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Writing Blak Legacies: A First Nations Literature Gala


Event Status

Celebrate the richness and cultural significance of First Nations writing with a special gala event marking the release of the University of Queensland Press’ First Nations Classics series.

About the event

This year, the University of Queensland Press released the first instalment of its First Nations Classics series, recognising the brilliant and vital literary contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers across the decades.

To mark the publication of this landmark series, the Wheeler Centre and Blak & Bright present a vibrant evening of reflections, readings and performance featuring many of the series authors and contributors, hosted by acclaimed author Tony Birch. Hear from Evelyn Araluen, Larissa Behrendt, Ellen van Neerven, Alison Whittaker, Jeanine Leane, Archie Weller, Kev Carmody and Tara June Winch, alongside series editor Yasmin Smith and series designer Jenna Lee, with a special musical performance by Nardi Simpson and Yarn Bomb by Zerene Jaadwa.

Together they will celebrate the 2023 NAIDOC theme ‘For Our Elders’, recognising the importance of intergenerational knowledge and storytelling and bringing renewed attention to timeless works of literature that are as important, engaging and relevant today as they were on first publication.

Kev Carmody, Larissa Behrendt and Tara June Winch will appear via video.

Artwork by Jenna Lee.

Presented in partnership with Blak & Bright. Supported by RMIT Culture. 


Auslan Interpreted

Wheelchair accessible

Accessible toilets available

Assistive Listening

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Please notify us of all access requirements when booking online so we can assist you with your visit. If you require further information, please contact reception on 03 9094 7800 or

First Nations Classics series

Published by UQP, the First Nations Classics is inspired by the richness and cultural importance of First Nations writing. The First Nations Classics series currently includes:

Unbranded by Herb Wharton, introduced by Kev Carmody
Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Nugi Garimara (Doris Pilkington), introduced by Tara June Winch
Blood by Tony Birch, introduced by Larissa Behrendt
Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven, introduced by Alison Whittaker
Don’t Take Your Love to Town by Ruby Langford Gibini, introduced by Nardi Simpson
The Window Seat by Archie Weller, introduced by Ernie Dingo
Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane, introduced by Evelyn Araluen
Holocaust Island by Graeme Dixon, introduced by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Readers can look forward to more First Nations Classics in 2024. You can learn more about the series at

The bookseller for this event is Amplify Bookstore.

In the Foyer: Yawa

As part of this event, in the foyer of The Capitol, audiences will have the opportunity to play Yawa, a four-player arcade game created in a collaboration between N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM, artist Troy Innocent with Jarra Karalinar Steel (art) and Narayana Johnson (music). Yawa means journey in Boonwurrung language. To play, four players explore an abstract map of Country and collect words in the Boonwurrung language as they go. Learn more about YAWA here.



Please note: Kev Carmody, Larissa Behrendt and Tara June Winch will appear via video.

Evelyn Araluen

Evelyn Araluen is a Goorie and Koori poet, researcher, and co-editor of Overland Literary Journal.

Larissa Behrendt

Larissa Behrendt AO is the Laureate Fellow at Jumbunna Research, UTS. She is an award winning author and filmmaker and the host of Speaking Out on ABC Radio.

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of four novels, five short fiction collections, and two poetry books. His most recent book is the novel, Women and Children (UQP). ... Read more

Kev Carmody

Celebrated Indigenous singer-songwriter Kev Carmody was born in 1946 to an Irish-Australian father and Aboriginal mother. Carmody is particularly well-known for co-writing From Little Things Big Things Grow with Paul Kelly in 1991, which shares the story of the fight for land rights by the Gurindji ... Read more

Zerene Jaadwa

Zerene has always been taught by her mother to stand tall and proud, not only as a Woman, but as a Blak Queer Woman. As an Activist, Actor, Educator and Creative Zerene has fought long and hard to ensure all voices, stories and truths are told. Zerene Jaadwa is loud, proud and deadly. This can intim... Read more

Jeanine Leane

Jeanine Leane belongs to the Wiradjuri people from the Murrumbidgee River in south west NSW. She is a writer poet and teacher whose prose, essays and poetry have been published widely in Australia and abroad. She is the editor of Guwayu – for all times: A collection of First Nations Poetry and cur... Read more

Jenna Lee

Jenna Lee is a Gulumerridjin (Larrakia), Wardaman and KarraJarri Saltwater woman with mixed Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Anglo-Australian ancestry. Using art to explore and celebrate her many overlapping identities, Lee works across sculpture, installation, and body adornment. She also works with... Read more

Nardi Simpson

Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay storyteller from north west NSW freshwater floodplains. She is founding member of Indigenous band Stiff Gins and an accomplished composer, playwright, educator and public speaker. Her debut novel Song of the Crocodile was long listed for the 2020 Stella Prize, Miles Fr... Read more

Yasmin Smith

Yasmin Smith is an editor, writer and poet of South Sea Islander, Kabi Kabi, Northern Cheyenne and English heritage. Beginning her publishing career at the national black&write! Indigenous Writing and Editing Project, she has worked across literary fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and po... Read more

Ellen van Neerven

Ellen van Neerven is an award-winning writer of Mununjali Yugambeh (South East Queensland) and Dutch heritage. They write fiction, poetry, plays and non-fiction. Ellen’s first book, Heat and Light, was the recipient of the David Unaipon Award, the Dobbie Literary Award and the NSW Premier’s Lit... Read more

Archie Weller

Aged twenty-one Archie Weller won runner-up in the inaugural Vogel Bread prize with The Day of the Dog, written in just six weeks and later he worked on the film script of what became the movie Blackfellahs based on his book. But he had been writing short stories and poetry since the age of thirteen... Read more

Alison Whittaker

Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker. Between 2017–2018, she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard Law School, where she was named the Dean’s Scholar in Race, Gender and Criminal Law. Alison is a Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute at UTS. Her debut poetry collection, Lemons in the Ch... Read more

Tara June Winch

Tara June Winch is a Wiradjuri author, born in Australia in 1983 and based in France. Her first novel, Swallow the Air, was critically acclaimed and she was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist, and has won numerous literary awards. A tenth anniversary edition was publishe... Read more


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113 Swanston Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.