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

Saturday 16 July 2022

With Opened Eyes: Snapshot 3 follows the Aboriginal Dreaming trail

The 2022 CBCA Conference brought together a range of speakers and covered significant topics deftly woven together with connections to country and an Australian Aboriginal presence that aptly encouraged participants to dream of possibilities and look at the world with open eyes to consider different points of view. As a virtual attendee Jennie Bales draws together some of these Aboriginal perspectives.

I heard some wonderful things about the launch of the conference on the Friday evening, understandably not accessible via video link, but fortunately I had a colleague happy to share a little about the opening ceremony. 

Duncan Smith OAM delivered the Acknowledgement of Country as a Wiradjuri man on Ngunnawal Country and together with his daughter Jakida, performed the Sweeping and Cleansing Dance to a rapt CBCA audience. Both Duncan and Jakida are members of Wiradjuri Echoes and they performed several dances beautifully illustrating Wiradjuri culture. Duncan introduced his stunning new book, We Are Australians, which was written in collaboration with Nicole Goodwin and incorporates the artwork of Jandamarra Cadd. The previously created paintings are stunning illustrations for the book and Duncan acknowledged how grateful he and Nicole were to be able to use Cadd's work. Both Duncan and Jakida were gracious with their time following the performance, staying around for photos and answering questions. It was an exciting and entertaining way to open the conference. (Thank you Louise Saint-John for sharing your experience)
We Are Australians, 2022, published by Simon and Schuster

Respect, 2020, Magabala Books
The first day opened with an informal and insightful conversation between Sue Lawson and Aunty Fay Muir : Hearing our First Nations Voices and Sharing their Dreaming with the two ‘Zooming’ in from Victoria. The session included Aunty Fay sharing of her 2020 picture book Respect which explores the importance of learning about respect for yourself and family, of sharing knowledge, and that families come in all sizes. Identifying visual literacy cues in the book highlighted the importance of the guiding students to know where different texts come from, to build an appreciation of the vastness of Australia and the diversity of different cultures and stories. The Indigenous Map of Australia is great resource to support this. Where possible Aunty Fay encouraged educators to connect with local First Nations people and to seek out stories reflective from that area. Her preferred terminology is First Nations or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 
Guidance provided:

Reconciliation -  you have to go on a journey of learning yourself as a prelude to teaching y our students. All students need to know about county and culture as it is everyone’s history – visit places and read books.

Authority - Know about the author – current practice is to include that info in the blurbs, contact the publisher and inquire. First Nations people tend to write in a different way and with a different flavour.

Aboriginal English - need to take in account aboriginal expression and language – elders may not have a strong literacy background, and today many kids just write down their thoughts and ideas in Koori English – often spoken at home. It is a recognised language and needs to be accepted.

Oral tradition and reading aloud – oral storytelling a traditional practice that continues today. Encourage and exemplify in practice. Model how to ‘read’ the illustrations, young people need more storytelling to fuel the imagination.

Dreaming stories – understand which country each story comes from -e.g., Rainbow Story is from northern Australia – not all communities have Rainbow Story as their creator. Important that the author knows this as well. Remember that some stories are sometimes individual stories of personal dreams. If doing in class, speak to a local person and find out about the creator spirit of that country.

Be respectful of art and culture in displays and activities. Find out styles that are representative of the land you are on. E.g., Dot painting are reflective of First Nation people living in desert country, hatch work found in Victoria. It is first nations art and should reflect the country on which they are situated.

Useful information sources:

Deadly & Proud Victorian State Government

Deadly Questions

miss.gibbs - resources for curriculum shared on Instagram

Our Dreaming, 2022, Scholastic
Also presented via Zoom, Dub Leffler had a conversation about his newest collaboration with Kirli Saunders: Our Dreaming to be released in August. Dub used the virtual platform to share close ups of story boards, illustrations as works in progress, and in their final form, that were truly mesmerising to behold. His love of nature and use of natural elements in combination with water colour and pencils shone through. Watch out for this captivating picture book that shares the Yuin and Gundungurra Dreamings 

Professor Belle Alderman session Dreaming of Finding, Celebrating and Preserving Australian Children’s Literature provided fascinating insights into the work of the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature which included coverage on the creation and development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Database. Belle has written about this frequently including a post on this blog. This presentation also covered the work of the Centre to preserve and promote Australian Children’s Literature and the valuable contribution of volunteers in the process. 

Open your Hear to Country
2022, Magabala Books

Other sessions that continued to help us open our eyes to First Nations peoples included Jasmine Seymour reading her recently released Open Your Heart to Country where the combination of  words and illustrations appears as poetry in motion. Jasmine discussed the importance of investing in indigenous languages and how multilingual texts support students from diverse backgrounds and celebrate country. 

Adam Goodes and Ellie Lang talked about their new series Welcome to Our Country in their session on Sharing our First Nations Dreaming with all Students. The second title Ceremony has been published and each book has detailed supporting teachers notes. The authors talked about the power of language to convey culture and how the books are designed to make Aboriginal language accessible for readers to pronounce the words. There are QR codes in the books to connect to Adam reading the texts. The books convey a strong message about caring for country – being sustainable and only taking what you need, and Adam pointed out that there is so much we can learn from Indigenous people that have lived on this land for 1000s of year. They also advise to take the books for what they are – different ages will absorb what  they are ready for, and the teachers’ notes add a  further dimension for them to be used for  learning more about people and country to learn about what we can do for reconciliation and   caring for country.

Welcome to Our Country series, Allen & Unwin

Writing this post has helped me revisit some of the key sessions and reflect on the strong messages that were conveyed by passionate presenters. This snapshot focuses on opening our eyes to Aboriginal culture, country, reconciliation and unity – a truly memorable and worthwhile thread woven into the program. A wonderful conference experience!

Jennie Bales

Adjunct lecturer, retired teacher librarian and reader,

CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator.


  1. After hearing Dub Leffler speak and seeing his slides, I immediately went to the conference bookshop and preordered Our Dreaming. It looks like such a beautiful book.

  2. We are lucky that these stories are being shared by our First Nations creators.