These pages contain life stories and observations of some of our authors, sometimes told in their own words. Click on the alphabetically listed names or scroll through the pages to take a fascinating journey. This section is not complete, but eventually we plan to include all our authors, illustrators and editors here.
Authors A to H:
Albert Barunga, Reg Birch, Ross Boddington, Rosemary van den Berg, Margaret Brusnahan, Iris Burgoyne, Mary Carmel Charles, Flo Corrigan, Joanne Crawford, Jack Davis, Grace Fielding, Christopher Fry, Lucille Gill, Gracie Greene, Rae Harris, Anita Heiss.
Authors: I to P : Authors: Q to Z
Albert Barunga was born around 1912 in the Prince Regent River area of the Kimberley. While he was out collecting pearl shell one day, he was picked up and taken to Kunmunya Mission. There, he was befriended by the Reverend J.R.B. Love, who relied on Albert to provide him with the knowledge to write on linguistics and for biblical translations.
When Kingsford-Smith's plane was forced down in the Kimberley, it was Albert who found it. No white man had any idea where to look. After the air raids on Broome in 1942, Albert worked for the navy. They had commandeered the mission lugger but needed his expertise for patrol work.
Albert Barunga encouraged the promotion of Aboriginal culture before it became fashionable. He was a regional chair of the Aboriginal Theatre Foundation, and an inaugural member of both the Aboriginal Cultural Foundation and the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council.
In 1974, he sat down and recorded his life and traditional stories for a national project. After his death in 1977 his life was celebrated in works by Mary Durack and Jack Davis. Albert Barunga was a very clever man.
Books : About This Little Devil and This Little Fella
Reginald Birch, OAM,was born in 1940 on the Forrest River Mission in remote north-western Australia, but has lived most of his life in Wyndham. He has led a remarkable life and lived through an amazing period of change for Indigenous people.
In recognition of Reg's many contributions to Australia he received an Order of Australia from Her Majesty in 2000, and was named Aboriginal ofthe Year in Western Australia North in 1990.
In Wyndham Yella Fella Reg provides a fascinating insight into life for anAboriginal family in the Kimberley during WWII. He remembers his childhood years growing up in the remote east Kimberley town of Wyndham and the local legends of the time. (More about the book below.)
Reg is a courageous man who has been taking on the establishment for over 30 years. He has represented his local community and Indigenous people at local, state, Commonwealth and international levels.
'In the 70's I realised what little was happening for our youth and that the people of my generation needed to come together to develop strategies and community facilities for Aboriginal kids in Wyndham to help fight the idleness that triggers youth alcoholism and crime,' said Reg.
This is an ongoing concern for Reg and is something he readily accepts is an uphill battle.
Reg has also lived and worked throughout Australia. He spent many years working in Canberra trying to better the lives of Indigenous people through such organisations as the Council for Aboriginal Development and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).
He was Chairperson of the State Advisory Committee for the Aboriginal LandsTrust from 1982 to 1986, and has been ATSIC Commissioner (WA North) twice.
From 1977 to 1981 Reg was the elected member for the Kimberley for theNational Aboriginal Conference (a forerunner to ATSIC), which led to his role as the South Pacific representative to the World Council of Indigenous People. Reg was a founding member of the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) and was Chairperson from 1988 to 1990.
Reg feels that his most satisfying contribution to national Indigenous affairs came during the period when, joined by many other prominent Aboriginals around Australia, he helped coordinate the process that saw the return of Aboriginal remains from many European Universities andInstitutions.
Reg says of this experience, 'This period was extremely traumatic for ourpeople. Cultural responsibility laid heavy as we brought home our people's remains to the Kimberley.'
In addition to being a writer and political advocate, Reg has lived a full life with many incarnations including musician, artist, peacemaker, community developer, nature-lover, sportsman, stock route worker, rigger and community worker. But Reg remains a humble man, focused on making life better for those around him. He considers his greatest achievement to be his family and being able to work with a community he loves.
Reg is currently working with other Indigenous families in Wyndham to complete Warriu Park. Located in the centre of town, it is a tribute to Aboriginal culture and includes statues (17-foot tall Aboriginal man, several bush animals, a woman and a child, and a dreamtime snake), artwork depicting the remnants of the eight original tribes in the Wyndham area and a memorial to prominent Aboriginal people.
