queer Jewish writer and editor based in Sydney, currently working on’s Problem Daughters anthology. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. She can be found at and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.

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