This NAIDOC Week, join us in fostering inclusivity, learning about the rich history of Australia, and paying your respects through choosing to read stories published by First Nations authors and Elders. 

National NAIDOC Week celebrates and recognises the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This week – and beyond – is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and to participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth. Keeping with this year’s theme, ‘For our Elders’, we at Storyfest wish to pay our respects to the Elders of past and present, and hope that the below book recommendations will inspire you to learn more about them too. 

“They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones. [...] It is their influence and through their learnings that we must ensure that when it comes to future decision making for our people, there is nothing about us – without us.”

You can learn more about NAIDOC Week events, activities, and history here

Why is reading books by First Nations authors important? 

While NAIDOC Week is only one week every year, we encourage budding and avid readers alike to pick up books by Indigenous authors regularly. Reading diverse books not only exposes us to different cultures, perspectives, and experiences, but it also helps to promote empathy and understanding. The benefits of reading a diverse range of books is far-reaching, and First Nations books should be high on every Australian reader’s list. 

The types of books we are familiar with shape the way we view the world. Especially when we’re younger, these influences can have long-lasting effects. Reading books about others like you and seeing yourself represented within these pages allows you to feel self-assured and important within your place in the world. Whereas reading books about people who are different – in their ethnicity, cultures and customs, preferences, anything – allows you to not only view these “others” as perfectly normal too, but to step into their shoes and see the world through their eyes as well.

During this NAIDOC Week, we encourage you to seek out the shoes of some wonderful First Nations authors, and to learn about and appreciate the ways in which their cultures have survived and thrived for more than 50,000 years. 

Top First Nations books for adults 

First Nations Classics series by UQP

UQP has published a First Nations Classics series, with the first instalment of the series featuring eight award-winning titles dating back to 1988 by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, with new introductions from contemporary authors. The First Nations Classics series ranges across genres, including memoir, novels, short stories and poetry.

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta

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, about how we learn and how we remember, about talking to everybody and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things.

This All Come Back Now by Mykaela Saunders

The first-ever anthology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction – written, curated, edited and designed by blackfellas, for blackfellas, about blackfellas. In these stories, ‘this all come back’: all those things that have been taken from us, that we collectively mourn the loss of, or attempt to recover and revive, as well as those that we thought we’d gotten rid of, that are always returning to haunt and hound us.

The Upwelling by Lystra Rose 

Three misfits. Two warring spirits. One chance to save the world. The Upwelling is a First Nations young adult time-travel novel that explores culture, Country, lore, family and Dreaming through the perspectives of three protagonists working together to salvage our future. 

Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki

This seminal collection of poetry, prose and historical colonial archives, tells First Nations truths of unending love for children – those that were present, those taken, those hidden and those that ultimately stood in the light. Homecoming pieces together fragments of stories about four generations of Noongar women and explores how they navigated the changing landscapes of colonisation, protectionism, and assimilation to hold their families together.

Sixty-Seven Days by Yvonne Weldon

An intense and mesmerising story of first love and longing, suffused with Wiradjuri Dreaming, family and culture, Sixty-Seven Days is a powerful novel about a future dreamt and a future taken, by an important new voice in Australian fiction. 

Top First Nations books for children

Etta and the Shadow Taboo by JM Field

When Etta steps on her sister Baawaa’s shadow, she learns of the Shadow Taboo, and goes on to value the personal space of others as well as her own. Written by Gamilaraay author JM Field and illustrated by Ngarabal/Gomeroi artist Jeremy Worrall, Etta and the Shadow Taboo will invite readers to follow a Gamilaraay tradition where one must avoid stepping on the shadows of others.

Stori Bla Brutbrut en Bujigat (Story about Cat and Mouse) by Carol Robertson

Stori Bla Brutbrut en Bujigat is a story of Cat and Mouse, two unlikely companions, written and illustrated by two Aboriginal women from Ngukkur. It’s a light-hearted story with delightful illustrations, and readers will laugh out loud at the antics of cat and mouse. Best of all, the book also includes a QR code that provides access to oral readings in Kriol and English.

My Little Barlaagany (Sunshine) by Melissa Greenwood

From Gumbaynggirr artist Melissa Greenwood, this gentle bedtime story follows the journey a mother and child take across a day and into the Dreamtime – finding special places to visit, creatures to meet and new things to discover.

The Proud Foots series by Lucas Proudfoot

The Proud Foots series is written by award-winning Indigenous author and performer, Lucas Proudfoot, and illustrated by renowned Indigenous artists, David Hardy and Luke Mallie. Each story is jam-packed with heart-thumping action, crazy characters and hilarious encounters. The lively, lyrical text makes these chapter books perfect for shared reading, and the stories include references to Indigenous cultures not just from Australia, but all around the globe. 

Bidhi Galing by Anita Heiss

Powerful and moving, Bidhi Galing (Big Rain) celebrates the Wiradyuri heroes of the Great Flood of Gundagai in 1852, told through the eyes of a young girl who is rescued from the raging floodwaters by her father. Anita Heiss’s powerful text, accompanied by Samantha Campbell’s evocative illustrations, is a gift of Wiradyuri culture, knowledge and language, sharing a resonant message for our times.

Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country by Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing

A joyful story about the power of reconnecting to family, culture and Country, this is the story of Lucy and David's first time back on Country. They meet their cousins and Elders, see special places, learn local language words and hear stories as old as time. Back on Country is vital reading for the whole family. 

Buy the books here!

Or better yet, check out one of the Indigenous-owned or focussed businesses below: 

Still working through your backlist? Check out our top picks from 2022!