About the author

Anita Heiss

About the book

Judges' report

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is inspired by the true story of Wiradyuri men ​​– Yarri and Jacky Jacky – who saved the lives of sixty people during a flood that took place in 1852. It places the remarkable fictionalised story of Wagadhaany at the centre, allowing her sensitivity, grit, and strength to shine through on every page.

Anita Heiss’s novel is written for all ages, and has a timeless quality, and yet it grapples with complex material, presenting an extraordinary portrait of what it means when a white woman’s desire to be seen as ‘good’ outstrips her loyalty to her Black friend. Heiss explores the contours of good intentions without bitterness or rancour. With a keen eye for detail, Heiss writes with poignancy and tenderness about Wagadhaany’s love affair and her journey to motherhood. In charting Wagadhaany’s struggles to keep her family together, and return to her home in Gundagai, Heiss has created a new national heroine.

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray belongs in the library of all Australians, no matter their age. Heiss has chronicled the story of one woman’s fight to maintain her dignity in a dramatically changing world. In so doing, Heiss has written a story for her people certainly, but she has also written a story for the nation.

Further reading


“There are books you encounter as an adult that you wish you could press into the hands of your younger self. Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is one of those books…” – Beejay Silcox, The Guardian 

“Celebrating family, love, and connection to the land, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is a profoundly moving showcase of Heiss’ skill for crafting stories and relationships.” – Jodie Sloan, The AU Review

“We need more of these stories; more novels that reflect Australia’s colonial past through the eyes of First Nations women.” – Chris Gordon, Readings online


Listen to Anita Heiss discuss Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray on ABC Radio’s Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons

Watch ‘Aboriginal writing: literature as a political tool’ via Allen & Unwin

Listen to Anita Heiss discuss Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray with Paul Barclay at Melbourne Writers Festival

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