Some Books on Australia

This list is composed of books which I have read, in some cases several times. If you have an opinion on any of these you would like posted or recommendations for an interesting addition to this list, please send me email. Also please check out our affiliates.

Warning : Some of these books may have been band from Aboriginal Communities in Australia. I make no claims on behalf of the authors of these books and the opinions expressed about them are solely my own and do not represent any cultural or political interests which I am either aware or unaware of.

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A Learner's Guide to Pintupi-Luritja, John Heffernan with Kuyata Heffernan, ISBN 0-94965995-9

  This book on a Western Desert Language is valuable for it's excellent pronunciation help and learn by example approach. It's very helpful in gaining insight in to the complexities of learning an Aboriginal language and offers excellent examples in the areas covered. Additionally, it clearly defines the country and people associated with this dialect plus documents outside influences on it. It's an excellent resource to anyone interesting in learning something about Aboriginal languages but it does not pretend to be a complete text on Pintupi. Basically, it's a starting point - and as such very valuable. Buy it on!

Aboriginal Men of High Degree, A.P. Elkin,ISBN 0-89281-421-7
This book was first released in 1945. It is an exhaustive survey of the various practices and initiations of the Aboriginal Shamans or "Clever Men". (Click on Image to order from


After 200 Years Photographic Essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, Edited by Penny Taylor
This collection was prepared in Australia's BiCentennial year of 1988 for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. It uses over 500 photographs accompanied by text to show Aborigines as they live today. A very powerful book which is highly recommended.

Afterlife Before Genesis, David H. Turner
ISBN 0-8204-3477-9
A very interesting book by an anthropologist who claims to have been initiated into the sacred life of Bickerton Island Aboriginals. It contains a wealth of information on the Didjeridu patterns in context of song lines and mortuary ceremonies. Definitely a must read for the serious student of 'traditional' music. Dr. Turner has written two previous books : Life Before Genesis and Return to Eden to which I will turn my attention to next. I am a little concerned about his frequent references to Robert Lawlor and Carlos Castaneda both of whom I find a bit out there with their assumptions. And there are a few "leaps of faith" in this book as the author talks about his experiences while learning to play the didjeridu and comes up with a few generalizations the implications of his wonderings. In summary, a must read book but I wouldn't make it gospel.

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Order it from Amazon.Com :

Afterlife Before Genesis : An...

The following was offered by another reader :
Dear Ed,

RE: Your Bibliography.

I just read Afterlife Before Genesis, David H. Turner and would (personally)
not recommend it to others.... His 'snake-oil' approach to selling his ideas
are at best insulting.  His understanding of concepts within other
disciplines (i.e., beyond anthropology) are laughable.  In my opinion he is
exploiting the very people that he 'includes himself a part of.'

Just my opinion....

Mozart56 Didj enthusiast

Australia : a Natural History Book, Howard Ensign Evans and Mary Alice Evans
"Most aboriginal singing was unaccompanied, except by clapping of hands or sticks. In parts of N. Australia, however, there were also simple drums and a special instrument called the "Didjeridu"... We have a didjeridu and prize it, although we cannot play it." - A passage which caught my eye [ED]

Australian Aboriginal Paintings, Jennifer Isaacs
A collection of traditional paintings which document styles from two regions of Australia : The Western Desert and Arnhem Land. Photographs of many of the artists appear with their work and most of the art work is documented with interpretive comments from the artist themselves. Very highly recommended.
Australian Aboriginal Portaits, Charles P. Mountford
A book of portraits of Aboriginals with accompanying text.
Australian Mother and Baby Animals, Carol and Vincent Servently
Contains interesting photos and text covering Australia's mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, marine creatures and insects.
Australian Tea Tree Oil Guide, Cynthia B. Olsen
Contains information on history, harvesting methods, clinical research and testimonials for Melaleuca alternafolia. Melaleuca is the natural antisceptic which I use on my mouthp

Didgeridoo: A Beginner's Guide,Alastair Black
Companion booklet to tape and video tape

