Women at the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u Centre Create Books to Preserve Language

Women at the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u Centre Create Books to Preserve Language

Women from Fitzroy Crossing have written and illustrated four bright, fun and bilingual children’s books that will help to preserve their First Nations Languages and also share a snapshot of life in a remote Community.

Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre runs the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u Centre which includes the Early Childhood Learning Unit (ECLU) and Children and Parent Centre (CPC) in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia. 

Published by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), there are three board books for babies and toddlers and a picture book aimed at older children. 

Baya Gawiy facilitated a workshop with local women working with ILF Lifetime Ambassador Alison Lester, children’s author Jane Godwin and designer Lee Burgemeestre.

Patricia Cox, author of Mayarda (Pelicans), says, “We’re making books and songs for the little kids to learn, but the words we put in place have a lot of meaning. They tell about caring for Country and having respect for your environment. Our books and songs are all about strengthening, and that’s empowering for us. We get empowered, you know, through the words and the songs.”

Dr Gillian Howell with Delphine Shandley and Patricia Cox

June Nixon, author and illustrator of Kurrartuwarnti (Brolgas) and Jirntipirriny jaa Lamparn Parri (Willy Wagtail and the Little Boy), says, “I learned to speak Walmajarri when I was small, from my old people.”

“I learned all the stories, and about going hunting. I started doing books in Yakanarra School and Bayulu School, teaching the kids, singing the songs in Walmajarri, and then I came here to work at Baya Gawiy a couple of years back, and I started to do my own books here at Baya Gawiy.”

“And it’s good to teach all the little ones from when they’re little, growing up, to learn their language.”

ILF Ambassadors will often work alongside Community members to support them in the creation of a book. Alison Lester is a dedicated ILF Lifetime Ambassador who has helped produce books with Communities throughout the country. 

“I have such happy memories of working at Baya Gawiy in 2022,” says Alison.  

“Janie, Lee and I were flat out keeping up with the group of women who were already well on the way with their books by the time we arrived. The publication of Purlka ngamaji Kakaji (Big Fat Mummy Goanna) written and illustrated by Emma Bear, and Jarrampa (Yabbies) written by Marshia Cook the year before had shown everybody just how lovely the books could be, with support from the ILF.”

Mayarda (Pelicans)

Mayarda (Pelicans) written by Patricia Cox and illustrated by Delphine Shandley, is a playful song book that teaches you how to count in Gooniyandi. The song was composed in collaboration with Dr Gillian Howell from The University of Melbourne as part of Perth based Cultural Tura’s ongoing Sound FX program in Fitzroy Crossing. 

Dr Gillian Howell says “Working with the Baya Gawiy educators to turn their stories into songs is such a joy and a privilege!”

“Mayarda was one of the first songs we wrote together. The Baya Gawiy team have a saying, that the more you tell a story, the stronger the story becomes. Turning songs into books and books into songs is one of the ways that these women tell and retell their many stories, keeping language and cultural knowledge strong for future generations.”

Delphine Shandley, Author and Illustrator of Manyi Nganyjaali and Illustrator of Mayarda

Manyi Nganyjaali (Bush Tomatoes)

Manyi Nganyjaali (Bush Tomatoes), written and illustrated by Delphine Shandley, is also written in Gooniyandi and English. It is a snapshot of daily Community life as three cousins head out in a red car, searching for a feed of juicy bush tomatoes. 

Designer Lee Burgemeestre says, “Delphine's illustrations had this fabulous little red car with her sisters in it off on a road trip to find bush tomatoes. You could really feel them bouncing along.” 

Kurrartuwarnti (Brolgas)

Kurrartuwarnti (Brolgas) written and illustrated by June Nixon in Walmajarri and English follows a family of Brolgas nesting in the long grass in the wet season. They search for food, look after their eggs and dance together.

"The books and the songs we make help our young people to learn their language and their culture by hearing it every day through songs and stories about the land. It shows them the way to do their stories for the next generation," says June.

"If my old people were here now, they’d be so proud to see the little ones grow and to carry it on, and carry the knowledge from them in their hearts.”


June Nixon, Author and Illustrator of Kurrartuwarnti (Brolgas) and Jirntipirriny jaa Lamparn Parri (Willy Wagtail and the Little Boy)

Jirntipirriny jaa Lamparn Parri (Willy Wagtail and the Little Boy)

June’s second book, also written in Walmajarri and English, Jirntipirriny jaa Lamparn Parri (Willy Wagtail and the Little Boy) is about a little boy and his family out looking for bush berries. The boy wanders off on his own, following the calls of a willy wagtail. Aimed at older readers, the story emphasises the importance of family and belonging.

These gorgeous books will be gifted back to the Community for use in playgroups and in the home. 

The four books are also available commercially so that readers can learn words in Walmajarri and Gooniyandi and learn about life in a remote Indigenous Community. 

“It was a privilege to be alongside these strong, creative women on their picture book journeys,” says children’s author Jane Godwin. 

You can purchase these books now, via the ILF shop.

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  • Posted 15 April, 2024

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