Contemporary History: First Nation Australian Representations in Nanberry: Black Brother White


  • Sophie Stanton University of Canberra, Australia



representation, Aboriginalism, Nanberry, Postcolonialism, Clare Bradford, Melissa Lucashenko


Representations of First Nation Australian and Torres Strait Islanders (First Nation Australians) in children’s literature have gone through many changes since the first literature for children published in the late 1800s. These representations often conformed to and perpetuated negative stereotypes that have changed with the social and political landscape. Given the degree of cultural investment in children’s and young adult literature it is important to work towards a landscape in which negative stereotypes give way to representations reflecting deeper inter-cultural understandings. In this context, the analysis of contemporary texts representing First Nation Australians has an important role to play.

This paper analyses Nanberry: black brother white by Jackie French, published in 2011. Nanberry is of interest as it is a contemporary, critically-acclaimed young adult novel. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the representations of the First Nation Australian characters in the novel with reference to analytical frameworks put forward by Bradford (2001) and Lucashenko (2000/2009).

Nanberry introduces alternative narratives about the colonisation of Australia and its impacts by using artistic licence, by the adoption of First Nation Australian perspectives and also the perspectives of other historical figures of whom little to no primary evidence of their lives survives to the present day. Nanberry balances historical research with artistic licence and has an implied young, modern day readership. The intersection of these three factors, has resulted in conflict and incongruities between the characters, the plot and even the cover image. This paper argues that these incongruities and conflicts are highly problematic in relation to the representation of First Nation Australian experience.

Author Biography

Sophie Stanton, University of Canberra, Australia

Sophie Stanton is a Phd Candidate at the University of Canberra. Her research encompasses Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nation Australian) representations in contemporary, Australian young adult literature and writing methodology. She is currently working on articles related to the methods and ethics of writing between cultures, the representation of First Nation Australian voices and the role of paratextual elements in First Nation Australian Representation.


Bradford, C. (2001). Reading Race: Aboriginality in Australian children’s literature . Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Bradford, C. (2007). Unsettling Narratives: postcolonian readings of children’s literature . Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Bradford, C., Mallan, K., Stephens, J., & McCallum, R. (2008). New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature: Utopian Transformations . New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chakrabarty, D. (1992). Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for “Indian” Pasts? Representations , 37 , 1–26.

French, J. (2011). Nanberry: Black Brother White . Sydney: HarperCollins Publishers Australia. Harper Collins. (n.d.). Nanberry: Black Brother White. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from

Heiss, A. M. (2002). Writing about indigenous Australia: some issues to consider and protocols to follow: a discussion paper. Southerly , 62 (2), 197.

Hodge, B., & Mishra, V. (1991). Dark Side of the Dream (1st ed.). North Sydney: Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.

James, K. (2009). “There”s a black boy dead and a migloo holding a gun’: Death, Aboriginality and History in Australian Adolescent Literature. Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature , 19 (1), 5–16.

Lucashenko, M. (2009). Muwi muwi-nyhin, binung goonj: boastful talk and broken ears. Writing Queensland , (186), 5–7. (Reprinted from QWC News Magazine, 85 , 2000, 8-10)

O’Conor. (2010). From Colonial Superstition to the Hairyman: Aboriginality and the politics of race. Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature , 20 (2), 11–22.

Said, E. W. (2003). Orientalism. (3rd ed.). London: Penguin Books.

Spivak, G. C. (1988). Can the Subaltern Speak? In C. Nelson & L. Grossberg (Eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (pp. 271–313). Urbana Il.: University of Illinois Press.




How to Cite

Stanton, S. (2018) “Contemporary History: First Nation Australian Representations in Nanberry: Black Brother White”, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, 26(1), pp. 40–59. doi: 10.21153/pecl2018vol26no1art1089.