During the ceremony to mark the 2021 Premier’s Book Awards on Friday 17th June, much was made of the spectacular success of Magabala Books. And rightly so!
From the first stirrings of the idea during the KLACC Festival at Ngumpan (near Fitzroy Crossing) in 1984, WA’s own indigenous publishing house has been one of the most significant forces for good in the community. The stated aim of its founders was to ‘reclaim Aboriginal stories from European writers and tell them in our own way.’ Everyone involved in Magabala Books – writers, publishers, editors, designers, people who work in the office – all can be rightly proud of the results. They have come a long way in a relatively short time.
Let’s not forget that, back in 1825, when the first Europeans landed at King George Sound and planted the British flag to scare off the French, none of the Aboriginal languages spoken in Western Australia were written down. Aboriginal family groups were passing their stories down through the generations very effectively, but by 1984 there those in their communities who could see that Aboriginal stories needed to be circulated more widely and the way to do that was to write them down and publish them. However, without a common language among all the Aboriginal groups in WA the stories would have to be written down, first, in English.
One of the often overlooked benefits of early settlement was the introduction of written records. Documents, lists, diaries, photographs, all made it possible to store thoughts, ideas, songs and stories. A written language made it possible for the wealth of Aboriginal stories, their history and culture, could be celebrated and passed on to a vast new audience.
Congratulations Magabala Books!