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Wharton has worked as a stockman, a drover and a labourer, but did not begin his writing career until in the 1980s, when he was around 50, he sat down under a tree and began to write. Through his writing he tried to answer questions about his people's past.
Eventually Wharton considered publishing his writing and, after buying an electric typewriter with a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts, he wrote his first book of poems, Kings with Empty Pockets.
In 1990 Wharton entered some of his poems in the David Unaipon Award for unpublished Indigenous writers. His work was highly commended, and the University of Queensland Press commissioned him to write a novel. The resulting novel, Unbranded, published in 1992, relates his experiences on the stock routes of the Australian outback. This was followed by Cattle Camp in 1994, Where ya' been, mate? in 1996, and by the young adult novel Yumba Days in 1999. Herb recently finished a first draft of a novel called The Munta and the Mob.
In 1998 Wharton participated in an international book promotion tour of France and the United Kingdom, and won a residency at the Australia Council studio at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. When not travelling internationally to attend literary festivals he lives in Brisbane and now writes full-time.
A second volume of poetry, Imba (Listen): Tell You A Story has been published. In each of his books of poetry, a glossary is included to assist readers understand all the Murri language words (Murrayisms), he uses throughout his writing.
On the November 22, 2012 Wharton received the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature; a $50,000 award that recognises the achievements of eminent writers who have made outstanding and lifelong contributions to Australian literature.
The Fryer Library houses the Herb Wharton manuscript collection. The collection contains working and completed drafts of writings, poetry (published and unpublished), correspondence, diaries, speeches, taped interviews given by Wharton (both audio and video), and miscellaneous notes.
- Cattle Camp: Murri Drovers and their Stories (UQP, 1994)
- Where Ya Been Mate? (1996)
- Kings With Empty Pockets (2003) ISBN 978-0-9581883-4-0 Review
- Imba (Listen): Tell You a Story (2003) ISBN 0-9581883-3-5
- "Profile: Herb Wharton". Australia Council. Archived from the original on 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
- "Unique Indigenous story teller awarded". Australia Council for the Arts. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- "Herb Wharton collection UQFL 212" (PDF). University of Queensland Library, Fryer Library. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
- "An ungraded bush track" (PDF). Fryer Folios. 2 (1): 14–17. 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2014.