When Ellie’s Laing eldest son came home from preschool singing Indigenous lullabies and reciting the Acknowledgement of Country, she realised how much had changed in a generation.
This realisation spurred her to keep the conversation going alongside ex-AFL player and Adnyamathanha man Adam Goodes and Barkindji author and illustrator David Hardy.
Together they’ve create Welcome to Our Country, a five-book children’s series designed to connect young children and educators with First Nations history and culture.
Ceremony, the second iteration of the series, is set in Adnyamathanha Country and showcases traditions of dance, family and community.
Ms Laing said different parts of the book were intended to depict shared cultural elements throughout.
“The combination of the English and Adnyamathanha languages was something that evolved throughout the writing process and the book is definitely richer for it,” she said.
“Ceremony aims to depict the ceremonies of Adam’s family, however it also shows that there are elements of ceremonies, like music, dance and food, that are common to us all.
“This time around we wanted to show the fun side of First Nations culture and to really showcase Adam’s culture and language.”
Similar to Laing, Mr Hardy said much has changed surrounding Indigenous culture since he was last in school.
“As a child growing up, there wasn’t much education in schools about the Aboriginal history and culture,” he said
“These days I see at my kid’s schools that they do Acknowledgement of Country and acknowledge the Elders of the land.
“I think it’s great and so important for kids of all culture in Australia to be educated about Australia’s first people’s language and culture.”
Having been an illustrator for over eight years and worked with Walt Disney Studios, Hardy’s own Barkindji heritage comes into play whenever he’s illustrating.
“When I was young, my mother was finally reunited with her family, country and culture after being part of the stolen generation,” he said.
“From then on, we travelled annually back to Brewarrina and met with our relatives and learnt about our history and culture.
“It’s from this knowledge that I have learnt over the years has definitely had an influence when illustrating my books.”
Hardy said he was excited to play a part in this series as an Indigenous man himself.
“This series means so much to me as a proud Aboriginal man and I want to help celebrate and educate everyone about our culture,” he said.
“It’s been awesome working on this series with Adam and Ellie.
“The best thing is that I’ve had the opportunity to learn about Adam’s culture and language as well as learning Ellie’s want to help educate Australians of all ages and cultures of our Aboriginal culture.”
As well as a children’s book, Goodes and Laing have developed teaching resources for educators to continue the conversation about First Nation’s culture in classrooms.
“Like with all our books, we have developed a set of teachers notes for teachers to use to help guide classroom conversations about the story,” she said.
“And the best part, in my mind, on the first page of Ceremony there’s a QR code which you can scan to listen to Adam reading the book in full.
“It’s a wonderful way for educators, children and students to learn more about Adnyamathanha language, especially how to actually pronounce the words, and Adnyamathanha culture.”
Ceremony is available for purchase from Allen and Unwin.