Wanytjatja Spotnga? - New eBook in language by Karen Williams, ILF Executive Director
Four of us pile into a Cherokee caravan, leaving Alice Spring at dawn. The sun rises over the most magnificent country, 2000 kilometers or so from our destination. On the morning mail-plane we fly over caterpillar ranges, sparkling crystal white salt lakes and flat red earth. The country is mapped into rich forms and shapes, like desert art.
We think we are the lucky ones when we spy two rainbows but then we're engulfed by wispy cloud. From Alice Springs to Docker, we stopped for two troopies to pick up their mail and an engineer. Then to Patjarra, home to 15 residents, and Tjirrkarli.
Finally we spot Warburton. We are smoothly, safely delivered and immediately gifted two hours as we're now in another time zone. In 24 hours we’ve travelled just over 3,000 kilometers. In 48 hours, one of us has travelled from London to Sydney to Alice Springs to Warburton. We're amazed by how he’s taken the journey in his stride. Later we discover he’s from Nigeria and this is like a second homecoming.
Seven years earlier, our then partners, The Fred Hollows Foundation, drove into Warburton community with a load of books and an author named Andy Griffiths. Those were very early days for ILF in this remote WA community. Anne Shinkfield, the early Literacy Facilitator for Warburton Playgroup, had read about Book Buzz in the Kalgoorlie Miner and phoned us. Their playgroup needed resources – and especially it needed resources in the community's Homeland language, Ngaanyatjarra.
Lisa Woodland, one of the educational team at Pearson Australia, is travelling with us. She worked with ILF to pilot the project known as Wanytjatja Spotnga? (Where’s Spot?). Winning Pearson’s Global Literacy Challenge international grant was just one initial and comparatively minor hurdle. Over the next 18 months, the real challenge lay in creating a meaningful literacy tool for non-English speaking children and families who had extremely limited access to 21st century technology.
As the project progressed, all kinds of potential black holes threatened its success. But the mutual collaboration, determination and persistence of a number of organisations working together through our Foundation, and with the community in Warburton, meant that there would be deliverance.
If that sounds dramatic, think of it this way: a story from the 21st century brought alive in a 60,000 year old language for babies and toddlers living in a remote community that is still largely living traditionally. The logistics included the coordination of the London-based rights and programming teams (spearheaded by Koko Ekong at Penguin Random House), an IT person at Warburton Playgroup testing android devices and Penguin Random House Australia’s IT service team.
Once the concepts were brought to life, there was still much more to do. A local elder, Beryl Jennings translated and recorded the story from English into Ngaanyatjarra. In Sydney, ABC’s Playschool star and ILF ambassador, Justine Clarke read the story in English, page by page, till Spot the puppy was finally, safely, found.
Last Wednesday was launch day at the Warburton playgroup. Beryl Jennings spoke in Ngaanyatjarra to the families of the community and the visiting teams from ILF, Penguin and Pearson. She could have said "This is for our children.' Or, 'At last. Our language for our children.' The sentiment was not lost in translation, our mob were bringing the gift of a 21st century literacy tool to 40 families and children, in an amazing part of remote Australia, and it was in their home language.
Wanytjatja Spotnga? is a ground-breaking interactive eBook of Eric Hill’s classic Where’s Spot? in both Ngaanyatjarra and English, made for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s early literacy program, Book Buzz. It was made in collaboration with Warburton Playgroup and local elder, Beryl Jennings; ILF ambassador Justine Clarke, Pearson Australia; and Penguin Random House.