An exciting new songbook from Spinifex Country

An exciting new songbook from Spinifex Country

Cheeky dogs, a pop-up bookshop and a “wok off” were among the highlights of a weeklong writing camp in a remote community near the WA–SA border.

The first week of spring brought a veritable buzz of creative activity to a remote Aboriginal community 700 kilometers north-east of Kalgoorlie, WA near the SA border. Nine students from three schools – Tjuntjuntjtara, Menzies and Laverton – spent five days at the Spinifex Writing Camp, developing the lyrics and illustrations for a new songbook.

Working with these talented kids were children’s book illustrator and ILF ambassador Ann James, musician Chris Aitken and Nicole Whiles from our Sydney-based team. Over several jam-packed days of enthusiastic singing, word experimentation, and some changing of lines and rhymes, the text for the songbook firmed up. Each song reflects aspects of the kids’ experiences of life in Spinifex Country.

“Ace and Shorty” is about two besties – one tall and one short – who each have a cheeky dog. Enter the very naughty, always mischievous Monster and Titch!

“The Thing” is more poignant, concerning a lonely imagined creature in search of a friend, while “Hello, Hello” captures the sometimes unnerving feeling of not quite knowing what those mysterious noises out in the bush might be.

“What is out there? We just don’t know,” recites Nicole.

The now bi-annual Spinifex Writing Camp aims to promote reading and improve literacy skills, as well as boosting confidence and engaging kids in a community-based writing and publishing initiative. While mornings were devoted to the words, each afternoon saw the students creating the artworks for the songbook – in charcoal, pastels, and using paper clay models of characters against painted backgrounds.

“They were so keen they worked right up until dinner time each night,” says Nicole. “And even the younger Tjuntjuntjara kids joined in. We couldn’t keep them away! It was really good to see.”

To add to the excitement, Indigenous Literacy Day fell in the middle of the week. WA Minister of Education Sue Ellery flew in from Perth and joined in the event, the first time ILD has been celebrated in a remote community. Each of the 33 Tjuntjuntjara students, as well as the visitors from Menzies and Laverton, chose a gifted book to take home from the pop-up bookshop Nicole set up. A “wok off” cooking challenge, overseen by school principal Charlie Klein and his wife Tilly, concluded the day.

Ann, Chris and the ILF Program Team are currently compiling all the material produced during the Spinifex Writing Camp. The songbook will be published by our Foundation in 2019 through our Community Literacy Project. The songs are bound to be instant hits in Tjuntjuntjara, Menzies and Laverton where these budding songwriters and illustrators hail from.


  • Posted 28 September, 2018

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