Bi-lingual books by and for kids from the Torres Strait

Bi-lingual books by and for kids from the Torres Strait

Tina Raye and Leonie Short from our team have just returned from a groundbreaking field trip to remote Boigu, Saibai and Dauan islands, which are so far north in the Torres Strait, you can see Papua New Guinea from them!

With the aim of creating books in Kalaw Kawaw Ya (aka KKY) for children in the islands, and supporting the traditional languages strategy developed by Islanders, Tina and Leonie joined up with ILF Board member Leitha Assan and Ella Kris from the Torres Strait Island Regional Council to set up a series of story-writing workshops.

“Leitha’s involvement was critical, “ says Tina. “She’s such a huge advocate for language maintenance and revival. And Ella is so passionate about storytelling.”

Over several days, groups of students brainstormed storylines that captured their day-to-day lives. On Boigu Island, the kids came up with Swimming in the Rain, triggered by the heavy downfalls that turn everything slushy and muddy, and the games they have invented to make the most of the rainy season. A second book, Helping Aka (grandmother), reflects the huge respect these youngsters have for their elders.

The Saibai Island students came up with a narrative about two characters, Sissy (sister) and Bala (brother), who are madly excited by a visit to their community from the famous Islander dance troupe.

A few days later, students on Dauan Island developed a story about how Easter Sunday is celebrated in their remote community.

“A lot of cultural perspectives have come out in this story,” says Leonie.

Meanwhile, some younger kids worked on a board book for pre-schoolers based on colours.

All five books will be published in two versions – one in Kalaw Kawaw Ya, the other bi-lingual, with an English translation – and will be gifted to Islander families as well as to other Indigenous communities through our Book Supply program.

The massive support from the Torres Strait communities and school principals was critical to the success of this field trip.

“And the books wouldn’t have happened without Leitha and Ella,” says Leonie. “It was a real privilege to work with them.”


Read more here.


  • Posted 30 May, 2019

Sign Up