Nhulunbuy kids write groundbreaking new book in Yolgnu Matha

Nhulunbuy kids write groundbreaking new book in Yolgnu Matha

One of our ambassadors, illustrator Ann James, and Tina Raye and Nicole Whiles from our team have just returned from Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land. Their trip was dual purpose: to conduct writing workshops with a group of kids from Nhulunbuy Primary School and to boost our Book Buzz progam in local playgroups.

Late last year, Ann, along with ILF Progam Coordinator, Cindy Manfong and Ann Haddon from Books Illustrated, spent a week at the school on the Gove Peninsula. The kids produced some beautiful illustrations for a book reflecting their life by the sea.

“They are coastal people, and what these students drew just blew me away,” says Tina, our Program Manager.

Over a week, this group of talented 7- to 12-year-olds developed a story, using their artworks as the springboard for this second burst of creativity.

Ann enlarged the students’ illustrations onto large sheets of paper and tacked them onto the long wall of the school’s biggest classroom, to jog memories and provide additional inspiration.

“It was like a long frieze, 21 metres long. The kids were totally amazed seeing their drawings like that. And so big! There was lots of chatter, a great deal of excitement,” said Tina.

English is not the first language for these youngsters who mostly come from the outlying communities of Wallaby Beach and Ski Beach (Gunyangara), 10 and 15 kilometres west of the town of Nhulunbuy respectively. They speak Yolgnu Matha at home and among themselves, although in the classroom all lessons are in English. A local Yolgnu woman, Lisa Dhurrkay translated so all the story telling could take place in the kids’ first language.

“This was very important,” Tina explains. “The kids understand English but are most confident when speaking Yolgnu Matha.”

The finished book will be produced in two versions. One will be in Yolgnu Matha and will be gifted to communities and schools like Nhulunbuy and Yirrkala where Yolngu Matha is the students’ first language. The other will be mostly in English, with some Yolgnu Matha words. It will be distributed to remote Indigenous communities, schools and organisations across Australia through our Book Supply program, and will also be available for sale in 2019 at selected bookshops and on the ILF website. 

While in Nhulunbuy, Nicole (our Early Literacy Supervisor) also visited FaFT programs (Families as First Teachers) in the NT at Ski Beach (Gunyangara) and at Yirrkala. She had a great time meeting families and their children and talking about the Book Buzz program.

“The mothers were very excited about the prospect of having some of the picture and board books we supply translated into their own language. And they love being involved in choosing the books [from our catalogue] to use in their playgroups,” said Nicole. 

Meanwhile, the designer Lee Burgemeestre, is laying out the pages with Ann James and Ann Haddon and tweaking the design of the Nhulunbuy Primary students’ book. Soon Lisa will be back at the school helping the kids with a final check of their text before the book goes to print, ready to be launched some time in 2019. We can’t wait to see it!

  • Posted 24 August, 2018

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