In 1992, Eddie Koiki Mabo and others had the Australian High Court recognize Terra Nullius (no man’s land) as fiction. It’s taking me some time to beat my lesser-known cousin, vox nullius. Vox means sound, word, or voice. The idea that we are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, that we have no voice, is part of an enduring colonial imagination.
Lynore K. Geia, Ph.D., a midwife and nurse researcher at Bwgcolman, says we are “tethered to a place of helplessness.” This phrasing is important. As Indigenous peoples we have a voice, but Australia, the place of our modern existence, is neither heard nor heard.
We are now moving towards a referendum on constitutional approval. Australian voters may respond to the heartfelt Uluru statement by greening their voices to parliament. That voice must be used in some way to eliminate the vacuum that rejects our voice. And there are many other ways to have our voices heard.
Read more: Friday Essay: 30 Years After Mabo, What Does Australia’s Butler Story and Its Avoidance Say About Who We Are?
Publishing Indigenous Voices
Our voices are always fundamentally tied to our territory and are visible in our country, whether in sand, bodies, message sticks, trees or walls, water or smoke. The voice is conveyed through the alphabetical techniques employed and can be found in the history of protests, radio, stage and screen scripts, and contemporary literature.
Publishing indigenous voices in books is culturally and cross-culturally complex. Too many nuances can be missed or misread. For example, many Black people display red over lowercase initials. Lowercase frequently used in historical and modern colonial lingua franca.
2022 First Nations Red Ocher Award winner Destiny Deacon coined Blak in her 1991 picture “Blak lik mi” as a round of applause for all racists who use black people as an insult. Deacon was reported to have said:
Removing the ‘c’ from Blak removes racism from our perspective, but it also replaces black as an exclusive marker of who we are. The indigenous peoples of this continent all have different skin tones. It’s not hard to see how editors who are ignorant of our cultural history and contemporary politics can mark up manuscripts to “correct” Blacks to Blacks and drive a wedge into the editorial relationship.
Sandy O’Sullivan, an Aboriginal trans/nonbinary queer and professor of Indigenous Studies, explains that ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’ in relation to us are proper nouns and such (in the Academy and on social media). throughout) generously reminds us. Initial letters must be capitalized. Sandy and her colleagues have also created an excellent guide to writing and speaking about the Indigenous peoples of Australia. All editors should use it like a compass when navigating this terrain.
There have been outstanding recent public contributions to mature Australian publications. Bridget Caldwell-Bright frames her advocacy for more indigenous publishing professionals in her conversations about diversity. She argues that employment is “the only tangible way to ensure that indigenous representation can exist without relying on cross-cultural editorial relationships.”
Caldwell-Bright has strengths. That said, less than 1% of Australian publishing professionals identified as First Nation in a 2022 survey on diversity and inclusion among Australian publishing industry workers. In the 1990s she trained and worked at Magabala Books and University of Queensland Press as a former publishing editor, and he managed Aboriginal Studies Press in the 2000s. We advocate for more career opportunities.
READ MORE: High rates of whites, women and mental illness: New diversity study offers publishing industry snapshot
But the publishing industry cannot rely solely on the Indigenous workforce to keep up with effective Indigenous authors and writing practices. Industry culture must change to deliver sustainable, meaningful and continuous improvement.
An international authority on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property, Terry Junke is known for innovative pathways between the non-Indigenous business sector and Indigenous peoples in business. She has authored protocols for the Australian Council, Screen Her Australia, City of Sydney, Lend Lease and others.
Her groundbreaking legal and academic research on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights, exemplified by her 2021 book True Tracks, has led to the publication of books and other publications that commoditize Indigenous cultures. You can continue to be a lighthouse in your industry. Respecting these rights and sharing benefits with indigenous creators is still a pending future touchstone.
Culture hatches literature. A broader national culture at odds with itself can never fully resolve the conditions of its favorable cultural expression. We hear criticism based on what is included and what is not included.
