Tag Archives: First Australians

#In This Together Reconciliation Week 2020 & Rocky and Louie

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Rocky & Louie – Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley and Dub Leffler

Penguin Australia

  • Published: 28 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143786528
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $24.99

I’ve saved this one for this week to time with Reconciliation Week 2020 as we take up this year’s theme, which as it turns out has proven apt in even more ways than originally intended. Despite many years of activism and advocacy there are still so many who fail to either realise or acknowledge the terrible wrongs done to our First Australian peoples. Regular readers of this blog will know how strongly this cause resonates with me given my children and grandchildren are proud Wiradjuri people.

Naturally then I never miss the opportunity to share cultural awareness with my students and others which is why reviewing books of Indigenous authors or themes is always so important to me.

Rocky and Louie takes a topic dear to the hearts of many young Australians, namely football, and weaves this into a narrative that underlines the sacred connection to country and culture for First Australians.

Rocky has a big dream and is determined to pursue it but when the time comes for him to leave country and go to the city, little brother Louie is fearful and anxious. Louie has learned all about football from his big brother but also about the importance of their culture, people and country and he’s worried that Rocky will lose his connection to all this and his family while he’s gone.

So he comes up with the idea of making Rocky a very special boomerang to remind him that he will always return to the place of his true belonging. The reader goes with Louie to find just the right branch and sits with him while Uncle Phil shows him how to shape it perfectly. And of course it makes the parting gift not only fitting but intensely meaningful as these two brothers demonstrate the closeness of their bond.

The text co-written by Raewyn Caisley, whose ability to transform her words about families into such seemingly simple but powerful layered meanings, and Phil Walleystack, Noongar man and internationally renowned singer-songwriter and storyteller, transcends a mere story of two footy-loving brothers and transforms this into a heartfelt testament to the strength, resilience and dignity of Aboriginal family life and culture.

The illustrations by Dub Leffler (so talented!) utterly capture the boys’ country, native animals, family and their smiling faces with such a divine skill that it will immediately transport readers to the setting.

Raewyn writes about this as her ‘most significant project’: ..’Rocky and Louie is about belonging to country and it is our gift, not only to Aboriginal children, but to all of Australia…….inside is a story that Phil, Dub and I believe has the power to change our nation.’

It goes without saying that I cannot recommend this highly enough and believe it is another essential addition to your collection. My copy will be shared with young Wiradjuri children whom my daughter is guiding in their cultural growth and education and I know it will be well received.

#In This Together

Counting Our Country – Jill Daniels

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Magabala Books
978-1-925768-65-7

February 28, 2020

RRP: $12.99

The preservation and sharing of First Australian languages and culture is of paramount importance as nations strive to not only keep their traditions intact but also to impart knowledge and understanding. Where better to start than with our youngest readers then?

This delightful little board book has been created by long-time artist Jill Daniels, from the remote community of Ngukurr. Jill is a Ritharrnu and Madarrpa woman from the South East-Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

A simple bilingual counting book which features animals found on her country on beautiful double spreads with their names in both English and Ritharrnu, Jill’s traditional language, this will both delight and teach young children.

There is a comprehensive guide to pronunciation of sounds, spellings and the animals’ names which will aid those not familiar with this language.

Educators, librarians and caregivers alike will relish the opportunity to share this beautiful example of early cultural literacy and artwork.

Highly recommended for little people from birth to prep age

 

My Culture and Me – Gregg Dreise

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Penguin

May 2019

ISBN: 9780143789376

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $24.99

Gregg’s first picture books were contemporary styled versions of traditional stories told to him by his family and elders. They were beautiful, joyous and hugely popular with my readers.

This latest diverges a little but is a glorious celebration of First Australian culture. As readers of this blog are well aware by now, my girls and grandies are Wiradjuri people. This Friday Miss K will play a significant role in her school’s belated NAIDOC celebration and of course I will go to my school late so I can see it! Her mum would be so proud of this deadly young woman – as indeed am I.

In this vibrantly illustrated and lyrically written book Gregg explores and elucidates beautiful highlights of Indigenous culture – a ‘call to arms’ almost for all Australians, whether Indigenous or not, to admire the affinity with country and culture held dear by First Australians.

I particularly love the subtle (or maybe not) inclusion of Gregg himself in the illustrations, a proud Kamilaroi and Euahlayi man, who through his artistry and performance brings the ‘culture, unity and wisdom’ to his audiences.

Having had the privilege of seeing Gregg present to our younger students in 2017 I can thoroughly endorse not only his entertaining and informative presentations but his beautiful and generous spirit.

Highly recommended to all who are looking for special books of inclusion.

