From Oodegerro Noonuccal to Jack Davis to Hyllus Maris, here are 7 powerful and impactful poems about the experiences and adversity faced by indigenous people in Australia.

The history of Indigenous Australians began almost more than 65,000 years ago, they are considered to be the oldest living human population outside of Africa. However, even with their fascinating culture, language, and beliefs, they still face racism every day. Here are 7 eye-opening poems written by Indigenous Australian writers to give you a glimpse into their history, struggles, and heavy emotions that also inspire and spread hope for a better future.

A Song of Hope’ – Oodegeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) 

Look up, my people,

The dawn is breaking

The world is waking

To a bright new day

When none defame us

No restriction tame us

Nor colour shame us

Nor sneer dismay.


Now brood no more

On the years behind you

The hope assigned you

Shall the past replace

When a juster justice

Grown wise and stronger

Points the bone no longer

At a darker race.


So long we waited

Bound and frustrated

Till hate be hated

And caste deposed

Now light shall guide us

No goal denied us

And all doors open

That long were closed.


See plain the promise

Dark freedom-lover!

Night’s nearly over

And though long the climb

New rights will greet us

New mateship meet us

And joy complete us

In our new Dream Time.


To our fathers’ fathers

The pain, the sorrow;

To our children’s children

the glad tomorrow.

Ooderoo of the Noonuccal (Kath Walker), was one of the most well-respected poets of her time. Her father belonged to the Nunukul people, who traditionally lived on the Northern portion of Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. Kath Walker wrote ‘A Song of Hope’ in the 1960s after realizing that there is actually hope in a broken world once she saw a decrease in racism towards indigenous people by the English settlers.

Oodegerro Noonuccal

Come Over Murri’ – Lionel Fogarty

I just remember Murris not only you die

in prisons or from poor conditions

Over other countries they’re dying too and prisoned for surviving

like Latin America, where white man still tried to cause divisions with murder, rape and oppressions for exploitation.

We are not the only sufferers.

We are not just the ones fighting for land cultural rights.

Overseas in other lands they are fighting against the same enemy

which is capitalist or gone wrong commos.

We are in one world, but we here are forgetting about other native people’s struggles.

We as Murri must look here and support the necessary struggles of other countries, for their fights affect our fights.

Take the black out of South Africa and put them here we will find the same racist things.

Take red people up in Canada, they’re still fighting for rights.

Take the Pacific natives they are still struggling for what they need.

And take whites overseas, they are fighting too, oh, like the Irish people who want Britain out.

So Murris we have to have feeling, thinking and action for all low, small native peoples overseas.

And then we will get world understanding and unity, even love for one another’s cultures.

Just remember they die, fight too Murri.

The other countries are waiting now for your support and fight.

Lionel George Fogarty was born in Barambah (Cherbourg) located in the South Burnett region of Southern Queensland. He has been very active in the political struggles of indigenous people. His first poetry collection Kargun was published in 1980, which highlights the living realities of Australia, going through all the emotions of guilt, despair, hopelessness, and sadness.

lionel fogarty


Aboriginal Australia’ – Jack Davis 

To the Others

You once smiled a friendly smile,

Said we were kin to one another,

Thus with guile for a short while

Became to me a brother.

Then you swamped my way of gladness,

Took my children from my side,

Snapped shut the law book, oh my sadness

At Yirrakalas’ plea denied.

So, I remember Lake George hills,


The thin stick bones of people.

Sudden death, and greed that kills,

That gave you church and steeple.

I cry again for Warrarra men,

Gone from kith and kind,

And I wondered when

I would find a pen

To probe your freckled mind.

I mourned again for the Murray tribe,

Gone too without a trace.

I thought of the soldier’s diatribe,


The smile on the governor’s face.

You murdered me with rope, with gun

The massacre of my enclave,

You buried me deep on McLarty’s run

Flung into a common grave.

You propped me up with Christ, red tape,

Tobacco, grog and fears,

Then disease and lordly rape

Through the brutish years.

