Jacinta Daniher & Taylor Hampton
Ford Street, 2023
32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.95
If you look at the AIATSIS indigenous map of Australia it is obvious that the Australia of our First Nations people ” is made up of many different and distinct groups, each with their own culture, customs, language and laws” and thus it is clearly rich in diversity and difference. Or is it?
In this beautifully illustrated book for younger readers, each double-page spread is devoted to a proud Aboriginal kid from a number of countries, each sharing the word for ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’ in their own language as well as something that they really like to do. But what struck me was that although the words might be different, the sentiments were the same – the connection to and concern for Country, the sharing of favourite activities with family members and the similarities among the activities themselves. From watching the stars at night to collecting the treasures of the sea; from the collection of food and preparing and sharing it – all are based on meeting everyday human needs and all offer the connection with family and friends that humans need. The words might be different, the stories that accompany them varied, and the actual activity unique to the circumstance but there is a common thread of childhood joys and human needs that weaves everyone together, regardless of their origin and ancestry.
So while the richness and diversity of indigenous culture is celebrated, IMO its power lies in the realisation of the similarities that connect us all regardless of race. religion, location, timeframe or any of the other constraints that might appear to be impediments . Targeted at those “aged 3 to 8 years”, it could form part of a bigger investigation into identifying what are our basic needs as humans – to love and belong, to be powerful, to be free, to have fun and to survive – and then compare and contrast these to how they are met by the children in the class and the children in the book. The teachers’ notes offer some ideas for exploring this, such as Lylah’s aunty making bush bread, but there is scope in every page for students to connect the text to themselves and the world. For example, Eli is a proud Aboriginal kid from Gamilaraay Country and he likes to look at the stars with his uncle and hear the stories associated with them, such as the emu in the sky. But other students might see the Southern Cross or other star patterns of the southern sky, while some may have been more familiar with the northern hemisphere, opening up scope for investigations on many levels.
The potential of this book to permeate so much of the curriculum beyond its initial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures makes it an essential part the collection.