Wilam [a Birrarung Story] – Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly with illustrations by Lisa Kennedy

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Walker Books

April 2019

ISBN: 9781925381764
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

For the many readers who loved Welcome to Country and those who are committed to developing a quality collection of First Australian resources, this is a superb addition to your shelves.

The text along with the richly detailed illustrations offers readers a glimpse of one day in the life of the Birrarung (Yarra) river. The many beautiful renditions and mentions of native flora and fauna that inhabit the river’s environs create a vivid and colourful experience for the reader. The inclusion of many words in language (clearly elucidated both in meaning and pronunciation in a glossary) does not hinder the natural flow of the words but rather makes it all the more lyrical.

I cannot emphasise enough how this picture book simply bursts with life and the complete affinity with country that is held close by our First Australians. As some of you know my own family are proud Wiradjuri people and my daughters are very committed to raising the grandchildren with pride in their heritage. This does not preclude the sharing of other language groups’ culture and country. Promoting the understanding between our cultures is paramount to developing the much-needed empathy and acceptance we hope to grow in our young people.

Highly recommended for all readers from prep upwards.

The Middle of Nowhere [Usborne Modern Classics] – Geraldine McCaughrean

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Harper Collins

October 2018

ISBN: 9781409570516

ISBN 10: 1409570517

Imprint: Usborne – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

Rarely have I read a book which so captures the Australian landscape, isolation and the deep abiding racism of times gone past which has been written by a non-Australian but this is superb. Taut, thrilling and anxiety-making the narrative follows the friendship of young Comity, daughter of the district telegrapher and Fred, Aboriginal yard boy, and their persecution by a sadistic and depraved assistant to the telegraph station. After Comity’s mother dies from snake bite, Comity is left to fend for herself, keep intrusive relatives at bay via long distance and try to manage house and the duties of the station as her father withdraws deeper and deeper into depression.

Comity has grown up with Fred whom she considers her best friend. He teaches her about the country, the spirits and survival while she teaches him reading and ‘whitefella’ ways. When cruel assistant Quartz Hogg arrives he quickly sums up the situation with Comity’s ineffectual father and sets about usurping his authority, turning his employees against him, setting up an illegal still and worst of all victimising Fred.

When all pretence of compliance breaks down between Hogg and his supervisor, Comity’s father is locked in the despatch room while his assistant and the other hands begin a drunken spree which ends in Fred being hunted like an animal into the wilderness. Comity is desperate to save him and has to rely on the ‘ghans, who are also despised by the white people, to help  both of them.

This is not a novel for sensitive young readers but it is an insightful and beautifully written exploration of grief, loneliness, self-reliance, courage as well as the cruelty and prejudices of some humans.

I would recommend it for astute readers from around 12 years upwards – I really enjoyed it very much.

 

Black Cockatoo – Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler

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Magabala Books

 

Published: Jul 2018

 

ISBN: 9781925360707

RRP: $11.99

A beautiful novella that explores a coming-of-age experience for a young Aboriginal girl in the remote Kimberley region.

Mia is distressed at the increasing distance her brother is putting between himself and family. The growing turbulence within her family is hard for a 13 year old to contend with but the day she find an injured dirran (black cockatoo), her own totem animal is the start to an acceptance of the situation for her.

As she cares for the bird she begins to comprehend the wisdom of her elders around being true to oneself and one’s culture, resilience and inner strength. When Mia finally is able to release the beautiful bird she realises that she can indeed stand up for herself and weather the storms.

A short but powerful read that I would highly recommend for readers from around 12 years upwards.

Inheritance – Carole Wilkinson

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650360
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

Carole Wilkinson has created a superbly plausible narrative which realistically weaves historic realism from Australia’s past from the perspective of both First Australians and early white settlers putting an ugly side to the beginnings of our modern nation in full view. For too long much of this history has been ignored or whitewashed (pun intended) in order to placate a national consciousness.

Fourteen year old Nic (Veronica) has been left in the care of her taciturn grandfather in the old family homestead out in the country. Her mother, whom Nic lost when she was born, grew up here and Nic longs to find out more about her. She also wonders why the once grandiose sprawling homestead has become so rundown and neglected and so finds more than one mystery to solve.  Her start at a new school is not very encouraging but she at least can assimilate into the ‘loners’ group. Most especially disturbing for her is the instant antipathy from Thor, another loner, whose grievance against her seems to be solely based upon her family name.

While Nic discovers a strange gift inherited from her Scottish female side – the ability to time travel – and begins to unravel secrets about her pioneering family, Thor is trying to find evidence of a truth he knows to be so with regards to the tragedy of his own people, the Djargurd wurrung, original occupiers of the area.

After their inauspicious start Nic and Thor end up joining forces to uncover the truth of their own family histories and a start to reconciliation though not without many disconcerting discoveries, including the real story of Nic’s mother.