Now you primly say you’re justified,

And sing of a nation’s glory,

But I think of a people crucified-

The real Australian story

Jack Davis was born in the North of Pilbara in Western Australia, and he was later sent to Moore River Native Settlement to learn farming. He fought for justice for his people and gained nationwide recognition for activism. Jack wrote ‘Aboriginal Australia’ in 1978, to show a truthful and unfiltered portrayal of urban life for an indigenous person.

Jack Davis


Shame’ – Kevin Gilbert

And some say “Shame” when we’re talkin’ up

And “Shame” for the way we are

And “Shame” cause we ain’t got a big flash house

Or a steady job and a car.

Some call it “Shame” when our kids they die

From colds or from sheer neglect

“Shame” when we live on the river banks

While collectin’ our welfare cheques

“Shame” when we’re blind from trachoma

“Shame” when we’re crippled from blights

But I reckon the worstest shame is yours

You deny us human rights

Kevin Gilbert was the first indigenous playwright and printmaker, who was born on the banks of the Lachlan River in New South Wales, a part of the Wiradjuri people. The tone of his poetry is often described as highly emotive, conflicted by struggles with his identity, and never feeling like he fully belonged.

Kevin Gilbert

A One Ended Boomerang’ – Samuel Wagan Watson 

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

— Leonardo da Vinci


An hourglass constricted, the whore inside of me who is watching the clock, monitoring the time, this wasted time to get off, get going, lunar cycle gauge of tide and meridian. How I can hear the sand slip downward in my body clock? I need to be here, could be there, and not long ago the only place you wanted me to be was by your side … maybe?


I am a pencil that cannot sharpen,


ink that slides off paper,


outside of our time, I am lost,


a one ended boomerang.

Samuel Wagan Watson is from Brisbane Australia, of the Mununjali, Birri Gubba descent. Mainly known for his poem Smoke Encrypted Whispers which was about his upbringing in suburban Brisbane. This fourth collection of poems also won the NSW Premier’s Award in 2005.

Samuel Wagan Watson

Don’t Want Me to Talk’ – Charmaine Papertalk Green 

You don’t want me to talk about

Mining or its impact on Country

You don’t want me to talk about

The concept and construct of ‘whiteness’

Its dominance and power in society

You don’t want me to talk about

The art vultures here and everywhere

Modern day missionaries – the art kind

Saving us on the great white canvas

You don’t want me to talk about

Invasion of this land or a Treaty

It’s a shared true history – let’s heal

You don’t want me to talk about

Past injustices, cultural cruelty, cultural genocide

And the cultural pain that is left behind

It’s a shared true history – let us heal

You don’t want me to talk about

How reconciliation could be the wrong word

On its own and without truth

You don’t want me to talk about

Native titles process being for the white man

You don’t want me to talk at all

Most of the time – you have your ‘exotic’ pets

You want me to nod, smile and listen to you

And it doesn’t really matter if I don’t hear you

You don’t want me to talk about

How I have got a voice

And you don’t listen.

Charmaine Papertalk Green is from Wajjarri, Badimaya, and Southern Yamaji people of the MidWest Western Australia. ‘Don’t Want Me to Talk’ is about having a voiceless voice, and how indigenous people are voicing their struggles but no one is listening. Charmaine emphasises that people living in Australia need to acknowledge who the First Nations people of Australia are.

cCharmaine papertalk green


Spiritual Song of the Aborigine’ – Hyllus Maris  

I am a child of the Dreamtime People

Part of this land, like the gnarled gumtree

I am the river, softly singing

Chanting our songs on my way to the sea

My spirit is the dust-devils

Mirages, that dance on the plain

I’m the snow, the wind and the falling rain

I’m part of the rocks and the red desert earth

Red as the blood that flows in my veins

I am eagle, crow and snake that glides

Through the rainforest that clings to the mountainside

I awakened here when the earth was new

There was emu, wombat, kangaroo

No other man of a different hue

I am this land

And this land is me

I am Australia.

Hyllus Maris was born in Cummeragunja in 1934. With the intent of letting the public know and understand the relationship between indigenous people and Australia. Hyllus wrote ‘Spiritual Song of the Aborigine’ to share what being one with nature is like, speaking through an indigenous viewpoint.

Hyllus Maris


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