Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday 29 October 2016

“I don’t think there were any around here”

Dr Margaret Bromley, an invited speaker at the recent Hidden Stories event (September 2016), shares her story.

Professor Maggie Walter and I were invited to The Indigenous Literacy Day Symposium Hidden Stories to discuss the continuing silences that surround white peoples’ acknowledgement of Aboriginal people and their culture.
Maggie is a Pairrebeene woman from the north east of Tasmania. Maggie told of her travels to the country of her Aboriginal matriarchal family in the Bay of Fires area. When she asked a shop keeper what was known about the local Tasmanian Aborigines in the area Maggie was told “I don’t think there were any around here”.
Evidently the shop keeper’s knowledge of local history was restricted to that of the early European pioneers and she had no idea of the origin of the name of the place where she lived.
This resonated deeply with my experience of the ways in which Australians work hard at not knowing their family and local histories: what Maggie refers to as “the epistemology of ignorance”.
My family emigrated in 1967 when I was a teenager from London to Gulgong, New South Wales: to Wiradjuri country, the home of largest inland Indigenous culture of Australia. The signage in the Gulgong Pioneers Museum informed us that “There were only a few small tribes in the area”.
Recently I spoke with the current operator of the museum. Decades later the sign was still there and he reiterated this popular history when he told me that the gold diggers were the first to inhabit the district. “There was not a tribe here because there was not a river”. Clearly, he had not read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which tells how Wiradjuri people managed the landscape and stocked their waterholes. The place name, “Gulgong”, is Wiradjuri for “a deep water hole”.
I was told that Gulgong was “…not an Aboriginal area. It was not a good place to be…as…it was a bad luck area for Aboriginal people”. My response was that it probably was a difficult place for Aboriginal people because white people were so harsh to them. According to the museum proprietor there are no Aborigines living in nearby Mudgee. He obviously hadn’t noticed the flags of the Mudgee Local Aboriginal Lands Council office in the CBD. 
When my mother was still living in Mudgee, I said to her “Do you realise that the ancestors of your solicitor, Mr Cox, organised massacres and put arsenic in the flour that they gave to the local Aborigines?” To which my mother replied “Oh, I hope you’re not going to make trouble for these local people!”
This was an amazing response to me. Mum was still an outsider in that rural community, a migrant woman, a divorced single parent, working as a community nurse. Clearly she didn’t want the silences to be disturbed by this knowledge. According to Maggie Walters, my mother’s fear of “making trouble” expresses an underlying white fear, the legitimacy of being there, or the fear of the exposure of a difficult past. 
The Hidden Stories Symposium revealed a strong interest from the audience who stated that they were motivated to find out more about the place in which they live. Some parents’ curiosity had been fired by their children’s teachers and Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural educators. Exploring and exposing the hidden stories has the potential to elicit respect and pride in the heritage of our local areas whilst being a powerful tool in the construction of Aboriginal identity.  
Tasmania is certainly not the only place where Aboriginal heritage and the history of displacement are silenced by local communities; a silence which validates the invisibility of Aboriginal people and their cultures. However, Tasmania could be a leader in Australia in telling those hidden stories. The robust discussions held in Hobart to celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day on September 7 and 11 were a significant step to breaking the silence of the past. 
Dr Margaret Bromley
Australian Capital Territory
Editor’s note: Margaret’s contributions to Hidden Stories were significant in setting the scene for this valuable two day experience and I reiterate the sincere thanks of the CBCA Tasmania and the Tasmanian Writers Centre for her participation.

Sunday 23 October 2016

A Long-Abandoned Park

Lyndon shares his delight in his first forays into the work of Ruth Park.

I picked up The Harp in the South a few months ago for the simple reason that it had a nice cover. Penguin had been progressively re-releasing Classic Australian novels in beautiful, minimalistic hardback editions, and Harp was an especially nice one. I had a vague recollection of my CBCA Judges’ conference, of several judges being outraged and astonished that I had could not recall reading a Ruth Park novel - in the nicest possible way, of course – with delight in the experience ahead of me as much as disappointment that it hadn’t already happened. It took years to heed their advice. Boy, am I glad that I eventually did.

The Harp in the South is the sort of book that makes you cry. It is raw, beautiful and truthful. My glamorous imaginings of life in 1948 were shredded and replaced with brutal and utterly compelling honesty in a harrowing and deeply affecting work… it’s undoubtedly a contender for the great Australian novel. And now I am on a journey through the works of my long-abandoned Park, Playing Beattie Bow is up next, as well as a return to the stories of the Muddle-Headed Wombat, who I vaguely recall from childhood but who takes on a new and critical significance now that I know he is Park’s creation.

This blog, then, is partly a plea. The fact that Park has eluded me for all this time is appalling in a way I have only just come to truly appreciate, and now I’m the evangelist about her work that the ladies at the Judges’ Conference were to me. I would love to know in the comments below which other authors I might have missed. Who do you admire most from the history of Australian literature beyond the last couple of decades? Let me know, and I’ll do some reading and then report back.

While you consider, now is perhaps the ideal time to revisit Park’s work – or, if you haven’t read it, to experience it for the first time. You will realise, from the first turn of the page, that you are in the presence of a master craftswoman whose prose sings across the decades. It is an experience not to be missed.

If you haven’t met Ruth Park, I am delighted to introduce you.

Lyndon Riggall
From the editor: Read more about Ruth Park and access a bibliography of her works.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Getting young people reading

I recently read an article in the Telegraph about Robert Muchamore’s visit to a Youth Offenders Institution (at Werrington in Staffordshire, UK). His Cherub series has become a hit with many of the inmates who have found these books give them a way of escaping from the realities of their current life, while reading a fast-paced narrative which has many themes which they can relate to.

