Herb Wharton

Herb left school aged twelve and began droving. He has possibly seen more of Outback Australia from horse back than most European explorers. Born in Cunnamulla in South Western Queensland, his maternal grandmother was of the Kooma people, and his grandfathers were Irish and English.

The publication of his first book Unbranded in 1992 fuelled his passion to share his own experiences of people and events along the stock routes of inland Australia.

His second book, Cattle Camp, published in 1994 is a collection of stories as told by Murri stockmen and women. The opportunity to record the unpublished stories of the Aboriginal contribution to the Australian pastoral industry has continued to influence his writings. The launch in 1996 of Where Ya’ been Mate? – a collection of short stories, provides observations of the human race, not restricted to Aboriginal culture.

In 2002, Yumba Days was launched. In this book Herb reflects on his childhood days of growing up at the Yumba (town camp) on the outskirts of Cunnamulla, including stories of family, school and the importance of friendship for a young boy discovering his identity and culture.

His first four books were published by University of Queensland Press. The next two titles, Herb chose to self-publish. Kings with Empty Pockets is a selection of poems, and Imba (Tell me a story) is a revision of his earlier work Where Ya’ been Mate including additional stories, new text and illustrations.

However, Herb believes his most important work is yet to be published. This will be a culmination of many years of travel, discussion and reflections upon the past and present of diverse cultures around the world. It will acknowledge and interpret the Dreamtime or mythology of these cultures and the interdependence between different belief systems and ties to Mother Earth. The seed of his interest in this subject has provided opportunities to explore not just the past but also the potential future for all human kind. This is a significant work in progress, which requires further research and contemplation to complete.

Since the launch of his early novels, Herb has been invited to attend all the major Literary Festivals around Australia as a guest speaker and/or Writer-in-Residence. In November 2012, Herb accepted the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Contribution to Literature, in 2013 Herb received a Queensland GREAT’s award. Since its beginning 28 years ago, he continues to attend the Annual Woodford Folk Festival as a guest writer. He has also participated in and/or led writing workshops and literary discussions in schools, small towns and Aboriginal communities in remote regions.

Herb has accepted invitations to attend overseas literary engagements in England (1996 including Reading at Lincoln Cathedral at the ‘Earth our Home’ Conference; 1997 Rebecca Hossack Gallery; 1999 including Wordsworth Museum Reading and ‘Way with Words’ Literary Festival; 2000 Reading at the RM Williams Shop London; 2003 attended Dream Traces – Brighton Festival); Scotland (1997 including attendance at the Edinburgh Book Festival); Germany (1995, 1996; 2000); Holland (1996, 1998 when novel Unbranded was published translated into Dutch; 2000); France (1996 including the Australian Bookshop in Paris Opening; 1998 at Lyon University and Paris Writer in Residence; 2007 presentation at the Conciliation and Reconciliation Conference); Belgium (1998); Hong Kong (1996); New York (2001 at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts); Japan (2000 where he received Honorary Degree, Temporary Humanities, IKO University Toyko). In September 2013, Herb was guest speaker at the Berlin Literary Festival.

In 1998, he was the first Aboriginal writer granted a Writer in Residence in Paris, hosted by the Australia Council Studio. This provided the opportunity to progress his novel Yumba Days. During this residency, he also attended by invitation the International Poetry Festival in the Netherlands as guest poet.

One of Australia’s most travelled Aboriginal writers, Herb is regarded as an Ambassador for Aboriginal literature and recording Aboriginal stories, as well as a strong advocate for promoting the education and understanding of Aboriginal Culture world wide.