The area has been landscapedwith native plants and walkways and a huge billabong is currently in construction. A cultural centre with an amphitheatre, artwork, artefacts,and a cafe are planned for the future.
Wyndham is the most northerly town in Western Australia and has a population of around 800 people.
Books : Wyndham Yella Fella
Ross Boddington was born on Wooleen Station in the Murchision area. He did not go to school but spent a great deal of time with the old Wajarri people, learning the Wajarri language and many Dreamtime stories. He is one of the very few who know the secrets of the old culture and of its importance and is very keen to preserve it.
Ross has a special attachment to the Budara story, because it is about the heart of his homeland, and the old man Budara is a great grandfather to him. Ross and his wife Olive have twelve children.
Books : The Budara Story
Rosemary van den Berg; "I was born at Moore River Native Settlement in March 1939. I am the fourth daughter of Thomas Corbett and his wife Rose Corbett nee Walley. My parents had ten children, five of whom were born at Moore River, one at Meekatharra and four at Pinjarra. The only memory I have of living at Moore River is of eating pumpkin seeds found on the ground at the back of the Settlement's kitchen. For that I got a smack off my mother. We moved to Pinjarra in the winter months of 1944, where Dad got casual employment for the next few years with several well-known farmers around the district. When Dad managed to get a job in the Public Works Department and bought a five acre block of land on the outskirts of town, the family settled in our home, called 'The Old Place', where we ten kids grew up. I went to school in Pinjarra until I was thirteen.
"I was chosen to attend the now defunct Perth Girls' High School in East Perth and stayed at a hostel for Aboriginal girls called Alvan House. My older sister Vivienne was there, having been selected the year before, so I didn't feel too alone. I completed my High School Certificate or the equivalent at Perth Girls'. I also won first prize in the Daisy Bates Award for Aboriginal Students in 1955 (the girl's section, that is). After that I worked in different hospitals around the country as a Nursing Aid until my marriage. My husband of many years is a Dutchman and we have five children, all grown up, all married and living their own separate lives. We now have many beautiful grandchildren. I thank God for my blessings every day. In 1978 we all went to Holland to live for two years. At the end of 1980, I was talked into doing the Aboriginal Bridging Course at WAIT (Western Australian Institute of Technology) by my older sister Lorna, who had already passed the same course a year or so previously. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
"In 1981, I commenced studies at WAIT. In 1984 I was accepted into the Australian Public Service and worked at the Department for Aboriginal Affairs in Perth. During this time, I spent two years at the Derby Regional office, which was one of the happiest times for me. I still have a soft spot for Derby, its people and lifestyle. However, in 1988, I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend university to do undergraduate studies for three years. I chose Curtin University (as WAIT is now called) and have never looked back. I have my Batchelor of Arts Degree in English. I resigned from ATSIC, the new name for Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in 1990. I have now completed my Post-graduate studies as well. Also, in 1988, over a few beers with my father, the notion of writing his story came up, but it wasn't until the latter months of that year that I started writing in earnest. In between my studies and work (during the Christmas breaks) I worked on Dad's book. It was a slow process of talking to Dad, reading his notes and listening to the tapes he gave me, but I gradually progressed over the next few years, keeping in touch with Dad and letting him read what I wrote until he was satisfied with it. I've made many changes; written and rewritten; had it typed and retyped until we were both content.
"I was working on the last few chapters when my father died. I really hope I've done him justice in finishing this book on the Moore River part of his life. All I can say is, 'I did my best, Dad. It was done with love'."
Books : No Options No Choice
Margaret Brusnahan writes : "I was born in Kapunda, South Australia, one of nine children. My mother was formerly Iris Rankine, an Aboriginal woman from the Ngarrindgeri people of Raukkan (Point McLeay) on the shores of Lake Alexandrina. My father was Arthur Woods, a white man of Irish descent from Kapunda. I heard three languages in my earliest years at home, the Ngarrindgeri of my mother, the Gaelic of my father, and less of English.
"All the children were taken at an early age and reared in various orphanages, government institutions and white foster homes, not seeing each other for several years at a time. One sister, Marge, I did not meet until we were past our own child rearing, and I was in my second marriage. We had just seven years to know one another before she died, and I still cannot bring myself to visit her grave.
