Anita Heiss in conversation with Ann McGrath

As part of the ANU/Canberra Times Meet the Author series, Centre Director Ann McGrath facilitated a conversation with Anita Heiss on Tuesday 26th April, 2022 about Anita’s new book, Am I Black Enough For You? 10 Years On which tells the story of an urban-based high achieving Wiradyuri woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.

Anita, a successful author and passionate advocate for Aboriginal literacy, rights and representation, was born a member of the Wiradyuri nation of central New South Wales. Raised in the suburbs of Sydney, she was educated at the local Catholic school. In her book, she explores what it means to be Aboriginal and why Australia is so obsessed with notions of identity.

Anita Heiss is one of Australia’s best known authors, publishing across genres including non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial fiction and children’s fiction. Anita’s non-fiction works include Am I Black Enough for You?, Dhuuluu-Yala (To Talk Straight): Publishing Aboriginal Literature, and, as editor, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia and The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, which she co-edited with Peter Minter. Her novel Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Prize, and was the University of Canberra 2020 Book of the Year. Anita’s children’s literature includes Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, co-written with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin.

Internationally, she has performed her work and lectured on Aboriginal literature at universities and conferences, consulates and embassies in the USA, Canada, the UK, Tahiti, Fiji, New Caledonia, Spain, Japan, Austria, Germany, China, India and New Zealand. Anita is a Lifetime Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, a Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland and is on the board of the National Justice Project, University of Queensland Press, Aboriginal Art Co and Circa Contemporary Theatre. Anita loves chocolate, running and being a creative disruptor.

‘It was such a privilege to reconnect with Anita, who I first met as a student at the University of New South Wales, where she undertook her final honours year in 1991. Her lifetime achievements are so inspiring; she makes a real impact as a public figure, as a role model for urban Aboriginal women, as an author and educator. ‘Am I black enough for you?’ is a huge question, one that should never have to be asked. Our nation needs to take up Anita’s call for Truth Telling. Her honesty in writing and talking about her own story should be emulated when we talk and write about Australian history.’

‘I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back on Ngunnawal country and at the ANU to discuss my memoir. My hope is my story speaks to the hearts and minds of those seeking to understand the rights we have as First Nations peoples to assert and live the diversity of our identities. I firmly believe that storytelling and story listening can bring people together, my in conversation with Ann, decades after she taught me at UNSW, was the perfect example of that. Mandaang guwu (thank you) to all who came along and engaged with the discussion and the themes, and I look forward to doing more with the ANU in the future.’

Stream episode In conversation with Anita Heiss by Experience ANU podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud.

Get your autographed copy from Booktopia or on campus (or online) at Harry Hartog Books.