For those who have not read Bruce Pascoe’s excellent book Dark Emu there will be much to learn here about largely unknown First Australian culture, settlements and agriculture. The oft-repeated stereotyping of the ‘hunter/gatherer/nomadic’ society who did nothing to entitle them keeping their land is thoroughly de-bunked – a falsehood perpetuated as some kind of justification for the dispossession of our indigenous peoples.  For those who are not aware of the heinous actions of some early settlers, there will also be disturbing revelations about the conduct of some of those often held up as examples of founders of white settlements.

Young readers may well be dismayed to find out such history but it is important to know if we, as a nation, are to move forward with the gathering momentum towards full recognition and reconciliation. It has already taken too long and many older people would prefer to ignore the truth so it is essential that our youth know the real facts.  Historical fiction such as this, based squarely on actual events, goes a long way towards this.

I highly recommend this book to readers from Upper Primary upwards and think it is a valuable addition to a ‘read around your topic’ for students of history.

 

Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases – Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781921977015
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Release Date: June 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

For many of us, especially those of us who have First Australian family connections, there are certain words and phrases with which we are already familiar: “Aunty, Uncle, sorry business, deadly, women’s business, marngrook, dreamtime, Elders, songlines. “

Also for many there is no real understanding of these and hence Nganga will be a most valuable reference book not just for schools but for anyone with a genuine wish to embrace more of our First Australian culture.

Arranged like a dictionary this includes not only Indigenous language but terms that relate to the understanding of the culture, country and peoples. It is a well-considered and readily digested information source for all Australians.

As the mother and grandmother of proud Wiradjuri children it gives me the greatest pleasure to recommend this to you either for your school collection, as an integral part of your cross-cultural studies, or your own edification.

Aunty Fay Muir  and Sue Lawson   have collaborated to provide a concise and authoritative cultural treasure which will be an educational ‘must have’.

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My Wiradjuri girl doing her thing at the NAIDOC assembly two years ago on behalf of herself and her beautiful mum, now with her ancestors.

Our Birds: Ŋilimurruŋgu Wäyin Malanynha – Siena Stubbs  

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Magabala Books

      Published:Apr 2018

      ISBN:9781925360981

RRP: $17.99

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Young Yolgnu woman Siena Stubbs was just twelve years old when her interest in photography began. At first taking pictures with her iPad she later began more serious photography after the gift of a camera.

 

It wasn’t long at all before her beautiful work found its place in this delightful gift book filled with the glorious birdlife of Siena’s homeland in North-East Arnhem Land.

 

Each species captured on film has both its Yolgnu name and the English equivalent listed along with a lively description and explanation from Siena. As well each species is faced on its opposite page with stunning photos of the spectacular Arnhem Land landscapes.

 

Truly a work of love and art and a splendid gift to share with those who have a desire to explore our sensational Australian wildlife and country, this is a testament to the passion and talent of one young girl.

Read more about Siena here and watch a NITV interview with her here.

 

Alfred’s War – Rachel Bin Salleh/Samantha Fry

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Magabala Books

April 2018

ISBN: 9781925360608

RRP $19.99

The Australian War Memorial archives suggest that between 1 000 and 1 300 Indigenous men and women served during World War 1 (just as an unknown number had volunteered for the Boer War earlier in the century) despite not even being accorded as citizens of their own country. For the most part their service, actions and heroism have been largely ignored and conveniently forgotten during the past hundred plus years. It is apparent that at least 70 Indigenous soldiers took part in the doomed Gallipoli campaign with at least 13 having died there, these statistics having only been confirmed during the past two years. As well as the general lack of recognition for anything achieved by First Australians, certainly a great difficulty was the lack of detail of Aboriginality included on military records (for the most part).  Be that as it may, the evidence is clear. There were a significant number of First Australians serving the country that despised, who were paid and treated with equity during this service, and then subsequently relegated back to inferior status on their return. Another shameful episode in our combined history.

Afred’s War is a poignant and powerful tribute to these forgotten war veterans. The reader follows Alfred’s wanderings around the country and his participation on the fringes of ANZAC Day commemorations. There’s been no returned soldier’s settlement land for this digger, nor support for a permanent disability arising from his wounds. Instead he’s chosen a solitary life walking the dusty back roads with his swag and billy, picking up work where and when he can.

Yet his contribution to the war effort and his loyalty to his country was just as valuable as any other soldier, despite his country’s rejection even denial of his and his peoples’ basic human rights.

The book is simply written but is just as effective for all that and an exceptional way to introduce a discussion on human rights, citizenship, First Australian history as well as the Indigenous contribution to the Great War.

Teaching notes can be found here.

 

Highly recommended for your collection as an important addition for ANZAC and Remembrance Day.

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Queenslander, Douglas Grant, arguably WW1’s most well-known Indigenous veteran.

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