Improving domestic literature with indigenous voices can be a mutually beneficial goal if we continue to mature the publishing workforce so as not to “govern” the text, as the late Ruby Langford Ginibi argued. There is a nature. , which some say stands for “government” – which translates into the local language as white.
I am Wakka Wakka and Gulen Gulen. I grew up in the rural North He Barnet region of Queensland, ancestral Wakkawakka country. After working in policy research and publishing, I chose academia as my third career. I have taught Editing and Publishing Studies, and Literary Studies.
In every mainstream curriculum that I have convened as a scholar, I have used significant indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and resources to innovate teaching methods. Nonetheless, communicating many specific Indigenous editorial issues to a mainstream (albeit mixed) audience is no easy task. Mainly because there is no single style guide that can be adopted for all manuscripts and all authors.
The urge for “how-to” guides is understandable, but wrong. Australia is a continent of hundreds of First Nations. Here there are huge differences in language, history and culture, and nuances of voice, creativity and expression.
Editing text for publication is an act of cultural mediation. It takes a great deal of diplomacy to get the best out of a writer, and it has to be combined with a dogged pragmatism to get the book to market on time. What constitutes “best” on this journey are judgments, and judgments come from culture.
There are three main types of editing, as you’ll learn in editing practice and publication studies coursework. The first is structural editing. Which placement is best for this story? The second is copy-editing. Is this well written, no jerky paragraphs or phrases, or does it draw the reader in and keep them on their reading journey? And finally, line editing – is the text scanned properly? ? Are typos eliminated?
These are technical skills that can be taught. But cultivating cultural intelligence is a broader project.
Advice for Non-Indigenous Editors
Even if the publishing industry had an even population of indigenous professionals, 96.8% of the industry would not be us. This perhaps explains why conversations about editing indigenous literature are most often turned toward ways to improve the professionalism of non-indigenous editors.
Similarly, for non-Indigenous editors who are unfamiliar with Indigenous cultures, dialects, authors, and manuscripts, I offer the following suggestions:
Read more: Why Sensitive Readers Matter – Why You Need To Be Properly Paid
How Indigenous Editors Make Books Better
What about the rare case of an Indigenous editor and a non-Indigenous writer? That was me when I first sat down as an editor-in-training at Magabala Books.
A manuscript that combines oral and written histories in collaboration with Aboriginal narrative curators and white historians. It was a dramatic retelling of the history of the Aboriginal resistance and its major fighters.Jandamarra and Bunuba Resistance contained everything I wanted to read.
But something wasn’t right. Instead of diving into the text with the proofreading marks I had been so eager to learn, I sat down at the manuscript and began identifying where I was uncomfortable: quoting pages and phrases and formulating corresponding questions. Questions – paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. I had a lot of questions, so I created another report. In my view, the manuscript was read as defending the views of the settlers.
My persistence paid off with a brilliant author’s rewrite, and the book won the Historical and Critical Studies Award at the 2006 WA Premier’s Literary Awards. The Magabala Books website currently lists the book as “sold out,” but my PhD research shows that, fifteen years after its initial publication, the book is still in print and I found it marketed by tourist traders as a means to help travelers better understand the Kimberley region. I was quite excited about the authors’ approval of my intervention at the time of its first publication.
Windjana Valley in the Kimberley region where Jandamala lived. Dan Peredo/AAP
According to journalist and author George Megalogennis, Australia made history as the first English-speaking country to have an immigrant majority. He sees an urgent need for a “unifying story for the 21st century” that may be found in the “roots of our family tree” among indigenous peoples. You may claim to be an immigrant, but it’s worth thinking about.
What is our story of becoming one? We are far from a national literature filled with stories of indigenous writers, storytellers, creators and communities. Domestic literature overflowing in this way may not yield a unifying narrative, but it can reveal modern nation-states much more reassuringly with the voices of indigenous peoples.