Have you had a chance to explore the Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource? This extensive database, hosted on the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NSACL) is the focus of this week’s post. Belle Alderman, a Director of the Centre shares insights into the development of this significant resource.
The Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment provided a grant to the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) in 2020. They tasked the NCACL with creating a database of children’s books by and about Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples aimed at teachers and others interested.
Associate Professor Robert Sommerville AM, Martu Aboriginal man from WA, an educator and academic at Edith Cowan University, described this resource as ‘first class’ advising:
‘The resource will be a bonus for educators and caregivers alike. Educators are not only provided with numerous titles to be explored but also a host of support features that will certainly enhance the educative process. These features include links to national curriculum and the EYLF, teaching resources such that the book can be used as an anchor point for topics as diverse as ANZAC Day to Dreaming stories, as well as handy summaries pertaining to the author and in most cases the illustrator. As a planning tool it really does enable the embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content into everyday teaching. For parents it provides easy access to a range of exciting Titles that reflect contemporary Australian society.’
The NCACL developed quality assurance methods. A Reference Group, Critical Friends and 18 culturally diverse, experienced and knowledgeable people across Australia participated. This strategy ensured various perspectives, including those of First Nations People.
Extreme challenges beset this project, including bushfires and COVID lockdowns but the highly committed individuals persevered in spite of libraries closing, family lockdowns, tight deadlines and challenging technology. They collectively created a unique and much needed resource. Every resource was researched, reviewed and moderated to ensure a respectful, high quality collection. First Nations Critical Friends reviewed and advised throughout.
By February 2022, the NCACL’s database featured 525 titles. Books continue to be added. The last two years reveal a remarkable growth in publications in this area from both specialist and mainstream publishers. For example, 55 books published in this area since 2020 have been added to the database. An excellent overview of this remarkable growth appears in this article, ‘What’s the hottest trend in book publishing right now?’
Every book in the database includes
- • bibliographical details
- • content summary
- • audience
- • subjects
- • creators’ cultural background, story location and Aboriginal language (where identified)
- • teaching resources
- • Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum
Search filters retrieve these details for an individual book or for a collection of related books. Search results can be shared via social media or via email. Quick Tips for Searching provides detailed guidance.
These latest books reflect the power of children’s stories to reconcile our differences and bring us together. Here are a few examples.
Respect written by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy, Magabala Books, 2020
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Culture, Family and the need to listen, learn and share with each other includes deeper concepts including respect, stories, songs, elders and Country.
Heroes, Rebels and Innovators : Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from History
written by Karen Wyld, illustrated by Jaelyn Biumaiwai, Lothian Children’s Book, 2021
Seven stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heroes and heroines from the eighteenth-twentieth century include interactions between the original inhabitants and newcomers to Australia.
Kunyi written and illustrated by Kunyi June Anne McInerney, Magabala Books, 2021
Kunyi illustrates her life as a Stolen Generations child through 60 paintings revealing stories about her childhood.
The First Scientists : Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First People written by Corey Tut, illustrated by Blak Douglas, Hardie Grant Explore, 2021
Inventions and innovations developed by the First Nations People reveal cultural practices finely tuned to living on Country and understanding the environmental impact of people.
Flock : First Nations Stories Then and Now edited by Ellen van Neerven, University of Queensland Press, 2021
Twenty-one fictional short stories reveal First Nations’ historical, social and cultural concerns, opening conversations about the treatment and culture of First Nations People.
Dr Belle Alderman AM, Emeritus Professor of Children's Literature
Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc.