#TasmanianLitMonth – Indigenous Storytelling

Written by guest curator, Bec Taylor

Before delving into the topic of indigenous Tasmanian authors, it is important to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which Tasmanians live, work and learn. I acknowledge the Palawa people, who are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Tasmania, and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

I recognize that their sovereignty was never ceded and that they have cared for this land for thousands of years. I also acknowledge the ongoing struggles of the Palawa people for recognition and justice. As I explore the rich literary traditions of Indigenous Tasmanian authors and storytellers, I do so with humility and respect, recognizing the deep connection that the Palawa people have to this land, its stories and its history. 

Indigenous Authors of Tasmania

Aunty Joyce Cameron

I couldn’t access a physical copy of “Sea Country” on short notice as I am still waiting for it to arrive in my Australian book order from Melbourne’s specialty children’s book store, The Little Bookroom. Luckily, my dad’s local library came to the rescue! He popped down to library and checked out the book then read it to me over video call.

Aunty Joyce and Lisa take the reader on a journey through the year, learning how to tap into nature’s roadmap to the seasons and resulting actions. Whether it’s the right time to harvest wild cherries, the patterns of migrant birds, or how to create beautiful shell necklaces, nature will always provide us the knowledge we need to thrive. With so many of us losing a basic connection to nature, “Sea Country” reminds us all to take time to notice how the environment shapes and guides us.

This truly magnificent book is dripping, justifiably, in literary awards:




Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

Published by Magabala Books

Released June 1, 2021

Hard Cover

ISBN 9781925936032

Adam Thompson

Adam Thompson, winner of the inaugural Emerging Tasmanian Aboriginal Writers Award (ETAWA) in 2017 is best known for his debut work, “Born into This”.

“Born Into This”, a collection of short stories exploring the experiences of Indigenous Tasmanians, is an uncompromising, hard hitting, honest look at Tasmania today and has received critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the USQ Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection and the 2021 Age Book of the Year Award. In 2022, Born Into This won the international Story Prize: Spotlight Award.

It serves as a salient reminder that there is no monolithic Aboriginal Australian; the book thrums with a cacophony of voices and experiences. Some of his characters hide their vulnerability and loss amid fronts of machismo, others are more like tinnies bobbing in a raging ocean beyond their control. Like the native trees being razed, they were “born into a hostile world and expected to thrive”. This book bears witness to their struggles.

Thuy On, from the Guardian Australia

Published by University of Queensland Press

Released February 2, 2021


ISBN 9780702263118

Luana Towney

Luana Towney is a Palawa Wiradjuri woman who is a basket weaver, poet, painter, jeweler, learner, and teacher. She has written a traveling book about the First Nations people of Nipaluna/Hobart called “Muwinina Country”. The book is a child-friendly history lesson about the first people of Tasmania. Luana Towney’s artwork reflects the circle of life and a deep love for the earth. Luana won the 2020 Emerging Tasmanian Aboriginal Writers Award for her short story The Girl in Red.

in 2020, Luana presented “Muwinina Country” as a walking book exhibition along the South Hobart Rivulet Track during NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC Week is ‘an opportunity for all Australians to learn about  First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.’

Published by CONSTANCE Artist Run Initiative

Released January 1, 2021


ISBN 9780646844756

Listen to Luana speak about her traveling story on ABC Radio Hobart.

Dave mangenner Gough

One of the lasting legacies of colonisation on First Nations people around the world is the loss of language. Tasmanian Indigenous author, Dave mangenner Gough, has recently published a children’s picture book written in English and palawa kani, a local Indigenous language. Gough is a proud trawlwoolway man, descended from Bungana (chief) mannalargenna’s oldest daughter woretemoeteyenner of the north-east Tasmanian people.

“luwa tara luwa waypa”, translating roughly to “Three Kangaroos, Three Tasmanian Aboriginal Men”, is about a boy’s coming of age experience.

Illustrations by Northern Territory artist, Samantha Campbell, are bold and beautiful.