Muchamore’s novels contain content (violence, sex and drugs) which parents may not like their children reading, but it is this gritty contemporary element which attracts the readers in the YOI. Muchamore himself grew up in a tough part of London where he didn’t achieve academic success though he’d always wanted to be a writer. His novels resonate with many young men. The article was in part a celebration of Muchamore’s newest Cherub title, New Guard, published in June 2016 said to be the last in this series, but also of his most recent title released this month, the fourth in the Rock War series, called Gone Wild.

The YOI Werrington is one of a number of prisons which has joined the Reading Ahead Programme which encourages young people and adults to change their perception of reading, by recognising that reading is more than just books: newspapers, magazines and websites. There are many levels of the programme for different age groups.

What books have you discovered to help young people engage with reading?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader.

Saturday 8 October 2016

School and College Librarians in Tasmania – a partial Honour Roll

The Children’s Book Council and school librarians are natural allies because they share the same objectives.  This listing may be of interest to CBCA members.
Prior to 1967 when I was appointed the first (and only) Supervisor of School Libraries, a number of Tasmanian schools had established libraries to supplement the dreary post-war classroom readers and the very limited number of textbooks available to teachers.  They were run by dedicated people with limited or no training in librarianship but who saw clearly the importance of recreational and research reading in education.  Among these notable pioneers were: Miss Faith GIBBONS (Hobart High), Miss Jessie BLYTH (Launceston High), Mrs Cecilia STUBBS (Burnie High), Mrs Doreen HOPKINS, Mrs Fanny HARDING, and Mrs Bronwyn MEREDITH.  Also deserving commemoration for their work with the School Library Service to primary schools were Miss Dorothy BELCHER and Miss Jean CRISP.  An important role was also played from the library at the Hobart Teachers College by Miss Amie EWIN and in the library at the Education Department’s Head Office by Miss Adele de Bomford.  There were others whose names, to my intense frustration, will not surface in my ancient memory.
From 1968 when I started work after studying librarianship at the University of New South Wales, an exciting new era began, taking advantage of the policy of the Federal Labor Party when it was implemented in 1972 by the Gough Whitlam government.  New or refurbished libraries were built, grants for books were increased, teacher-librarians were appointed, advisory and technical support was given, and training courses for teacher-librarians were begun at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education.
Until 1991 when the Library Services Branch which oversaw these developments was abruptly closed down, I had the pleasure and pride of working with a large cadre of people who made a very significant difference to the quality of Tasmanian education.  It seems to me that their names deserve remembering and honouring.  It is a shame that there is no full register of them but some at least are listed below.

ABELL, Miss Jill 
BECKER, Miss Toni
BECKER, Mrs Marjorie
BENNETT, Miss Rhoda
BRIDGLAND, Miss Angela
BUCHANAN, Miss Vicki (later GRANT)
BUGG, Miss Sharron (later HEWER)
CANE, Miss Georgie
DUNBAR, Miss Kay
DUNN, Ms. Lyn
EASTMAN, Mrs Berenice
GARDAM, Mrs Julie
GOWARD, Mrs Coral
GROOT, Mrs Barbara
HAMPTON, Mrs Monica
HAWES, Mrs Joy
HICKMAN, Mrs Leslie
JAMES, Mrs Kath
JENSEN, Ms. Gita
KELLY, Mr Michael
LEWIS, Mrs Marie
LUDFORD, Ms. Sally
MAHONEY, Mrs Dulcie
MORRIS, Mrs Gill
PARRISH, Miss Amanda
SCOTT, Ms. Judy
Glenn Pullen c 1972
SMITH, Miss Janet (later MIDDLETON)
STOWE, Mr Edward
WATTS, Mrs Irene
WHILE, Mr Richard
WILSON, Miss Karen

Because of inadequate records and the writer’s failing memory, there are many other names that could and should be added to this list, at least up until 1991 when a new generation of school and college librarians took over.  It would be a kindness if any reader could add any names by emailing the writer at Glen Pullen so that the listing could be at least a little more complete.

Glenn Pullen is a Life Member of CBCA Tasmanian Branch.

Sunday 2 October 2016

The Wonder of Reading

It is the middle of the spring school holidays and, like many parents, I am juggling work, study and entertaining two children. However, this juggle has become easier as they get older - and one of the main reasons for this is my sons’ eagerness to read.

Last week we made our regular school holiday trip to Launceston LINC to stock up on books and DVDs for the fortnight. Each chose books by authors they had already read and enjoyed. For Mr 10 this was Back in Time: The Second Journey Through Time by Geronimo Stilton and You Choose Batman: Seed Bank Heist by J E Bright. His younger brother selected two books from The Rescue Princesses series - The Silver Locket and The Stolen Crystals - by Paula Harrison.

As an adult I seek out books by authors I like, but I don’t think I started that until I was older than my sons are now. I’m delighted they already have a handful of authors they love. All over the library children were doing the same: finding books they couldn’t way to get home to read. I know that feeling well, and it reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, about the wonder of reading:

[D]on't ever apologise to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that's what they're there for. Use your library). Don't apologise to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend's copy. What's important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read...

Every time one of my children tells me a fact they learned that day from reading a book, or one of my The Write Road student writers tells me about a piece of writing that captivated them I am thrilled, because it shows they know the same truth I do: reading is a gift.

There are always going to be lists of the best books for children, which are excellent guides for parents, but I believe it really doesn’t matter what children are reading, as long as they are. Reading instils knowledge (even if you’re reading the ingredient list of the cereal you ate for breakfast) and that knowledge breeds a thirst for more. Plus the ability to read means you will always have in-built entertainment. That’s a win-win in my book.
Johanna is a freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.
Blog: http://johannabd.com/
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