Australian’s Indigenous Publisher

Mangabala Books is described by their web page as:

Magabala Books is Australia’s leading Indigenous publisher. Based in the pearling town of Broome in the far north of Western Australia, Magabala Books is one of the most remote publishing houses in the world.

Since its incorporation in 1990, Magabala Books has been recognised as a producer of quality Indigenous Australian literature receiving accolades in prestigious literary and national achievement awards.

Snip20180218_7As one of the most respected small publishing houses in Australia, Magabala Books works to celebrate the talent and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices through the publication of quality literature. Magabala Books has released more than two hundred titles from a range of genres.

Snip20180218_1I thought I’d have a poke around our State Library to see what indigenous publishers they stocked on their shelves. I have been slowly exploring them.  This came up first off and as I checked it out I saw some beautiful children’s books. I noticed that one of them, Mad Magpie, written and illustrated by Gregg Dreise, won the 2017 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year in the Indigenous  Children’s category.  That is an association that was very dear to my heart years ago when I was working and I sat on their national committee as Vice President Finance for several years in the 1990’s.  I remember when the book awards were established by the association but later forgot about those awards in my retirement years and was happily surprised to see it again.  I had to check it out and see what it is about.

Snip20180218_2Mad Magpie is a story about dealing with bullies.

“Way back before Once-Upon-A-Time time, there was the Dreamtime,

and during this period there lived an angry magpie called Guluu.

Guluu was so angry that he would swoop down and peck the other animals on their heads.”

Anyone who is familiar with Australian birds will know that several species of our birds are bullies.  The magpie is known for swooping people who get in its way. This is the story of how the magpie deals with the butcher birds who bully him.


The Butcher birds tease him, they chase him away when he is trying to eat worms on the riverbank. They laugh at him. This makes him very angry.  He thinks if he is angry and tough enough they will leave him alone but they don’t. The other birds in the area, the cockatoos, the Mopoke Owl, the Emu, tell him being mean and angry will not get him what he wants.  He needs to stay calm like the river that roars through the mountains and then is calm again.  He begins to work on becoming calmer, walking away and being strong on the inside like the water’s current. He begins to sing so loudly he can’t hear the taunts of the butcher birds anymore.  Of course it begins to work and the Magpie becomes a happier bird who is no longer bullied. It is a very relevant, timeless tale.

Snip20180218_5The book is beautifully illustrated with Indigenous art and I am sharing a few pages with you. Gregg Dreise has written and illustrated other books for children and I see that Silly Birds won this same award in 2015. I have placed two more of his books on my wishlist at the library and will look at them after I return from my March travels.  I enjoy the stories of the Dreamtime as they explain the Indigenous versions of nature. They are beautiful tales.

Snip20180218_4I will continue to explore this publishing establishment as they have a range of books for children through to adults.  Our library seems to have quite a few of their books.






9 thoughts on “Australian’s Indigenous Publisher

  1. i can’t tell you how much i like the illustrations! if you’ll remember that card i sent, they’re very much in the same kind of style, i think… just gorgeous… and he looks like such an interesting fellow!

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  2. Hi, I discovered Magabala Books some years ago when I was still a teacher-librarian and they started sending me books for review on my professional blog, LisaHillSchoolStuff. (You can find my reviews at – just type Magabala into the search box and they will all come up, including another one by Greg Driese called Silly Birds).
    Apart from the obvious charm of the books and their gorgeous illustrations, I also valued these books for teaching purpose. I was on a mission to have the children understand the diversity of Indigenous communities and to recognise the multiplicity of language groups in Australia, and their country. I had a large AIATSIS map of Australia on permanent display, (see and with my years 3 &4 with whom I did a term’s work on Aboriginal myths and legends, I only ever used books written by Indigenous authors and the children would have to find where they came from on this map. Magabala was the best for this because every book had a bio page e.g. “Gregg Dreise is a descendant of the Kamilaroi people from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales” – and the kids would have to find the Kamilaroi People on the map using their knowledge of where the states of Australia were.
    I loved Greg’s way of introducing Silly Birds: “Way back before Once-upon-a-time time, there was the Dreamtime…” – and I see that he has used that beginning in Mad Magpie as well.
    Over the ten years I was in the library, I would have taught this unit of work to literally hundreds of kids, and they all now know that an Aborigine is not just an Aborigine, he or she has a people with a specific name and language and a country with which they identify. Thanks to Magabala books.

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