18 October 2021 Blogs, Academic, Community College, K-12, Public, Faculty, Librarian, Student/Researcher

Appreciating Smaller Publishers: Aboriginal Studies Press

Learn about a publisher devoted to telling the stories of Australia’s Aboriginal peoples

By Bob Nardini, Vice President, Library Services at ProQuest

Editor’s note: this is the latest blog post in a series by Bob Nardini about the critical role of smaller publishers in bringing diverse content to libraries.

It’s not every day the leader of a country addresses Parliament about a new reference book, but that’s what happened in 1994 when Australia’s Prime Minister Paul Keating honored the publication of Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia.  Keating supported Indigenous land rights throughout his tenure, and this address was one small part of his legacy.         

The Encyclopaedia, now out of print, was a two-volume illustrated work with some 2,000 entries on every manner of topic written by more than 200 contributors, many themselves Indigenous.  It was “something of a Dreaming Send,” one reviewer wrote, which roughly meant that the book created a world, “and gives us the chance to write our own history and the power to project our own images and effectively puts into practice the much-touted theory commonly referred to as Aboriginal Self-determination.” 

The publisher of this landmark was Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP), which throughout its history has been entirely devoted to telling the stories of Australia’s more than 400 separate Aboriginal peoples, and of the Torres Strait Islanders, a culturally distinct Indigenous group. 

ASP, then as now the publishing arm of a statutory body charged with preserving and supporting the culture of Aboriginal Australia, began to publish research reports in 1962. Today, while ASP continues to publish these reports, as well as issues and discussion papers; a journal, Australian Aboriginal Studies; and the Native Title Newsletter, disseminating current information about Indigenous land rights; the ASP is best known to readers and librarians for its trade and scholarly books, often written by Indigenous authors – including dictionaries, biographies, children’s books, and other books of broad  interest.

A few examples are Whitening Race: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism, a multi-disciplinary book that, as a reviewer said, “will disrupt the way we think about race;” Our Greatest Challenge: Aboriginal Children and Human Rights, which received the Stanner Award, a biennial prize sponsored by ASP to honor outstanding academic works by Indigenous scholars; Calling the Shots: Aboriginal Photographies, a study of the living meanings of images created in the past under what often were exploitative conditions; Black, White and Exempt: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Lives under Exemption, the history of a contentious but little-known aspect of the state assimilation policies imposed on Indigenous people; Kangkushot: The Life of Nyamal Lawman Peter Coppin, the story of a leader of the longest Aboriginal strike in Australian history; and Joan Martin: A Widi Woman, biography of an artist and activist who fought mining companies and government agencies in her own struggle to pass Indigenous culture to new generations.  

For librarians in Australia, these and other ASP books convey important narratives in the history of their own country.  Everywhere else, librarians know that diversity isn’t merely a box on a checklist, but a way of creating collections to challenge and enrich their local community. ASP books are sure to do that.

Get Aboriginal Studies Press Books at a Discount
ProQuest is proud to offer ASP print books and ebooks to our customers. Through a new program, libraries can now enjoy a 20% discount off the list price for new ASP purchases made through March 31, 2022 on our Ebook Central platform. No action is required to receive the discount, which will be applied automatically to orders placed through LibCentral, OASIS, Rialto and GOBI.       

Learn more about building diverse collections with the Every Voice program.