Best books about Aboriginal culture

Find the best books on Australian Aboriginal culture and history, for primary or secondary school, uni, training or self-study.

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In Western literature, audiences tend to celebrate the author. In Aboriginal literature, we celebrate the story. — Bruce Pascoe, Aboriginal writer [1]

Are textbooks still useful?

Teaching has come a long way from purely textbook-based to spanning text, video, audio and games. With students' attention spans decreasing and information breaking down into smaller bite sizes teachers are questioning the usefulness of books at school.

Textbooks still have a few advantages:

  • Good for novice teachers. Beginning teachers can benefit from a detailed outline of the material to be covered and the design of each lesson.
  • Organised units of work. A textbook gives you all the plans and lessons you need to cover a topic in some detail.
  • Structured information. Books provide you with a chronological presentation of information. They usually contain a detailed sequence of teaching procedures that tell you what to do and when to do it.

Good textbooks are excellent teaching aids. They're a resource for both teachers and students.

Some teachers found that students are not motivated to read textbooks. They have had success with phasing out books and replacing them with practical exercises that are relevant to their students' daily life experiences.

It is probably good to not use textbooks as the only resource for students. Use it as a guide, not a mandate and be free to modify, change, eliminate, or add to the material in the textbook using videos, films, music and interactive materials.

Choosing an Aboriginal textbook

In my opinion there is nothing better than learning directly from Aboriginal authors. I have witnessed their pain and suffering, their resilience and creativity as well as their joy and community by reading first-hand accounts of their lives. For this reason I have marked the author's heritage accordingly for all books listed on CreativeSpirits.info.

Be careful with books by non-Aboriginal authors. Do they have an agenda? Are they based on myths or old colonial ideas? Are they painting Aboriginal culture only in a positive, glorifying light?

Even contemporary curriculum-approved books can get it wrong and teach "seasons and animals" followed directly by "Aboriginal seasons", perpetuating the idea that Aboriginal people are somehow linked to flora and fauna.

It might be a good idea to talk to Aboriginal teachers to learn about their perspective and check if they have recommendations.

Free books about Aboriginal culture

The Australian National University has studies on particular themes or regions and a series of articles on single subjects of contemporary Aboriginal topics which it offers as free Indigenous books for download.

You can search Project Gutenberg's Australiana page for books covering Aboriginal culture.

The Digital Book Index also keeps a list of free Aboriginal books.

Colin Dean made two of his books available for free: The Religions of the pre-contact Victorian Aborigines (PDF) and The Australian Aboriginal 'Dreamtime' (PDF).

Aboriginal book publishers

References

View article sources (1)

[1] 'Indigenous author challenges Australians on our 'fraudulent' history', SMH 9/8/2019

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2019, Best books about Aboriginal culture, <https://www.creativespirits.info/resources/books>, retrieved 21 September 2019

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