United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10: REDUCED INEQUALITIES

Reduce inequality within and among countries

[Lisa Crofts, Scotch College, Perth, Australia]

The impact of colonisation in Australia on aboriginal people has been devastating. Attempts to close the gap in health, education, life expectancy, imprisonment and representation have failed, and Aboriginal people continue to live in generational disadvantage.

The following books contains high quality fiction and non-fiction and poetry by or about Indigenous people in Australia.  They give us an insight to the historical treatment of Australian Aboriginal people and the impact it is still having today. 

There are many good titles available in Australia on this topic, but I have chosen the books that I regularly promote and use when I am teaching in the Senior School Library.  Love Poems and Death Threats is a text for our upper senior school students and Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence has been a text for our middle school students in the past as has The Rabbits

Perth is on Whadjuk, Noongar land but these texts are from all around Australia.  

Finding Our Heart: a story about the Uluru Statement for young Australians – by Thomas Mayor, (born on Torres Strait Island and raised on Larrakia land), illustrated by Blak Douglas (Dhungatti) (2020) / Australia / nonfiction picture book for all ages
Finding the Heart of the Nation: the journey of the Uluru Statement towards Voice, Treaty, and Truth – by Thomas Mayor (born on Torres Strait Island and raised on Larrakia land) (2019) / Australia / adult nonfiction

Thomas Mayor’s picture book, which was a follow-up to his nonfiction book for adult, tells the story of Australia and the Uluru Statement, a campaign started in 2017, to ensure First Nation voices are included in the political process.

‘When we all came together at Uluru, we invited all Australian people to accept our voice and culture as a gift.’  Can you help us find the heart of the nation? A book about understanding Australia’s past, so we can have a shared future.  [book blurb]

You can listen to the author Thomas Mayor read the picture book and talk about why he wrote it in this video – click here.

To learn more about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, see the official website here. The statement itself has been translated into 64 languages so far — click here to choose a language version.


Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington (also known as Nugi Garimara) (Mardudjara) (1996) / Australia / Memoir / Suitable for middle/senior school students
Home to Mother by Doris Pilkington Garimara (Mardudjara) (2004) / Australia / Young readers’ edition of same book

A family account of three girls, part of the Stolen Generations, who escaped from a government settlement in 1931, trekking over 1,600 kilometres to get back to their parents and Aboriginal homeland by following a massive pest-exclusion fence running north-south in Western Australia.

This extraordinary story of courage and faith is based on the actual experiences of three girls who fled from the repressive life of Moore River Native Settlement, following along the rabbit-proof fence back to their homelands. Assimilationist policy dictated that these girls be taken from their kin and their homes in order to be made white. Settlement life was unbearable with its chains and padlocks, barred windows, hard cold beds, and horrible food. Solitary confinement was doled out as regular punishment. The girls were not even allowed to speak their language. Of all the journeys made since white people set foot on Australian soil, the journey made by these girls born of Aboriginal mothers and white fathers speaks something to everyone. [Goodreads blurb]

The book was adapted as a film, Rabbit-Proof Fence, in 2002.

The Rabbits by John Marsden, illustrated by Shaun Tan (1998) / Australia / Picture book for older readers

This simple yet devastatingly clever picture book about the European colonisation of Australia — first published in 1998 — by two outstanding Australian creators of literature for children and young adults, is a must-have for every library. Click here to read Shaun Tan’s discussion of creating the artwork for this book.

Uses rabbits, a species introduced to Australia, to represent an allegory of the arrival of Europeans in Australia and the widespread environmental destruction caused by man throughout the continent. [Goodreads blurb]

Here is a National Geographic article — How European Rabbits Took over Australia — intended for students in Grades 5-8, that gives some historical context to the rabbit metaphor — and mentions the “rabbit-proof fence” built in Western Australia.

Click here for a teachers’ guide for The Rabbits from the publisher Hachette. The Sydney Opera House also has produced some teachers’ notes on the book — click here — as they produced an opera based on the book in 2015. The Copyright Agency of Australia also has teaching notes about the book — click here. Note: this is a perfect book for discussing the power and use of allegory, fable, and metaphor.

Sorry Day by Coral Vass, illustrated by Dub Leffler (2018) / Australian / Picture book for all ages

National Sorry Day is an annual event that has been held in Australia on 26 May since 1998.

This picture book is set on February 13, 2008 when Kevin Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to apologise to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the government.

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows a willlingness to make things right. The story commemorates both the momentous speech made by the Prime Minister of Australia to say sorry to the indigenous people for past abuse and to also recognise the decades of abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. Told through the eyes of a young girl participating in the ceremony today and, in sepia colours, the eyes of the stolen children in the past. [Goodreads blurb]

There is a wonderful video produced by StoryBox of Sorry Day, read by the Aboriginal actor Trevor Jamieson, with an introduction and afterword from former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Teachers’ notes for the picture book Sorry Day can be found here.

Growing up Aboriginal in Australia – edited by Anita Heiss (Wiradjuri) (2018) / Australia / Autobiographical essays by various contributors

This anthology, compiled by award-winning author Anita Heiss, showcases many diverse voices, experiences and stories in order to answer that question. Accounts from well-known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside those from newly discovered writers of all ages. All of the contributors speak from the heart sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect. [Goodreads blurb]

Read the introduction by Dr. Anita Heiss here.