"I first married as a young teenager, probably to replace the family I had lost. I have twelve of my own children, thirty grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many foster children. Having been a foster child myself, and knowing both sides of the coin, I understand children who are in the same predicament as I was.
"I think it is true to say that I grew up emotionally stunted. Writing has helped me express myself and deal with the traumas of being of one culture yet reared in another, an Aboriginal raised in a white community. I object to the government system and the unbending institutional direction it has taken for part-Aboriginal children in my time.
"My poetry has not been designed for any political purposes, rather it is life experiences, and all that encounters, written for the enjoyment of those who would like to read it. I hope that all Aboriginal people, no matter where, can relate to my poems and identify not only with the sad occasions but the happy times as well."
Books : Raukkan and Other Poems
Iris Burgoyne was born on 24th July 1936, at Koonibba mission on the west coast of South Australia. Her parents were George and Isobel Burgoyne. She was one of nine girls and three boys. Iris is an elder of the Mirning peoples and a respected figure in the Aboriginal community of Port Lincoln.
As a child, Iris and her family made regular pilgrimages to the Nullarbor Plain to be with her traditional people who inhabited this area called Wigina near Fowlers Bay at the head of the Great Australian Bight.
Iris gained ancient spiritual knowledge and wisdom and a rare insight into Aboriginal rituals and Law from relatives ascending to her great-great grandparents. While on the mission, she had regular contact with elders who lived in camps on the outskirts of Koonibba mission. These people refused to set foot on the mission and defended their independent and self-sufficient way of life. They shielded Iris, and many other young Aboriginal people, from the destruction of Aboriginal culture in the face of civilisation and Christianisation.
Outwardly, she adapted to the wider non-Aboriginal community with courage and vigour. Iris often expresses concern about young generations of Aboriginal Australians who suffered the loss of identity because of the absence of lessons on tradition.
Books : The Mirning: We are the Whales
Mary Carmel Charles is quoted as saying, "I was born at Beagle Bay Mission. I remember when I was young, my parents told me olden day stories about the emu and a brolga. I'm proud the emu will be in a book."
Mary Charles lived a long life and was well known and loved throughout the West Kimberley. Both the author and illustrator of 'Winin : Why the Emu Cannot Fly' come from two different Aboriginal communities of the Dampier Peninsula, just north of Broome. Mary Charles belonged to the Nyul Nyul tribe.
Books : Winin: Why the Emu Cannot Fly
Flo Corrigan has had an amazing life, though all too typical, holding together two families. She was the oldest of a large family, and her parents lived almost all the time in the bush, away from most other people. So Flo had a lot to do with the upbringing of her younger siblings. She only found out much later in life the reason why her father kept them away from other people and why he hated his children having contact with Aboriginal children in the bush.
Then, having left home for a wider world, almost illiterate and pretty naive, she became pregnant to a man who did a flit to New Zealand. She faced up to being a single mother after fighting off attempts to make her adopt her child out.
Her next relationship lasted for twenty years, but during much of it she was the main bread-winner and money manager. Many of those years were spent doing the back-breaking work of fencing amidst 'miles of post and wire'. As well, she raised her own family. She told her own children that having raised two families, she was not about to raise a third!
Books : Miles of Post and Wire
Joanne Crawford was born in Geraldton and has lived in the mid-west region of Western Australia all of her life.
She is a primary school teacher and has spent many years developing resources designed to provide teachers and students with a better understanding of Aboriginal culture.
'A Home for Bilby' is her first picture book and it was inspired by her own childrens' fascination with the bush and the many animals that live there.
Books: A Home for Bilby
Playwright, poet, spokesman and elder statesman, Jack Davis has emerged in recent decades as a leading and distinctive Aboriginal voice. Positioned as he is at the end of a long line of oral storytellers and at the beginning of a blossoming written tradition, he occupies a place both central and symbolic.
Until his father's untimely death, Jack Davis led a fairly conventional rural West Australian childhood, and the Yarloop area is a source of warm recollection. By contrast, at Moore River Native Settlement, he first experienced the stark realities of Aboriginal existence in white Australia. The brutality and senselessness of what he saw during those nine months made an indelible impression and became the basis of two of his most important plays, 'The Dreamers' and 'No Sugar'.
