Somebody’s Land: Welcome to Our Country
A & U Children’s, 2021
24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
When the white people came,
they called the land
They said it was nobody’s land.
But it was somebody’s land.
Every day across Australia, young people will say and hear the Acknowledgement of Country recognising the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the land on which they are living, learning or playing. But what does that Acknowledgement actually mean? Is it just a recitation made almost meaningless by repetition, said without a lot of thought? Or is there a deeper understanding that has come from really considering the words and phrases? Who are those Elders, “past, present and emerging” that we pay homage to and why do we do that?
In this beautifully illustrated book, the creators seek to show that despite what Captain Cook and his colleagues thought about it being “nobody’s land” it was, indeed “somebody’s land” and that the culture and connections to it by the First Nations peoples stems back tens of thousands of years, allowing them to celebrate their ancient sovereignty.
Each double-page spread begins with the same sentence, “For thousands and thousands of years, Aboriginal people lived in the land we now call Australia’ and then through both easily accessible text and vibrant illustrations shows how the land nurtured and supported them and how they, in turn, connected to and cared for it, clearly showing the fallacy of Terra Nullius, which is also repeated on each page. Thus young readers can begin to not only understand the concept and context of the words but appreciate the depth of their meaning. That despite it appearing vast and empty, it has always been somebody’s land. By showing how and why the First Nations people have such a respect for and relationship with Country, it is the beginnings of a bridge between the upcoming generation led by the present and emerging Elders so that they can walk with the First Nations people “in a movement of the Australian people for a better future” – a bridge that will span four more additions to the series. And to assist teachers, parents and carers, the publisher’s page has extensive teaching notes.
“It was Aboriginal Land. It is Aboriginal Land. And always will be Aboriginal Land.”