Cleverman #1 – by Ryan Griffen and Wolfgang Bylsma, illustrated by Emily K. Smith / Australia / Graphic novel for middle/senior students

This post-apocalyptic graphic novel series — based on a ground-breaking 6-part drama TV show (where 80% of the cast is Indigenous) — is rooted in Aboriginal mythology.

Click here for an interview with Ryan Griffen in which he talks about why he created it and the problems of being a light-skinned Aboriginal person. In another article, Griffen is quoted as saying Cleverman is “the Pope of the Dreamtime” and talks about how the main character Koen fights against exclusion, discrimination and identity.

In the near future, creatures from ancient mythology have emerged and must co-exist with humans. Known as ‘hairypeople’ they must live among humans and battle for survival in a world that wants to exploit and destroy them.  One young man – the cleverman – struggles with his own power and responsibility to unite this divided world. [Goodreads blurb]

Note: There are only two books in the graphic novel series so far, published by Gestalt Books.

Catching Teller Crow / The Things She’s Seen — by Ambelin & Ezekial Kwaymullina (Palyku) (2018) / Australia / Middle school fiction

This magical realism young adult novel was written by a brother-sister team of Aboriginal writers who come from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since she died. Her dad, a detective, is the only one who can see and hear her – and he’s drowning in grief. But now they have a mystery to solve together. Who is Isobel Catching, and what’s her connection to the fire that killed a man? What happened to the people who haven’t been seen since the fire? As Beth unravels the mystery, she finds a shocking story lurking beneath the surface of a small town, and a friendship that lasts beyond one life and into another.  Told in two unforgettable voices, this gripping novel weaves together themes of grief, colonial history, violence, love and family. [Publisher’s blurb]

Awards this book has won:

  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education 2020 US;
  • Shortlisted 11-14+ category, UKLA (UK Literary Association) Book Awards 2020 UK;
  • Winner White Ravens title, International Youth Library Foundation 2019 Germany;
  • Shortlisted Griffith University Young Adult Book Award – Queensland Literary Awards 2019 AU;
  • Shortlisted Long Work category, Norma K Hemming Award 2019 AU;
  • Shortlisted Book of the Year for Older Children, ABIA Awards 2019 AU;
  • Longlisted Book of the Year: Older Readers, CBCA Awards 2019 AU;
  • Winner Writing for Young Adults category, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019 AU;
  • Shortlisted Young Adult category, Indie Book Awards 2019 AU;
  • Winner Best Young Adult Novel, Aurealis Awards 2018 AU 

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (Wirlomin-Noongar) (2017) / Australia / Sci-fi novel for young adults and adults

In writing this book, Claire G. Coleman was “searching for a way to invoke empathy for First Nations Australians in the minds of white Australia.” (source interview).

Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.   The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all. This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history.   [Goodreads blurb]

Read a long review of this book in the Sydney Review of Books here.

Awards this book has won:

  • Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2017 
  • Shortlisted for the ABIA Matt Richell Award for New Writers 2018 
  • Shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for a Science Fiction Novel 2017 
  • Longlisted for the Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction 2018 
  • Nominated for Ditmar Award Best New Talent 2018
  • Shortlisted for the Stella Prize
  • Selected for the shortlist of the Bangkok Book Awards, Thailand, 2021

Love Poems and Death Threats by Samuel Wagan Watson (Bundjalung and Birra Gubba) (2014) / Poetry / Upper senior school appropriate

Samuel Wagan Watson is an Aboriginal poet that our upper senior school students study, e.g., see our school’s Libguide to his work here.

From acclaimed poet Samuel Wagan Watson comes a much-anticipated volume that is both wild and dynamic in its flair and vision, mapping the songlines – the poemlines – of an Australia scarred by invasion and injustice, but brimming, too, with the vital energies of creativity and resilience. With striking immediacy, Watson’s often satirical take on contemporary Australia, with its acquisitiveness and materialism, bears witness to an ancient culture protesting against the implacable march of development. Honest, powerful and compelling, this new collection from one of Australia’s most recognised Indigenous poets reveals the ways love might go wrong, but, equally, its transformative power to heal and resonate in unexpected ways. Love Poems and Death Threats breaks new ground for Indigenous Australian writing and adds to Samuel Wagan Watson’s reputation as one of our most exciting poets. [Goodreads blurb] 

If you are looking to purchase quality fiction and non fiction by Indigenous Australians, I highly recommend: 

Lisa Crofts is a teacher librarian at Scotch College located in Swanbourne, Western Australia. She has lived in Perth all of her life but loves travelling to far off places too. Lisa started teaching in 1998 in Port Hedland a town in the far north of Western Australia as a business/computing teacher and it was only in 2013 that she was lucky enough to get the opportunity to follow her dream to work as a teacher librarian which she has been doing for the last 7 years. Lisa is passionate about access to information for everybody through libraries and the importance of literacy and the power of knowledge in our everchanging world. You can find her on Twitter @lisa_crofts and on Facebook @Lisa Crofts TL

Note: all the books highlighted during this month of SDGs can be found on this GLLI Goodreads shelf.

What are your favorite books for SDG Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities? Please share them in the comments. Let’s make this a conversation and work on the goal together.

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