Indigenous Poetry

Henry Kendall is an Australian born poet – born 1839 and died 1882 – who wrote mostly about natural settings.

Compare his poem The Last of His Tribe with the poem Last of his Tribe written by OOdgeroo Noonuccal

Oodgeroo Noonuccal poems can be found at

THE LAST OF HIS TRIBE by Henry Kendall

He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,
Or think of the loneliness there —
Of the loss and the loneliness there.

The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
And turn to their coverts for fear;
But he sits in the ashes and lets them pass
Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear —
With the nullah, the sling and the spear.

Uloola, behold him! The thunder that breaks
On the tops of the rocks with the rain,
And the wind which drives up with the salt of the lakes,
Have made him a hunter again —
A hunter and fisher again.

For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought;
But he dreams of the hunts of yore,
And of foes that he sought, and of fights that he fought
With those who will battle no more —
Who will go to the battle no more.

It is well that the water which tumbles and fills,
Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an echo rolls out from the sides of the hills,
And he starts at a wonderful song —
At the sound of a wonderful song.

And he sees, through the rents of the scattering fogs,
The corroboree warlike and grim,
And the lubra who sat by the fire on the logs,
To watch, like a mourner, for him —
Like a mother and mourner for him.

Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face —
Like a marvellous dream in his face?

reproduced from

Last of his Tribe by OOdgeroo Noonuccal

Change is the law. The new must oust the old.
I look at you and am back in the long ago,
Old pinaroo lonely and lost here
Last of your clan.
Left only with your memories, you sit
And think of the gay throng, the happy people,
The voices and the laughter
All gone, all gone,
And you remain alone.
I asked and you let me hear
The soft vowelly tongue to be heard now
No more for ever. For me
You enact old scenes, old ways, you who have used
Boomerang and spear.
You singer of ancient tribal songs,
You leader once in the corroboree,
You twice in fierce tribal fights
With wild enemy blacks from over the river,
All gone, all gone. And I feel
The sudden sting of tears, Willie Mackenzie
In the Salvation Army Home.
Displaced person in your own country,
Lonely in teeming city crowds,
Last of your tribe

reproduced from

David Unaipon (1872-1967) was one of the first indigenous Australian writers and his picture is on the Australian $50 note

More poems

Aboriginal Poetry
Non-western Literature/Ms. Newman
A Song of Hope
by Oodgeroo (Kath Walker)
Look up, my people,
The dawn is breaking
The world is waking
To a bright new day
When none defame us
No restriction tame us
Nor colour shame us
Nor sneer dismay.

Now brood no more
On the years behind you
The hope assigned you
Shall the past replace
When a juster justice
Grown wise and stronger
Points the bone no longer
At a darker race.

So long we waited
Bound and frustrated
Till hate be hated
And caste deposed
Now light shall guide us
No goal denied us
And all doors open
That long were closed.

See plain the promise
Dark freedom-lover!
Night’s nearly over
And though long the climb
New rights will greet us
New mateship meet us
And joy complete us
In our new Dream Time.

To our fathers’ fathers
The paid, the sorrow;
To our children’s children
the glad tomorrow.

Dark Secrets

by Jeanine Leane, Wagga Wagga, NSW

God made the little niggers
He made them in the night
He made them in a hurry
And forgot to paint them white.

Every day the golden haired, angel-faced,
happy white children sang this song.
Amid chortling laughter and swirls of curls
they filed past the wire fence
that captured us.

They keep us locked away like dark secrets.
Never hearing our cries,
never seeing our misery,
never feeling our hunger
while the bones of Mother and Grandmother
remember when this whole country
was one big kitchen
where the pantry was never empty… [1]

This is an excerpt from Jeanine’s poem. It is published in her first book of poems which tells stories of the experience of Aboriginal women—traditional and contemporary—before and after European colonisation. Dark Secrets After Dreaming (AD) 1887-1961

Black Woman

by Frank Doolan

Black Woman, Black Woman, my mother the earth,
Soul of my substance the rich black dirt,
Coloured blood red a black man’s blood,
Absorbed for eternity by your endless love.

You gave birth to me just yesterday,
What makes you think I drifted away?
You sheltered my soul from the genocide,
What I feel for you is absolute pride.

I’m Young and I’m Vital, I’m Black and I’m Free.
If I hurt you I’m sorry, I’m just being me.
Times they’re a changing and people change too,
That don’t mean I changed how I feel for you…

‘Cause you are forever my mother the earth,
The soul of my substance the rich black dirt.
Coloured blood red, a Black Man’s blood,
Absorbed for eternity by your endless love.

Calling Me Home

by Lyndon Lane, Goodooga, NSW

I can feel the souls of my ancestors calling me back home
To all the familiar places and tracks I once did roam
I can see my Grandmother’s house at the end of Adams Street,
Where all the Aunties, Uncles and Cousins I did meet
To the banks of the Bokhara River running under the Richmond Bridge
You can hear the waters flow to the sound of an Elder’s didge
I can smell the boogalies cooking in a camp oven at my Aunty’s place
I can see the sun arising on the wrinkles of my Pop’s face
I can recall how my uncle taught me how to ride
In a paddock near their place with Robbo by my side
But I know I must stay here to get a good education
For I want to go back home after my graduation
To see the many family, friends and familiar faces I have known
I can feel the souls of my ancestors calling me back home
They’re calling me back, my ancestors in Mother Earth
I want to go back home, to the country of my birth.


by Rachel Davidge, Frenchs Forest, NSW

Sitting on the grass and leaves,
a sad thin figure, folded in solitude,
flicking a cigarette, passing it through pursed lips,
inhaling each time with an increased sense of sombre turmoil,
peaceful disquiet.

Sitting amidst the setting sun,
his dark skin is wrinkled and worn,
a reflection of his soul,
where to go treading on now foreign land?

Where to find peace now,
along these roads?
who will understand now,
spirits losing place,
not knowing where to go,
he feels the need,
to hide his face.

Skip to toolbar