Books : A Boy's Life
Grace Fielding was raised at St Francis Xavier Mission School at Wandering, Western Australia, and later went to live in Perth.
Her interest in art and sketching has developed since moving to Broome with her four children in 1987, and she has emerged as one of the Kimberley's many exciting artists.
She is well known for her fabric printing and unique style that combines traditional dot art with contemporary images. Grace lives in Broome and works as a screen printer for an Aboriginal Women's resource centre where her designs are highly sought after.
She has illustrated three children's books: 'Bip the Snapping Bungaroo'(1993), which won the Crichton Award for Illustration in 1991; 'Who's that Jumbun in the Log?' (1996); and 'A Home for Bilby' (2004).
Books : Bip the Snapping Bungaroo, Who's that Jumbun in the Log?, A Home for Bilby
Christopher Fry was born in 1957. He is from Maningrida, a remote town on the coast of central Arnhem Land. His tribal group is Burarra. Chris enjoys reading and writing and has been painting and drawing since he was a young child. He is currently experimenting with carving dugong and turtle bones incorporating traditional and contemporary designs.
As a spiritual elder of his community and church, Chris is committed to social issues and working with young people to strengthen their cultural knowledge.
Chris has published two children's picture books through Magabala Books, Nardika Learns to Make a Spear (2001) and Djomi Dream Child (2004).
Djomi Dream Child, tells the true story of an old man who had a dream predicting the arrival of a child. The child is duly born and is now a strong, teenage girl who lives with her family in Maningrida. The dreamchild story is a well know story amongst the Kunbidji people of central Arnhem Land (NT) who believe in the special powers of the Djomi. The sacred Djomi waterhole is where spirit babies live and any woman who camps or drinks there will have a spirit baby enter her and later give birth to a child. Chris Fry wrote Djomi Dream Child after it was told to him by his wife, a Kunbidji elder, and whose uncle is the old man in the story.
Bornon the Blythe River near Maningrida in 1957, Chris Fry has always been interested in writing and drawing. 'When I was six or seven I was taken to East Arm [leprosarium] in Darwin where I went to school and learned to read and write. We were taught by the nuns and I always loved writing and drawing. One nun thought I was good at drawing and would hang my pictures on the wall. Mostly it was good at East Arm. We got three meals a day and went to school. Christmas Day was special too. But I didn't like being locked in at night, that was the worst. Also, there were lots of people with missing parts too, said Chris.
Chris was sent back to Maningrida as a teen where he continued at school as well as learning his own culture. 'After a few years, maybe five or six, I was sent back to Maningrida. When I got there I did not recognise my family or my language because at East Arm we spoke Kriol. So I had to learn my culture again' said Chris.
Now, Chris is committed to social issues and working with young people to strengthen their cultural knowledge. 'The local takeaway shop is where kids go hunting these days. So I take them out and show them how to make a spear and cook what they catch on the coals,' said Chris. Chris' first book, Nardika Learns to Make a Spear, is written about teaching his own son to make a spear.
Books: Nardika Learns to Make a Spear, Djomi Dream Child
"Hi there! My name is Lucille Gill. I was born on 23rd of August 1956 at the Old Balgo mission. I speak Kukatja, I've got six brothers and three sisters. My brother Matthew Gill is an artist too. In 1986, I went to Noonkanbah with my husband. There I worked at the adult centre with Maggie Bourne the Coordinator. We did all sorts of things like making coolamons and strings of beads from seeds and hairstring. We did screen printing, lino prints and sometimes drawing. I also worked in the kindergarten at the community school. We lived at Noonkanbah for three years. We are now in Broome. I've got four children."
Books : The Tjarany Roughtail Lizard Dreaming and Other Stories of the Kukatja
"Hi, my name is Gracie Green. I was born in 1949 at Billiluna Station. When I was older Mum and Dad took me to Balgo Mission for schooling. When I was six or seven I was put in a dormitory and was well cared for by the St John of God nuns. The Sisters taught me cooking and housekeeping during the school hours. Each week on Wednesday we also helped in the laundry. We didn't have a washing machine so we washed clothes with our hands. Now I am living at Wangkatjungka Community, Christmas Creek. I have four children, and we all like living here. I enjoy painting. Some of my paintings are traditional. I also like hunting, fishing and swimming."
