Browsing Bookshelves – Blissful moments at Magabala Books in Broome

Magabala Bookshop in Broome is a joyous space. It sits like a slice of zingy bright fruit (in pops of vivid orange and leaf green) on the edge of a dusty pavement in Bagot Street. It is hard to wander past this shop and even more difficult to leave it.


The shelves and tables in this airy light filled little store are laden with a fabulous array of books by Indigenous writers.
I covet every picture book on the shelves but limit myself to buying only three: Once There Was a Boy (Dub Leffler), Where’s my Mob? (Venetia Tyson) and The Lizard Gang (Kirra Somerville). Two are for grandchildren but I am snaffling Once There Was a Boy for myself. This poignant and lyrical story reminds us that boys are allowed to have broken hearts and crave love. Dub Leffler creates a beautiful tale in pictures and words.

I also pick up an exquisite little verse novel, ruby moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann. This book won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award in 2013. I flip open a page and read this:

senses shattered by loss
   she staggers to follow bird song

                                                      trust nature

chirping red-browned finches lead to water
   ringneck parrots place berries in her path

                                                      trust nature

honey eaters flit the route to sweet grevillea
   owls nest in her eyes
                                                       trust nature

I have to own this book.

It is the story of a young Aboriginal woman who survives the massacre of her whole family. I read it in one sitting and then I read it again.


I could buy dozens of books in this shop but I restrain myself to just one more: Ngay janjirr ngank (This is My Word) by Magdalene Williams of the Nyulnyul people who gives an account of the coming of missionaries to Beagle Bay and the consequent loss of traditional culture. We visited the Aboriginal community of Beagle Bay and saw the astonishing shell decorated altar in the Catholic church so this book offers some powerful insights to that world.

It is a privilege to wander around this lovely shop and to dip into so many wonderful Indigenous stories.


Magabala Books is Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publishing house and has more than twenty five years of experience in publishing Aboriginal social history, memoirs, autobiography, fiction, young adult, children’s traditional stories and children’s picture books.
Magabala is the Yawuru word for the bush banana. The bush banana is an edible fruit and is common throughout the coastal regions of Northern Australia. If left to dry, the magabala opens up and the seeds are dispersed by the wind, aided by their silken parasols.
Just as the Magabala spreads its seeds, thus Magabala Books, through its quality publications, spreads the seeds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. (

© Anita Patel, 2015

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