When it comes to Indigenous literature in Australia, we are increasingly spoilt for choice. First Nations authors, illustrators, creatives and Elders take to the pages more and more in order to record and share their culture, community, and language. And children’s books are no exception – they’re the perfect way to introduce young people in your life to the stories of Australia’s Aboriginal owners. 

We have asked Lann Levinge, First Nations Artistic Director at Somerset Storyfest, to elaborate on the importance of First Nations representation in children's literature.

As a Kombumerri man with a passion for music and language development, Lann is deeply immersed in the heart of the Gold Coast’s creative arts field. As a result, he strongly believes in discovering new ways to help and develop a new generation of language warriors, creating awareness of and connecting the Yugambeh Language to everyone.

He suggests that the most important thing is a connection and reconnection to culture in any capacity available. Books, of course, play an invaluable part in this connection. 

“What we have to remember is that Aboriginal knowledges were being passed down for millennia through many art forms, including dance, song, art and storytelling – we didn’t document them in books for a long time. At stages in history, these lines of knowledge transfer were broken, languages lost and connection to culture diminished.

“Our role now is to help find a way to reconnect through both traditional art forms and the knowledge gathered in new works of literature.”

For children – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – to understand who they are in this country, we need to help cultivate and bring their truth to the surface. And books are the perfect vessel for that!

With these words in mind, scroll on for our collection of must-read children’s books by First Nations authors!

Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Young Dark Emu

It’s no surprise that Bruce Pascoe is first on our list, although you might not have known that he writes books for children too! Following the success of his adult non-fiction title Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe has brought together the research and compelling first person accounts in a book for younger readers. Using the accounts of early European explorers, colonists and farmers, Bruce Pascoe compellingly argues for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. Dark Emu - A Truer History asks young readers to consider a different version of Australia's history pre-European colonisation.

Etta and the Shadow Taboo by JM Field

Etta and the Shadow Taboo

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.

Bindi by Kirli Saunders


Bindi is an award-winning verse novel for mid-upper primary students. Written ‘for those who plant trees’, Bindi explores climate, bushfires, and healing. Written from the perspective of eleven-year-old Bindi in Gundungurra Country, it gives readers a slice of Bindi’s everyday life, including her love of hockey; art; her horse, Nell; bawa (the bush); and garrall (black cockatoo). When fire threatens Bindi’s home, their town and the land, the community comes together as one.

Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison

Black Cockatoo

Black Cockatoo is a vignette that follows Mia, a young Aboriginal girl as she explores the fragile connections of family and culture. Mia is a 13-year-old girl from a remote community in the Kimberley. She is saddened by the loss of her brother as he distances himself from the family. She feels powerless to change the things she sees around her, until one day she rescues her totem animal, the dirran black cockatoo, and soon discovers her own inner strength. This is a wonderful small tale on the power of standing up for yourself, culture and ever-present family ties.

Sea Country by Aunty Patsy Cameron

Sea Country

In this delightful children’s picture book, Aunty Patsy Cameron generously shares the stories and traditions from her family’s seasonal island life in Tasmania. With evocative text and stunning illustrations, Sea Country lets the reader know when to pick ripe wild cherries, when the moon (mutton) birds fly home and how the nautilus shells smell like the deepest oceans.

Buy the books here!

Are you interested in our 2023 NAIDOC Week picks? Click here!