Gracie Greene's paintings and sculptures have appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications.
Books : The Tjarany Roughtail Lizard Dreaming and Other Stories of the Kukatja
Rae Harris, HRMS, was born in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1905. Her mother was born in Farina, a small railway siding on the Ghan Line near Oodnadatta. Stories from Aboriginal people who lived there were retold to Rae during her own childhood. Rae settled in Perth, marrying Cliff Harris in 1936. She is an Honorary Member of the Royal Miniature Society and has contributed to two books on the techniques of painting.
"I was born on Thursday Island, third youngest of twelve children. With three older sisters already married, I grew up between five older brothers and two younger sisters, one of whom was often ill and the other too young to play, so my early childhood was more or less spent on my own. My mother Napiau (Gorlikana) Solomon was from St Paul's Village on Moa Island. Her augadh (kindred spirit or totem) is the Thingri, Stingray. My father Koko Abednego, whose augadh is Koedal, Crocodile, came from Lina Village on Erub (Darnley) Island. He was a carpenter by trade and built the house we lived in on Thursday Island. There were frequent visits from my mother's relatives, who came from Kubin Village, Moa, and stayed for weeks. Aunty Zeena and Aka Urga, my mother's aunty, would tell me stories which had morals to them: the Dhogai was a very wicked creature who could take the form of people you trusted, and steal you away forever, if you ever went wandering alone. When I was six years old, my father had a bad toothache that made him quite ill. They took him to the doctors and I never saw him alive again. Traditional mourning is an experience a child never forgets.
"My brothers showed me how to draw human figures, flowers, parking luggers and island sunsets. With the decline of the pearling industry, they left the island to work in the railways and cane fields of North Queensland. Left alone to do my own art, I was determined to be just as good as they were. We left Thursday Island when I was twelve, when my mother sold the house and we moved to Townsville. I attended State High School there and left after grade nine, later working as a kindergarten assistant, at waitressing and at the local meatworks. My husband Jack Gela is also from Erub Island. We have lived in Rockhampton for twenty years, during which time I have written short stories and traditional poems. I realised that the influence of my brothers, still my mentors and art critics, had led to very masculine images in almost all my drawings and paintings. I approach work on silks and other fabrics with a more feminine touch.
"Working with the Dreamtime Cultural Centre in Rockhampton was a turning point for me. I began to express my culture freely to others and was accepted in the Associate Diploma course at Cairns TAFE College for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. I have always admired the strength of my mother and grandmother, Rachel. Both women were widows and became very independent, never complaining about the hardship they faced without their husbands."
Books : The Dream
Dr Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New SouthWales and is of Australia�s most prolific and well know Indigenous authors.
Her published works include the historical novel 'Who Am I?', 'The Diary ofMary Talence, Sydney 1937', the poetry collection' Token Koori', satiricalsocial commentary 'Sacred Cows', non-fiction text 'Dhuuluu-Yala (To TalkStraight) Publishing Aboriginal Literature', and a children's bookentitled 'Me and My Mum'. Anita has also edited editions of 'Southerly', 'FiveBells' and the anthology 'Life in Gadigal Country'.
Anita is currently Associate Professor and writer in residence at MacquarieUniversity. She has recently completed a novella 'Not Meeting Mr Right',and written and directed her first short-film 'Checkerboard Love' as partof the Lester Bostock mentorship program through Metro Screen, Sydney.
Anita has performed her works nationally (Sydney Writers' Festival, PerthInternational Arts Festival, Message Sticks, Brisbane Writers Festival toname a few festivals) and internationally in Spain, Austria, the USA,Canada and New Caledonia. This year she will appear in Germany andIndonesia. She has also been published widely in journals, anthologies andon-line.
Anita Chaired the literacy organization Indij Readers Ltd, from 2003-2004and was a member of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Committee ofManagement from 1998-2004.
In 2003 in recognition of her literary achievements Anita was awarded theASA Medal for Under 35s for her contribution to Australian community andpublic life. In 2004 Anita was awarded the NSW Indigenous Arts Fellowshipand was listed in The Bulletin magazine's 'Smart 100'.
Books : Sacred Cows
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post : P.O. Box 668, Broome, Western Australia.
Ph: 08 91921991
Fax: 08 91935254
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International Fax: 61 8 91935254