You can learn more about making and launch of the book by reading this ABC Australia article.

Published by Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

Released July 2022


ISBN 9781922752062

Indigenous Australian Publishing

Interested in reading more Indigenous Australian literature?

One of the most prolific publishers of First Nations work is Magabala.

Magabala is Australia’s leading Indigenous publishing house. Aboriginal owned and led, we celebrate and nurture the talent and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices. Magabala took home the 2023 Oceania winner of the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year. Their catalogue is bursting with magnificent titles that belong in every school library across the world. All children need, and deserve, to hear these stories.

Storytelling is an innate human activity and forms the basis of many First Nations people’s history and cultural practices globally. Yet so many children, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, miss out on being explicitly taught the important skills of oral storytelling. Tasmanian author, Karen Harrland, featured earlier in #TasmanianLitMonth, has a dream day job – teaching elementary-aged children the art of storytelling alongside an Aboriginal Education Worker.

Storytelling at Margate Primary

Written by guest contributor, Karen Harrland.

We, at Margate Primary School, have noticed that a class of children listen to a story intently when you are telling them in person. No book as a prop, just a group of people who sit together. They not only remember the story, but are able to connect with it, share it later, and meld it seamlessly into their own stories.

The power of this is such that we have devoted a specialist program to Storytelling, or ‘Story Circles.’

We sit on First Nations designed mats in one of the many beautiful bush spaces at the school and work in groups to learn and demonstrate storytelling techniques. We are often interrupted by curious yellow-tailed black cockatoos or one of our much loved school chickens trying to lay an egg.

Story mats.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Our other extension literacy programs, including ‘Stories under Kunanyi’ and ‘Words Make Me Fly’ are designed to challenge and extend small groups of students to write or tell their stories. ‘Stories Under Kunanyi’ students learn from our Aboriginal Education Worker as well as our Storytelling Teacher, a published author, to use First Nations culture as a backdrop for telling stories. These include using symbols and making stories in the sand and shell stringing using beads as a way to retell important life moments.

‘Words Make Me Fly’ is aimed at extending groups of avid creative writers to give them skills and build enjoyment of writing which we hope will be life-long. It is taught through a platform of learning about the desert in Central Australia, exposing Tasmanian kids to a very different landscape and inspiring them through the bellows of male emus, the feel of eagle claws or running their hands through the rich red sands of the desert.

These diverse programs aim to give all students a chance to shine and share their voices with the world.

Creating with nature.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Student creating a story block.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Student voice:

“I like how we get to share stories and speak and no-one judges you.”

“I like being able to share some really special stories that are going to stay with me my whole life.”

About Guest Curator, Bec Taylor

I’m Bec Taylor, the EY3 – Grade 2 cybrarian* at the International School of Beijing, China. I’m a global nomad with Australian roots and a Chinese family home – all my immediate family have lived and worked in Beijing as international school teachers for many, many years.  

Overly enthusiastic about everything especially children’s literature, Australian Rules Football (go Doggies!) and food, glorious food, I am easily bribed with coffee and dark chocolate. I am a passionate advocate of social justice, female financial literacy, and finding ways to tread more lightly on the planet. Alongside the demands of a busy family and professional life, I enjoy cultivating community through volunteer work that focuses on healthy families.

I am the current Chair of the Chinese international schools reading promotion, the Panda Book Awards. Titles chosen for the shortlists of the Panda Book Awards meet selection criteria that focus on social justice, diversity and inclusion by up and coming authors and illustrators from across the world. There is an added spotlight on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators. 

Twitter is my favourite professional development space so please come find me there: @becinthelibrary

The educational hills I will die on are:

  • a child’s right to choose what they love to read,
  • there is serious magic in reading aloud,
  • and the belief that schools are happier, more equitable places with better academic outcomes when the properly funded school library is well staffed with qualified, collaborative and passionate professionals.

*a fancy name that formalises and acknowledges the incredible work teacher librarians do each day to find authentic ways to integrate and explore educational technology in order to capture, expand, and enhance student learning.

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