Didgeridoo: A Complete Guide to this Ancient Aboriginal Instrument: a playing instruction manual for the beginner to the advanced player, J.P. Bowden
Very good notation system. Also features extensive articles on termites, wood species and Australian wildlife. A very comprehensive book. My booklet and John's were published 1994 although I was not aware of his until 1997. I can't say if he's aware of mine.
Dream Keepers, Harvey Arden
In this book, Aboriginal people are allowed to speak for themselves in the context of the author's spiritual journey through the Kimberlys. I really enjoyed this book because of the different stories and points of view expressed by the people in it. Highly recommended reading. Click here to search Powell's Books

From the Dreamtime, Jean A Ellis
Fine collection of Stories which are excellent for reading while listening to the Didgeridoo.


cover This book is the culmination of twenty years of annual visits to Northeastern Arnhem Land by the author. It contains information on the traditional medicinal knowledge and healing methods of the Yolngu as well as documents health issues affecting their settlements today. Very eye opening book and highly recommended. Click on image at the left to order.

I, The Aboriginal, Douglas Lockwood
Biography of Waipuldanya (Philip Roberts) of the Alawa Tribe in the Roper River area of the Northern Territory.

Gapapuyngu Word List, Michael Christie, FATSIS, NTU

 Word lists of Gapapuyngu language to English and English to Gapapuyngu helpful for translating text. Available through the NT University book shop.

Grammar Lessons in Gupapuyngu,  B.M. Lowe, Available from the Northern Territories University book shop

 The original edition was prepared in 1960 by Beulah Lowe for the Methodist Church in North Australia. It contains 103 "lessons" on grammar with a Gupapuynu to English word list in the back. This book is available through the NT University book shop.

Land of the Golden Clouds , Archie Weller

 Australia three thousand years from now in a post apocalyptic saga involving "tribes" from many places. Click here to Search Powell's Books

Learn to Play the Didjeridu, Ed Drury
See web page. What can I say? I read it and it's my booklist :-)

Letters from a Wild State, James Cowan
Series of letters exploring the profound and ancient relationship between the Australian Aborigine and the natural world.
Men's Business, Women's Business, Hannah Rachel Bell
ISBN 0-89281-655-4
cover This is a book about the Ngarinyin people of the Kimberly. It deals with the division of responsibility between genders in their culture. I found the book interesting in that the author seems to suggest that such gender roles would benefit more 'modern' cultures. Good luck with that one... Click on image to the left to order.

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My Place, Sally Morgan
A personal and family history which won the Australian Human Rights and Equal opportunity Commission's 1987 literary award. Ms. Morgan recounts her childhood in Australia and her discovery of her family's Aboriginal roots.An excellent and moving book.
Mysteries of the Dream-Time: The Spiritual Life of Australian Aborigines, James Cowan.
Excellent insight into the spiritual journey.

Our Land is Our Life, Edited by Galarrwuy Yunupingu  ISBN 0-7022-2958-X

 Published shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern Territories), this book is a collection of essays on the past, present and future of Land Rights with contributions from leading activists and political figures. It contains a wealth of information on the subject of land rights as well as historical documents, photographs and cartoons form  There are prefaces written by the Governor General of Australia and the Chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Islander Commission. I am really happy to have found this one. It's the most information in one place and written from the perspective of people who have truely lived these battles.

Buy It!

Outback, Thomas Keneally
Looks at historic and modern outback regions of Australia. Discuses both Aboriginal and white peoples with some interesting biographies. The book is well illustrated and includes some nice portraits of the people discussed in the text.

People of the Dreamtime - The Australian Aborigines Photo essay by Douglas Baglin and David Moore
The first edition of this book was published in 1970. It contains over 200 photographs. The text is by David Moore who was curator for the Australian Museum in Sydney. Essays on the Dreamtime, Aboriginal history, Discrimination and the prospects for the future comprise the bulk of the text.
Play & Enjoy the Didjeridu of the Australian Aboriginal, Peter Kaye
The first learners booklet I ever saw.
Primitive Song, C.M. Bowra
This is a study of primitive song as the root of all literature. An interesting treatise which I enjoyed a great deal.
ISBN 11-12-10664-2 Click here to search Powell's Books
Shamanism - Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, Mircea Eliade, ISBN 0-691-09827-1
Study of Shamanism through out the world. Lot's of attention to the Australian Aborigines. Click here to order "Shamanism: archaic techniques of ecstasy"
Stradbroke Dreamtime, Oodgeroo Nunukul
Contains possibly the best example of an original story in the contemporary Aboriginal oratory style as Oodgeroo tells us how she came to be a writer. Not in an autobiographical sense, but in a metaphysical sense. Strongly recommended reading.
Sticks and Drones, By Ed Drury
Starting in around 1997, Ed Drury started interviewing didjeridu players, teachers, instrument makers, healers and others about every aspect of the Didjeridu scene in Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States. In their own words, members of the Didjeridu community talk candidly about their connection to the instrument and each other. Many well known as well as lesser known exponents of the instrument gave opinions, shared knowledge and told stories. A conversational history of all that was going on during this era before youtube. The Ebook can be downloaded from Smashwords at And at Amazon Sticks and Drones .

