Anita’s children’s literature includes Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, co-written with Adam Goodes and Micheal O’Loughlin. She also wrote two kids’ novels with students from La Perouse Public School - Yirra and her deadly dog Demon and Demon Guards the School Yard.
Anita’s other published works include the historical novel Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937, non-fiction text Dhuuluu-Yala (To Talk Straight) – Publishing Aboriginal Literature, and The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature which she co-authored with Peter Minter.
Her adult fiction includes Not Meeting Mr Right, Avoiding Mr Right, Manhattan Dreaming, Paris Dreaming and Tiddas. Her most recent books include Harry’s Secret Matty’s Comeback, and Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms which was shortlisted for the QLD Literary Awards and longlisted for the Dublin International Literary Prize.
In 2004 Anita was listed in The Bulletin magazine’s “Smart 100”. Her memoir Am I Black Enough for You? was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards and she was a finalist in the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards (Local Hero).
As an advocate for Indigenous literacy, Anita has worked in remote communities as a role model and encouraging young Indigenous Australians to write their own stories. On an international level she has performed her own work and lectured on Aboriginal literature across the globe at universities and conferences, consulates and embassies in the USA, Canada, the UK, Tahiti, Fiji, New Caledonia, Spain, Japan, Austria, Germany and New Zealand.
Anita is a Lifetime Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and a proud Ambassador of Worawa Aboriginal College, the GO Foundation and the Sydney Swans.
She is on the Board of the State Library of Queensland and lives in Brisbane.
Photograph: Stuart Giles
Anita's international presentations
These include many festivals and conferences as a keynote speaker, performer and lecturer:
Anita's authored websites
Barani (yesterday): the Aboriginal history of the City of Sydney
Anita is a member of
Anita's prizes and awards include
Anita has published short stories in
Anita has published book reviews in
Anita has published poetry in
Anita's film credits
Writer / Director, Checkerboard Love (5 mins) produced by Metra Screen NSW, 2004 as part of the Lester Bostock Mentorhsip Scheme.
Where did you grow up and how was your childhood?
Where is your family from?
What kind of jobs have you had?
What did you want to be when you were younger?
What do you consider important in your life?
What are you passionate about?
Can you describe one of your proudest moments?
What are your favourite things in life?
Where is your favourite place in the world, so far?
What is your earliest memory?
What were you like at school?
Who was your first relationship with?
What don't you like talking about?
What was your most humiliating moment?
What do you cook at home?
What would your last meal be?
What is your favourite gadget?
How would your friends describe you?
What don't you find amusing?
What is your favourite colour?
What is your favourite drink?
If you could be anyone for a day?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your definition of contentment?
What is your favourite journey?
Life's journey is the ultimate.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Strong, capable intelligent women aren't supposed to be concerned about those things are they?
Has there ever been a moment when you were perfectly happy?
If you could wake up with one new skill tomorrow, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your most treasured possession?
Who are your heroes?
I nearly ran my car off the road the last time Knights in White Satin came on the radio. I hate it!
How would you like to die?
Who or what makes you laugh?
When did you start writing and why?
Did you do anything to help you learn to write or did it just come naturally?
What do you love about writing?
What do you think makes a good writer and who are some of your favourite authors?
Who influences your poetry and/or novel writing?
What do you like to write about?
How do you find moving between genres of writing - from poetry to children's books to novels?
Do you have any advice you could offer on writing and publishing?
On writing: Write every day and read widely across genres, geography, gender and culture. You will get a feel for what you think works on the page and it will help you define your own style and voice. Join a writer's centre and the Australian Society of Authors to make contacts, get professional development and to learn about the industry.
On publishing: Get your manuscript looked at by a professional before you send it to a publisher - don't waste your time or theirs not having done that. Don't give it to a relative or friend, unless of course they are editors. You need objective, professional advice. Look at the books in the store / library and see who publishes the kinds of works you are writing. Then check out their websites to see if they accept unsolicited materials and to find out the process for sending your manuscript in.
On selling a book once it's published: I'm lucky, I have a background in PR and a PhD in Communication and Media, and so I know how it all works and I exploit the media if I can when it comes to selling books. I will go on any radio show (OK, wouldn't do Jones or Laws) and do any paper anywhere if it means reaching a bigger reading audience, and hopefully selling a few more books.
On what to write: I think lots of people can write, the hard thing is writing something at the right time and something that other people want to read. Something that is different, that fills a niche, that has a good storyline and is well written. And a hook that the media will run with. I launched Not Meeting Mr Right on Valentine's Day so there was a hook there, but of course the difference was that the heroine - while following the formula of boy meets girl - had complications in her search for Mr Right.
Do you tire of book launches and repetitive interview questions, or is it all good fun and good publicity?
How did you come to write a book for the My Story series and why was writing about a child of the stolen generations important to you?
Firstly, because there was no material whatsoever on the issue of child removal policies written in a format accessible to young people in the classroom, making it easy for teachers to omit teaching it as part of a history class. To give a complete picture of the significant moments in Australian history post 1788 - it is essential that such an important, albeit tragic, part of Australian history is taught. I believe we have some wonderful moments and some dark moments in our history, but they need to be embraced and understood from the schooling years on. Writing Who Am I? The diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937, gave me an opportunity to transport the reader to a particular moment in Australian history that is still impacting on many Australians today. Secondly, my own Grandmother was taken to Cootamundra Girls' Home at the age of 6, and then went to the Home of the Good Shepherd in Ashfield before she was put into service at the age of 14. I don't know one Indigenous Australian who hasn't been affected by the policies of protection. And those of us who have an ability and platform to educate and inform on the issue, and want to make some social change through understanding the consequences of such policies, feel compelled to write, sing, perform etc about it.
