Dr Anita Heiss briefly took up residency in the Murray Arts office to collect stories from Aboriginal Artists for the Our Stories: Our Voices project. Through a series of interviews with each artist, Dr Anita Heiss recorded the story of each individual, in their own voice, to capture a contemporary snapshot how inextricably art and life are linked.We invited Dr Anita Heiss to share some of her own story and art life with Murray Arts.
What ignited that spark for pursuing a career in the arts?
I started writing because I wanted to fill the void in terms of Aboriginal voices in Australian literature. My goal and writing path was quickly defined as realised the need to create contemporary characters with authentic, modern storylines that serve to break down stereotypes of who we are in the 21st century.
What are you proud of achieving?
I'm proud that I've published across genres – historical fiction, children's fiction, commercial women's fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I'm also proud that I've had the good fortune to be published by both Indigenous and multi-national mainstream publishing houses. I've been translated into French, Spanish, Farsie and Mandarin as well, and my memoir Am I Black Enough For You? was a finalist in the Human Rights Awards (2012) and was released in the USA through the University of Hawaii Press.
I'm proud that the community-determined Deadly Awards acknowledged for of my works including The Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature which I co-edited with deadly poet Peter Minter.
It's not the reason for writing, but I'll never forget the day I saw my novel Not Meeting Mr Right had made it on the best-seller list.
What inspires you to live a creative life?
I'm inspired by my own belief that artists can make real social change by writing work that influences readers to think differently about themselves, their behavior and their own role in the world.
The Working Life
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm currently working on a novel about the Cowra Breakout, which happened during World War II. Much of the literature around the Japanese prisoners of war and the military camp in Cowra failed to include the fact that a few miles from the compound, Erambie station functioned as a compound of another kind where Aboriginal people lived under the Act of Protection on rations and bound by the rules of a manager.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project is to have my own chat show. The premise of the show is to showcase Indigenous Australians across all sectors - arts and culture, sports, politics, academia. Called "Café" – we taped a pilot episode in 2012 starring the fabulous former Australian of the Year and AFL legend, Adam Goodes.
Image credit: Anita Heiss (right) & Ruth Dacey-Davys sharing Ruth's Story in the project Our Stories Our Voices #murrayarts #regionalartsnsw #creativevictoria