Celebrate our history in The Legends of Moonie Jarl
Written by Glen Miller, 26 May
My name is Glen Miller, I am a Board Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a descendant of the Butchulla people of the Fraser coast. Today we acknowledge the 10th anniversary of National Sorry Day, a milestone in Australia's history. This National Day of Healing is at the heart of our steps towards reconciliation. Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and we reflect on this year's theme: 'LEARN, SHARE, GROW – DON'T KEEP HISTORY A MYSTERY'. Here, we are invited to explore our past as a country; learn, share and acknowledge the rich histories and cultures of the First Australians; and develop a deeper understanding of our national story.
Today I would like to share a story that is thousands of years old, that has been passed on from one generation to the next, and nearly came to be lost.
For many thousands of years the Butchulla people have been travelling between Queensland’s K’Gari (Fraser Island) and the mainland; catching winter mullet in stone fish traps set along Hervey Bay and trading with the mob up around the Bunya mountains. There are three laws that the Butchulla people live by: 1) What's best for the land comes first, 2) If you have plenty, you must share, and 3) Do not touch or take anything that does not belong to you.
While these were the laws that were taught to the children, they were also told stories that describe the origin of the land: The Legends of Moonie Jarl. These stories tell how the wallaby got its pouch, how the boomerang was invented, and how the little firebird came to have that bright scarlet spot on its back. These stories were told to me as a boy by my uncle Wilfy in the The Legends of Moonie Jarl. The year was 1964 and it was the first Aboriginal children’s book published and authored by Aboriginal people.
Three years after its publication, Indigenous people were finally recognised as Australian citizens and 50 years on the stories continue to be shared among the Butchulla people. In 2014, our Foundation re-published The Legends of Moonie Jarl so now the stories are available to share with all Australian children.
A book isn't just for reading; it's more powerful than the information it provides. Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to look at the truths that need to be told and celebrate our stories. This National Reconciliation Week I invite you to learn and share these rich histories and cultures of Indigenous people, and develop a deeper understanding of our national story. Please support the work of our Foundation by purchasing a copy of The Legends of Moonie Jarl or making a donation.
ILF Board Director