Did you find writing in a diary form gave you any special challenges? How did you approach the task of writing the story?
In the notes at the end of the book you mention many of the written resources that you used to research Mary's diary. Did you also talk to people who had been part of the stolen generations and use their experiences in the book?
What special attention did you have to pay to features of the language you used and details of everyday life to bring Mary to life and give her the real voice of an Aboriginal girl living in the 1930s?
How would you describe your book Not Meeting Mr Right, briefly?
Is the Alice character based on yourself, or anyone else?
What inspired you to write Not Meeting Mr Right?
What was your writing process - did you write it from front to back or more randomly? Did you know the ending before you started writing the novel and did it change as you wrote it?
What was the editing process like? How did you work with your editor?
Lauren is one adventurous girl. Is she based on you?
Was this your dream when you were a little girl?
Did you have to go to New York a lot to research your book?
Lauren is very interesting because she is so competent in her career and yet she has made poor decisions in her personal life. Do you think this is reflective of many women today?
What do you think is more important, the fulfillment one gains from career, or from love?
There are a lot of Indigenous artists spoken about in the book. Are these friends of yours? And do you think this will raise the profile of these people?
What are you writing next?
I am currently writing the follow-up to Manhattan Dreaming which is set in France and called, you guessed it: Paris Dreaming. Due for release through Bantam in 2011.
Listen to Anita on the First Time Podcast as she discusses storytelling, schedules and social media
Anita writes on TRUST in the Griffith Review (Feb 2020).
Anita writes in The Guardian (Feb 2020) about Cathy Freeman winning gold in 2000.
In November 2017, Anita ran the New York Marathon. She talked to Rudi Bremmer on Radio National about the experience.
ABC Podcast: It's Not a Race - Anita talks about using writing to claim space in the mainstream for margialised characters.
Anita delivered the 2017 Ngunnawal Lecture at the University of Canberra, and you can view it here!Anita spoke to Dan Bouchier on the ABC Canberra about improving Indigenous literacy and helping the children who are slipping through the gaps.
Anita was a guest on the Stand Out Life podcast. You can listen to her conversation with Ali Hill here.
The Garrett Podcast with Anita - March 2017
Love in the time of racism: Barbed wire and cherry blossoms - listen to Anita at Logan Library, Feb 2017
Anita spoke to Marjorie Lewis-Jones about writing for children and Indigenous literacy!
Romance writers are in a universe of their own - Anita talks to Kat Mao at Book Thingo.
Anita talks to Mel Kettle at The Cook's Notebook about writing, running and life in Brisbane. You can read and listen here!
Anita talks about writing, social media and moving to Brisbane on The Activity Pod. Listen to it here!
Listen to Anita's 2015 Human Rights Oration delivered in Melbourne on December 15: Homelessness, homelands and human rights via VEOHRC.
Unpacking the Blak: Anita presents some compelling reasons to read Indigenous literature. In her opening address to the Blak and Bright Indigenous literary festival last weekend in Melbourne, Anita draws on the history of black writing to the work of living authors like Melissa Lucashenko, Kim Scott and Alexis Wright.
Anita spoke to John Cummins on national radio FM4ORF while she was in Vienna. You can listen to the interview here.
Anita in conversation with Lisa Walker at the Byron Bay Library. Watch a snapshot here.
Anita talks about being a Creative Disrupter to Make Change in Your Industry - she spoke to the Australian Businesswomen's Network.
Anita has been busy promoting her new novel Tiddas and she can listen to all her interviews here!
Anita shared her Top Shelf books on Radio National. Find out what they are here.
Speaking Out (ABC Local) On Whose Authority? with Melissa Lucashenko, Jacqueline Wright and Dr Anita Heiss podcast from the Brisbane Writers' Festival.Anita joined Susan Johnson, Zoe Foster and Ara Jansen at the Perth Writers Festival in 2013 to discuss the 50 Shades of Chick Lit. You can watch it on the ABC's BIG IDEAS program.
See Anita alongside other Indigenous writers an ABC TV! as part of the THE ALL BLACKS session at the 2012 Brisbane Writers' Festival.
Here's Anita's You Tube on writing AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?
Anita joined James Valentine on ABC 702 on Monday April 4th April to yarn about Paris Dreaming. You can listen to it here.
Anita makes a showreel! Clear Content in Sydney have put together a showreel to help Anita's bid to become Australia's Oprah - stay tuned for more news on that front.
Listen to Anita discuss Manhattan Dreaming and life as a writer and role as an Indigenous Literacy Ambassador. She's talking with Daniel Browning on AWAYE! Radio National.
Anita talks to Jon Faine on the ABC-Conversation Hour.
Hear Anita yarning about Manhattan Dreaming and Indigenous Literacy Day with Deborah Cameron on ABC 702 here.
You're invited into the daily life of Anita in the ABC-TV Message Stick documentary Meeting Ms Right.
View the Message Stick promo for Anita's show (33 seconds):
Anita talks about the production of the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature at Stanton Library. Click here to listen to her talk.
You can watch Anita speak about her writing for the NSW Department of Education and Training's Centre for Learning Innovation.