More than 200 people have attended the launch of the debut book from ABC radio presenter, Daniel Browning in Sydney over the weekend. 

If you were a regular triple j listener in the 1990s and 2000s, you’d know Browning read the news on triple j for many years before leaving to work on the ABC’s flagship Indigenous arts and culture programme, Awaye!, a programme he would go on to present.

Since then, this Bundjalung and Kullilli journalist, broadcaster and writer has gone on to become one of this country’s most accomplished arts journalists and critics. 

Close to the Subject is a collection of essays which looks back at certain time of his career. It also includes some of Browning’s radio documentaries and transcripts. He admits the book is hard to define. 

“It’s an interesting collection that I don’t ever think has been attempted before. It’s a mix of radio transcripts and radio documentaries which read like play scripts essentially. It contains poetry, memoir and my critical essays on Indigenous art. 

The value for me [in doing the book] was it would all be in one place. A lot of the work goes back 15 years and it charts my career from 2007. You actually write what you say [on air]. So it’s natural. The writing comes first before you turn a microphone on.  I write better for the eye than I do for the ear. So thinking about that, my passion is for the eye, and that’s why I fell into art and trained as an artist at art school. But I became a journalist after being sidetracked. I just got sidetracked for a really long time.”

Art has always been central to Browning’s journalism practice and those who know his work well would say even his audio creations are works of art.

Browning started his ABC career as a cadet in 1994, and hopes Close to the Subject gives readers an insight into how he’s approached his practice and why he’s continued doing that work for the last three decades. 

“I’m close to the subject, in terms of the title of the book, I am the subject. Other blackfullas are my subject, but I’m also the subject. Non-Indigenous journalists are embedded too. They’ve got their own subjectivity. You just have to look at a TV news bulletin and to see how things are tracking, what are the things that they’re focused on. Why is it significant to me? It’s not significant to me, that’s a cultural thing. So what I think I tried to bring, I tried to make [radio] shows that appealed to everyone but that gave blackfullas something to hold on to.”

Close to the Subject: Selected Works is out now through Magabala Books and was awarded the 2024 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing.