The book follows the story of Murray, an ibis, who lives at the local lake. When his nest is burned in a fire, he finds himself on an adventure around the world.
Noah, aged 13 said his favourite part of the storyline was when Murray, the ibis, “kept exploring looking for a safe place to be ... when he got to Cummeragunga [a community living near a previous Aboriginal Mission], and was happy, he felt he belonged.”
The students used the storyline to explore concepts of friendship, loss and the hardship of finding a home, confronting realities of homelessness and child removal.
While the narrative is not based on any local Dreamtime stories, it draws on the natural environment by using native animals as characters and objects, such as reeds and leaves for the illustrations.
'The Ibis' was created through a joint project between Mooroopna Secondary School's, Kid’s Own Publishing, and the Federal Government’s Council for the Arts.
Kid's Own Publishing facilitates storytelling projects for children, which assist communities to tell stories in their voices and languages, with the assistance of artists and writers workshops.
The students participated in a series of workshops over four months, learning about storytelling, illustrating and clay modelling to produce the final work. The students also collaborated with Melbourne potter Lyndon Sendeckyl, renowned choreographer Jacob Boehme, author and entertainer Ailsa Wild and visual artist Hart Ely-Faulks.
Blake, 14, enjoyed “taking photos and being with my friends and also being with my culture.”
The school’s Indigenous Programs Co-ordinator, Kate Stewart said, “the school see the book as contributing to school engagement, literacy, visual arts and school retention.”
The hope is that the high school students involved will be able to read their book to primary school students as part of the school’s ‘transition to secondary school’ program, and to encourage literacy and improve the students’ confidence.
The book was launched on Sunday, February 21 at the Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival by Kid’s Own Publishing, the students, their parents and community elders.
The book is available for purchase on the Kid’s Own Publishing website.