Guest Article - UWA Publishing

At UWA Publishing, a publishing house 84 years old, we have as our byline: We produce beautiful books that bristle and shimmer with life, and we always strive to be noticed by fellow Perth people and share our work with them. In an age where it’s very hard to get a handle on the range of any publisher’s new releases and backlist, when bookshops are hard-pressed to stock a representative sample of one publisher, it becomes a barrier to spread the word. So even after we’ve won many national awards for our books—including the Miles Franklin Award and the Prime Minister’s Award—we are still little-known in Perth, and better known in Sydney and Melbourne where our books are reviewed regularly in the mainstream media. Many people still think we publish student theses or educational books; all of our books are educational but not in that way: narrative still has the ultimate power to change reader’s views and is one of the best drivers towards empathy.

The cultural efflorescence of Noongar expression, history and knowledge is finally becoming visible in a general population hungry for what their history lessons missed out. It’s about time, but it is also remarkable to see the emotional hit that people get from access to First Nations knowledge and culture, not to mention its prehistory of 60,000 years. When we started publishing the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories book series in 2011 we knew we were onto something: a rich seam of curiosity by readers that has grown over the six books so far released.

Likewise with Noongar elder Vivienne Hansen and co-author John Horsfall’s Noongar Bush Medicine in 2015, a bestseller almost exclusively through word of mouth and social media groups. When we released the follow-up Noongar Bush Tucker a few weeks ago we noticed many buyers purchasing both books. Later this month we are publishing what I consider to be a breakthrough book about Perth: an oral and photographic history of the Noongar camps that were a feature of the landscape through Fremantle and the Western Suburbs until relatively recent times. Denise Cook has produced a labour of love and respectful memory in That Was My Home, to present a mostly pacific picture of co-existence that most Perth residents have no knowledge of.

Finally, Anna Haebich’s book about Noongar performance, Dancing in Shadows, explores the power of performance pitted against the forces of settler colonisation, strategically, courageously, with generosity in sharing their culture, history and language in theatre.

University publishing houses make different types of books these days, and most of them externally focused. This is a privileged job we do as cultural workers. It certainly fills out the picture of Perth and Fremantle and Western Australia as a whole, one that I’m keen to share with long-term Perthites as well as the multitudes of newly arrived residents here. I urge you to look at our website and discover these books, and others, and sign up for our newsletter.

Terri-ann White, Director UWA Publishing

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.