5 books to read in honour of ‘Day of Mourning’

I respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I work and write. I pay my respects to elders’ past, present and emerging.

Australia always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

This year, the city of Melbourne will not be hosting the annual invasion day march on January 26. Instead, a range of small ceremonies and online gatherings will be held to honour this day of mourning for our first nations people (Indigenous Australians).

I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you all, 5 books that I’ve read that have helped lead me through my journey of educating myself on indigenous history and current issues and recognising the ongoing plight of indigenous Australians today.

Without further ado, here are 5 books you can read in honour of ‘Day of Mourning’.

Growing up Aboriginal in Australia – (edited by) Anita HeisGrowing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss | Black Inc.

Published in 2018 and edited by award-winning author; Anita Heiss, Growing up Aboriginal in Australia is a biographical anthology full of a range of different Indigenous Australian voices. This book forms part of the popular ‘Growing up in Australia’ series, published by Back Inc. books, and answers the central question; “What is it like growing up Aboriginal in Australia?”. The anthology showcases a range of diverse voices and stories. It includes both well-known and, up and coming writers.

“All of the contributors speak from the heart sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect” (Goodreads).

This is a great read if you’re looking for something you can consume in short intervals or get a wide range of stories all at once.

Dark Emu – Bruce PascoeMagabala Books

Its first edition, published in 2014 (Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?), the book has had a recent resurgence in popularity following its release of the second edition in 2018 (Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and the Birth of Agriculture). Side note – a children’s edition was published in 2019 and was shortlisted for the 2020 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature in the Children’s Literature Award section.

This non-fiction book re-examines colonial interpretations of Aboriginal people in Australia and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture, engineering and building construction by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“In his book, Pascoe crafted a persuasive account of Aboriginal people and the way they lived, largely unknown by a nation still viewing this land and First Peoples through a foggy colonial lens” (Heidi Norman, The Conversation).

While I found this book not an entirely easy read – it can be quite technical and dry, for lack of a better word, in parts. This was still an extremely educational read, particularly comparing it with what we were given in school i.e. very little, barely scratching the surface when it comes to what historians and archaeologists actually know about Aboriginal history.

A great read for mature, intellectual-type readers or students doing indigenous studies.

A Rightful Place – Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu (and moreA Rightful Place by Noel Pearson, Shireen Morris | Black Inc.

At the time of publication (2017), Australia was having a reckoning of sorts. As the tagline suggests “The nation has unfinished business”. It seems we were grappling with the discussion about if and how indigenous Australians would be recognised in the constitution. I read this book about a year later and even between then and now, little has changed, which makes the essays in this book still relevant.

Opening with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the several leading indigenous writers who contributed to this book, pen eloquently worded essays to show what constitutional recognition means and the possibilities it could unleash; “a political voice, a fairer relationship and a renewed appreciation of an ancient culture”.

“With remarkable clarity and power, they traverse law, history and culture to map the path to change” (Goodreads).

Another good read if you need something educational but easy to consume in short intervals.

Australia Day – Stan GranAustralia Day by Stan Grant | 9781460759974 | Booktopia

“As uncomfortable as it is, we need to reckon with our history. On January 26, no Australian can really look away” (Stan Grant).

No truer words have been spoken. This book originally published in 2019 will forever remain one of the most important bodies of work when it comes to the conversation around Australia Day.

In this long-awaited follow-up to, ‘Talking to my Country’, Stan Grant delves into the important topics of what it means to be Australian, the indigenous struggle for acceptance, and the need for reconciliation in order to move forward.

“A sad, wise, beautiful, reflective, and troubled book, Australia Day asks the questions that have to be asked, that no one else seems to be asking. Who are we? What is our country? How do we move forward from here?” (Goodreads).

All I can say here is, read it!

Welcome to Country – Marcia LangtoMarcia Langton: Welcome To Country by Marcia Langton | BIG W

Finally, for a change of pace (and style) may I present to you this ‘Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia’ first published in 2018. It has since been updated with a second edition.

Marcia Langton is the highly respected indigenous scholar responsible for this landmark travel guide – the first of its kind and a bestseller. In this book, she details all the ways in which tourists can appreciate and engage in indigenous culture through travel.

Langton provides information on all the important destination hubs as well as things like art centres, tour guides and hiking trails to explore. She includes details such as aboriginal culture and history for each of the areas as well as proper etiquette for visitors to follow.

“This book is essential for anyone travelling around Australia who wants to learn more about the culture that has thrived here for over 50,000 years. It also offers the chance to enjoy tourism opportunities that will show you a different side of this fascinating country — one that remains dynamic and is filled with openness and diversity” (Goodreads).

Most striking is its gorgeous photos and illustrations which make this book the perfect addition to any coffee table.

The Commonwealth bought the Aboriginal flag. Has it been 'freed' or colonised? - ABC News

Claudia Forsberg is a Melbourne based writer and journalist. She is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in communication (Journalism) at RMIT University.

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