Have you heard? A new bilingual children's book - 'Muwinina Country' has just been released!

Have you heard? A new bilingual children's book - 'Muwinina Country' has just been released!

Photographer: Jillian Mundy

Luana Towney lives on truwana, or Cape Barren Island, a small Aboriginal Community off the north coast of Tasmania.

Her new children’s book Muwinina Country is a family-friendly, bilingual book about the first contact of Tasmanian Aboriginal people and settlers in nipaluna or Hobart.

Ella, ILF’s Marketing Assistant, was lucky enough to have a yarn with Luana to learn more about her debut book.

Luana Towney's children book 'Muwinina Country'

Ella - “This year is the first year of UNESCO’s Decade of Indigenous Languages. What does it mean to you, to preserve your language in a book?

Luana - “It is really empowering to be able to learn our language.

So much was taken when the invaders came and colonised lutruwita, or Tasmania, and lots of people were not allowed to speak language. And, of course, lots of our people died as well. So, lots of our language was lost.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) palawa kani program has been working really hard for the last 30 years to research and reconstruct palawa kani. palawa kani is the language of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

To be able to learn my language and my culture is really special and empowering. Also to be able to teach my children, that makes me feel really proud. Then to be able to share that with the wider community, and let them know about our language. It is a really amazing feeling.”

Ella - “Have you been speaking palawa kani your whole life? What has the process of speaking language been like for you?”

Luana - “I grew up speaking language. My mum was one of the people who first started researching our language, and I went to the Aboriginal Children’s Centre when I was a little kid for the school holidays. They were really great at teaching all the Aboriginal children that went there their language. So I was fortunate enough to be a kid who was growing up learning language.”

Ella - “That is amazing. And now you get to pass that on to your Community. Do most people speak palawa kani in your Community?”

Luana - “Lots of people don’t know palawa kani, don’t know our language. But, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) Language Program does good work. They release books and go around to communities all around Tasmania and hold language groups. Community members are welcome to go and learn their language and make it fun. We try to speak it as much as possible. They try and make it an everyday thing to use our words.”

Ella - “I didn’t know that much about palawa kani as a language until I heard about your book.

There is a lot of misinformation about the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. It was widely believed that the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person had died, which is completely incorrect.”

Luana - “Lots of people grew up learning that Truganini was the last Tasmanian Aboriginal person and when she died, our people died. But obviously, that is not true. People are learning more about us, we are a lot stronger, and we are telling people ‘Yes we are here!’”

Ella - “Your recent ABC interview was all over the country, so people will see that which is great. How long have you been working on the book?”

Luana - “The book was part of a program called ‘ngayapi niyakara’ which is palawa kani for ‘Born to Dream’.

This was a partnership between the Hobart City Council and the TAC for a Tasmanian Aboriginal person to do a public art installation, in 2019. I wrote a walking story called ‘Muwinina Country’.

There were five panels, so you start at the beginning and read the first panel and you would walk down a bit further and find the next panel and you would read that. And it was all the way down the Hobart Rivulet. That was the main project, and everyone just loved it!

Luana's art installation, ‘ngayapi niyakara'. Photographer: Jillian Mundy.

We had so many positive reviews, and someone asked ‘why don’t you turn it into a book?’ And we thought - that is a great idea!

So it has been in the woodwork for a couple of years, and we finally finished the book last month.”

Ella - “I know Muwinina Country has just been released recently, but has it been well received so far?”

Luana - “It has been well received and, even though it has only been out for a little while, we have already sold a quarter of the books that we had for sale! So, hopefully after we have done some more advertising we can sell even more.

When we had the ABC interview we sold about 10 that morning! I think the more people know about it, the more people can enjoy it and hopefully tell other people.”

Ella - “Did you encounter many difficulties or barriers in the creation of the book?”

Luana - “Not really! It was pretty straightforward, and we had a great team.

Constance A.R.I did the project, they were just amazing and helped so much. And Caleb Nicholas-Mansell from Blackspace Creative did the graphics. He was so fantastic and made the book look fabulous! And then, [my daughter] Jamaya was awesome with her drawings.

So I don’t think we have had any barriers, only really positive things. The printers we used were local printers called Focal Printing, and they donated really good quality paper for the book. If it wasn’t for them the book would have been on lesser quality paper. That just topped everything off even more.”

Ella - “I was going to ask about your daughter because she helped you with the illustrations and that was so meaningful to you both.”

Luana and her daughter Jamaya at the ‘ngayapi niyakara' exhibit. Photographer: Jillian Mundy.

Luana - “Yeah! So I am an artist and I do lots of paintings and I write, but I thought, what a great opportunity for my daughter to start being creative in her own right. I asked her if she would like to do some drawings for the book and she said yes.

We gave her a big art pad and some pencils and she read the book and came up with the picture ideas all by herself! I think they fit really well with the book.”

Ella - “We do that as well at the ILF. Often local kids illustrate books that are written by their Community and available to other remote Communities. It seems that kids love seeing illustrations by other kids.”

Luana - “I think it is great for kids to see this and think ‘other kids can do this so I can do this too.’ Now some of my other kids are asking me to do another book with their drawings too!

And lots of remote Communities miss out on so much, so it is so good to see that there are opportunities for kids to do really cool things like this.”

Ella - “What was the translation process like in terms of collaboration. Was it just the TAC Language Program that you collaborated with or were there other local Elders and Community members you worked with throughout?”

Luana - “The partnership with the ‘ngayapi niyakara’ was through Constance A.R.I, the Hobart City Council and TAC.

The TAC Language Program is the only group that provides language to the Community. They have made some palawa kani dictionaries and they run all the language groups and things.

Through them and all their staff, we received assistance with language and correct word order. There is a certain way that you say things that is very different from English.

But I also talked to [TAC] about the story and the message in the story and got some guidance on the way we wanted things to sound.

We are lucky we have a dedicated Language Program. We, [palawa kani speakers], can go to them and ask them all the questions and they can answer everything.

It was also important to get permission from them to share the language with the wider community because we are still learning it so we don’t actually share it as much yet.

We are starting to share language more now with dual naming and things like that. But for a very long time, it was only Tasmanian Aboriginal people that were allowed to learn our language.

We are very lucky that now we are able to share it a bit more!”

Photographer: Jillian Mundy.

Luana Towney first heard about the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) when we gifted Book Supply packs books to the local school on truwana in 2017.

When Luana started working on her new book, she thought about what she wanted to do with the donations.

Incredibly, Luana is donating every cent of her profits to the ILF and to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC). We are so grateful for her generous donation and wish Luana and her team every success with the book.

You can purchase the book here.

  • Posted 10 March, 2022

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