22 June 2023




Access a video of This event

UniSA Video

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Dr Debra Dank is a Gudanji/Wakaja woman. Her memoir of family, community and Country, We Come With This Place, was recently awarded a record four out of fourteen NSW Premier's Literary Awards - including the top gong, Book of the Year. She was also awarded the Indigenous writers' prize and received the awards for non-fiction and new writing. We Come With This Place also received the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal, with the judges calling the book, ‘a generous, moving gift to all Australians, showing ways of being in relationship with one another that build on foundations of truth telling, story and hope.’

The title of this event, A Story for Souls, is inspired by the first pages of her book, where Dank reflects on Aristotle's "De Anima" while sitting in a dusty Oxford University library. She writes: ‘It is not easy to record the story of souls’.

Dank's book explores the themes of family, Country, love, pain, grief, laughter, story, ancestors, and language. She highlights how the English language, which was imposed on this continent, fails to fully capture the essence of the more than 250 First Nation languages (including 800 dialects) that exist here. The book emphasises that these stories have begun ‘long before paper and words learned to yarn together'.

Currently serving as a UniSA Visiting Research Fellow, Debra will be in conversation with UniSA Senior Research Fellow, Associate Professor Sue Joseph.

Click HERE to purchase a copy of Dr Debra Dank’s book We Come With This Place from Matilda Bookshop's website and choose Hawke Centre Events Free SA Postage as the delivery option. They will then deliver or post (FREE OF CHARGE) your book to South Australian addresses or it can be collected at the event. 

A recording of this event will be available approximately one week after the event.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and UniSA Creative

Media Release: Aboriginal narratives must be retained to capture crucial histories and identities



dr debra dank
author &
uniSA visiting research fellow

Dr Debra Dank is a proud Gudanji/Wakaja woman, hailing from the Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory. With almost four decades of experience in education, Dank has held various roles across primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. She has served as a class teacher, special education teacher, senior teacher, regional consultant, regional manager, lecturer, senior lecturer, and Head of School. Dank has worked in both urban and remote areas of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and the Northern Territory.

Dank's professional interests centre around the practice of narrative in Aboriginal communities, particularly the significance of semiotics in comprehending the range of communicative mechanisms and functions utilized in this practice. Her book, We Come with This Place (Echo 2022), has garnered widespread acclaim and recognition, with its inclusion on the shortlist for the prestigious Stella Prize and was recently awarded the NSW Premier's Literary Award across four categories: the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing, the Indigenous Writers' Prize, and Book of the Year. Her book also received the Australian Literature Society (ALS) Gold Medal.

Articles and Further Reading:

Indigenous author Debra Dank sweeps NSW Premier’s Literary Awards with memoir We Come With This Place
National Indigenous Time: Debra Dank weaves childhood stories into 'honest' Gudanji tribute book
RN Radio: We Come With This Place by Debra Dank review – a jewel to rival Australia’s great desert memoirs


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associate professor sue joseph
senior research fellow, unisa

A journalist for more than forty years, working in Australia and the UK, Sue Joseph (PhD) began working as an academic, teaching print journalism at the University of Technology Sydney in 1997. As a Senior Lecturer, she taught in journalism and creative writing, particularly creative non-fiction writing. Now as Associate Professor, she is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of South Australia; a doctoral supervisor at the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney; and holds a position at Central Queensland University, supervising and training HDRs and other doctoral supervisors. She is currently Joint Editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics and co-editor of the Literary Journalism Palgrave book series.

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Presented by
The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and unisa creative

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While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.