The Aborigine Tradition, James G Cowan, ISNB 1-85230-309-3
The introduction is truly wonderful. Click here to order, "The Elements of the Aborigine Tradition"
The Australian Aborigines, A.P. Elkin
Probably the classic work. Elkin goes through every aspect of tribal life from birth to death.
The Didgeridoo: Ritual Origins and Play Techniques, Dirk Schellberg
Nice journal of Dirk's visits to Australia with some great photos.
The Didjeridu: From Arnhem Land to Internet, Edited by Karl Neuenfeldt

cover Collection of articles which form a study of the didjeridu from a variety of viewpoints. Absolute must reading for the serious didjeriduist. I have read sections of this book many times, taken notes, followed leads from the footnotes and entered into countless debates on the articles contained in this book. Click on image to order. 

The Mardudjara Aborigines : Living the Dream in Australia's Desert, Robert Tonkinson
This is a case study book in cultural anthropology. It is quite good reading and contains a thoughtful introduction to the subject of the peopling of Australia and the influences on the people reported on throughout history.
The Mardudjara Aborigines is available on ISBN 0-03-039821-5
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The Red Chief, Ion L. Idriess
Historical Fiction. Story about a great warrior of the Gunn-e-darr tribe in the late 1700's. The book is now unfortunately out of print, but if you ever come across a copy, grab it and read.
The Speaking Land, Ronald M. Berndt and Catherine H. Berndt, ISBN 0 14 01.2072 6
Anthology of almost 200 myths from different Aboriginal cultures. Click here to search at Powells Books

coverBuy it on

The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin
A most poetic novel about a man's quest to find the meaning of Songlines and all he encounters on his trip through the vast Australian center. A very good read for anyone interested in such matters. Click here to search at Powells Books

WANDJUCK MARIKA Life Story, as told to Jennifer Isaacs, ISBN 0-7022-2564-9

 Perhaps the most important book on this list. Wandjuk was one of Australia's greatest indigenous artists, Yirdaki player, land rights advocate and religious leader. In this book he tells about his people, his land and his dreams. Because of his passing in 1987, this book had to await publication until sufficient time had passed according to the customs of his people and wishes of his family. Published in 1995 by the University of Queensland, this book offers the rare point of view of a traditional Yolngu man on his culture as well as balanda (ours). Highly recommended!

Order it from : Wandjuk Marika : Life Story

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Wise Women of the Dreamtime,ISBN : 0-89281-477-2, Collected by K. Langloh Parker, Edited with commentary by Johanna Lambert

Ms. Lambert has put together an excellent series of commentary on the works of Katie Langloh Parker. The treatises include tales of ancestral, animals, magical, and healing powers. The book also contains the most unusual spelling of didgeridoo I have seen : "Didjeereedu". Click here to search at Powells Books

(Click Image to order from


Vibrational Healing with the Australian Aboriginal Didgeridoo, Jim Wafer
Deals with the healing aspect of sound, music and the didgeridoo. Very good reading and interesting information on the effects of playing over the body using Kirlian photography and brain wave records. Of interest to anyone interested in giving or receiving virational treatments.
cover Voices of the First Day Awaking in the Aboriginal Dreamtime, Robert Lawlor
Exhaustive study of the Aboriginal Cosmology, History and Tribal Life. Proceeds from the sale of the book are given to the Denooch Aboriginal Healing Center which assists people of Aboriginal ancestry to free themselves of addictions by using tribal healing methods. Click here to search Powell's Books

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