Magabala Books – Profile of a Publishing House

Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in Publishing Profiles, Race and Ethnicity | 0 comments


Magabala Books – Profile of a Publishing House

by Danielle Binks


Magabala BooksIf you want to read books that feature a diverse range of characters and more realistically represent multiculturalism, then it’s a good idea to find a house that publishes what it preaches. In Australia one such publishing house is Magabala Books, Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publishing house based in Broome, Western Australia.

Established in 1990, Magabala recognized a hole in Australian publishing, where Indigenous characters and authors were depressingly underrepresented in our literature. Sadly, I think there still isn’t enough of an Indigenous voice in Aussie literature, but Magabala is one truly spectacular publishing house that is helping pave the way for Indigenous authors, with a philosophy to “preserve, develop and promote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”

Magabala had an interesting beginning, starting in 1984 and based around the establishment of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre. It’s worthwhile reading their About Us page for a detailed explanation as to how they were created with the aim of preserving traditional storytellers and the development of the arts industry.

Indeed, Magabala continues to dedicate itself to promoting Indigenous authors and illustrators. Most recently they’ve published the winning manuscripts of the important black&write writing Fellowship. Established in 2010 by author Boori Monty Pryor and actor Ernie Dingo, the black&write project includes an Indigenous editing mentorship and aims to find new and exciting Indigenous voices. The Fellowship is a national prize and was the first of its kind in Australia.

Magabala Books has published two of the winning manuscripts to come out of black&write, which also awards winning authors $10,000. The first was a verse novel called ‘Ruby Moonlight’ by Ali Cobby Eckermann, which I reviewed back in May this year. The second was young adult novel ‘Grace Beside Me’ by Sue McPherson, another book I read, reviewed and loved.


When I interviewed Sue McPherson earlier this month, I asked her why the black&write Fellowship was so important and how it helped her as an author. Her response is a heartfelt tribute to a program specifically designed to give voice to diversity:

‘Black&Write’ has been a true gift. As part of the B&W program I have made wonderful friends with the team. Both B&W and Magabala are family. I’ve been given the opportunity to travel and speak throughout the country and have been invited to Indonesia, I’ve learnt bucket loads about writing, being an author and publishing. I’ve also made extensive connections within the publishing community. It’s been a mad run and I feel very fortunate.


I didn’t submit my manuscript to anyone before the fellowship. At that stage I didn’t think my story was good enough. When entering the fellowship, receiving feedback was my biggest concern. I just wanted to know if I should continue writing or not. I honestly never expected to be one of the joint winners.


‘Black&Write’ is deadly because it’s not intimidating. The team are deadly, intelligent and comfortable to hang with. They also have a mad sense of humour. They still work you hard, stretching your creativity beyond what you thought possible. They encourage you to seek better options but it’s cool having them there walking beside you. And fair dinkum that walk grew into a full on hike, it was intense. While working on the manuscript with B&W editors it felt like I completed two years of Uni in one. How deadly is that?


In 2013, Magabala Books will be publishing another book by a winner of the black&write Fellowship. Teagan Chilcott is an Indigenous author who identifies with the Kamilaroi from Northern NSW and Wakka Wakka from Queensland. Her debut novel, Rise of the Fallen, will be available April 2013 and is a “young adult paranormal romance with an urban setting, the first in a series of novels with demons, angels and elementals at war for power.”

Magabala Books is an Australian literary treasure. They are a publishing house dedicated to producing books which portray a truer Australia, by celebrating difference and diversity.

Further Reading:

The home of Magabala Books.

More about the black&write! Indigenous Writing and Editing Project.

You are not alone: Why we need more Indigenous writers and characters in Australian YA by  Danielle Binks at Kill Your Darlings.


Danielle Binks is a book reviewer on her personal blog Alpha Reader, with a particular interest in young adult literature. She is also Digital Editor at Spinifex Press, and a writer who has featured in Voiceworks Magazine. She was a judge in this year’s Centre for Youth Literature Inky Awards, and is currently working on her first young adult manuscript.

You can also follow Danielle on Twitter.

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