Reconciliation Reading Groups



Calling University of Melbourne staff interested in participating in or leading Reading Groups which will have as their focus books by Indigenous authors

Next meeting

Date                                        Monday 16 November at 1.00pm  (for one hour)

Where                                     Dulcie Hollyock Room, Ground floor, Baillieu Library

Book for discussion                Sovereign Subjects: Indigenous Sovereignty Matters, Edited by Aileen Moreton-Robinson

Group Hosts                           Ellen Day and Sandra Wood


A group of University of Melbourne staff met during National Reconciliation Week to discuss how we might band together to establish a Reconciliation Reading Group. So far we have read and discussed two books: The Swan Book by Alexis Wright and  That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott. Our third meeting is scheduled for 16 November - details above.

It is not too late to join the group which is open to colleagues from across the University.  The only requisite is that you have read the book (or at least made a good start on reading it).

The purpose of the Reconciliation Reading Group

The purpose of the proposed Reconciliation Reading Groups is to encourage University staff to take personal responsibility for extending their understanding of Indigenous knowledge, culture and values and to reflect on and question their assumptions and thinking about Indigenous Australia. These reading groups constitute a small step in the process of realizing the University's cultural recognition goals as set out in the University's Reconciliation Action Plan 2015–2017. Action 5 of the RAP calls for a visible Indigenous presence and a demonstrable valuing of Indigenous perspectives across the University, with the goal of initiatives implemented being to promote understanding of and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledges and values past and present.  The proposal to form reconciliation reading groups –  whilst not a specific target identified in the RAP – will be an opportunity for participants to reflect on and question their assumptions about Indigenous Australian.

Staff wishing to learn about – and potentially volunteer to coordinate – an Indigenous Reading Groups among colleagues are welcome contact me for further details. Our initial idea was that the books might be chosen from the 'Five must-read books by Indigenous authors' published by the Guardian.


About the five must-read books by Indigenous authors

In response to the final report into the federal curriculum review (pdf), released in October 2014, in which Professor Barry Spurr argued that too much weight was given to Indigenous writers and history in the English curriculum, the Guardian Australia asked Dr Sandra Phillips of Queensland University of Technology for her top picks.

The five books:

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (2013). Shortlisted, Miles Franklin Award 2014

 Alexis Wright's futuristic novel is set in northern Australia. The climate has been ruined and indigenous people's live under a form of intervention.

The Australian's Geordie Williamson said in a review: "The Swan Book should be regarded as one of the most beautiful, furious and urgent novels to be published in this country in recent years. It reminds readers that the misery and upheaval promised by climate change has already come to Australia's first people."


That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott (2010). Joint winner, Miles Franklin Award 2011

Described by Guardian critic Carol Birch as "an exercise in lush impressionism, evoking a time when the Aboriginal Noongar people of Western Australia first encountered the 'horizon people' … British colonists, European adventurers, and whalers from America, ghost-like white people intent upon establishing a settlement in a land both forbidding and primevally beautiful."


Skins: Contemporary Indigenous Writing. Edited by Katerina Akiwenzie-Damm and Josie Douglas 2000

An anthology of Indigenous writing features work by writers from Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Contributors include Maria Campbell, Alootook Iepllie, Sally Morgan, Thomas King and Witi Ihimaera.


Sovereign Subjects. Edited by Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson, 2007

An agenda setting book about Indigenous sovereignty from some of Australia's best thinkers.

The collection explores political and cultural issues facing Indigenous people and discusses how to tackle sometimes intractable political issues.


Because A White Man'll Never Do It by Kevin Gilbert (A&R Classics 2002, first published 1973)

A classic released in 1973, Because A White Man'll Never Do It attacks the British colonisation of Australia. Land theft, human rights abuse, slavery, inequality, paternalism and theft of land are all charges levelled at the new arrivals.

Gilbert makes a plea that white Australia should leave black Australia alone.