• Young authors of the book 'The Goanna Was Hungry' at the Sydney Opera House. (Madeline Hayman-Reber)Source: Madeline Hayman-Reber
Kids from four schools around Australia gathered in Sydney on Indigenous Literacy Day to celebrate the launch of 'The Goanna Was Hungry', a book written and illustrated by the children themselves.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

The Point
7 Sep 2016 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2016 - 3:56 PM

The sun was shining down as excited school children, teachers, and other special guests flooded into the Sydney Opera House for the book launch. The nervous authors watched as the room filled with people, including Dame Quentin Bryce and Author Andy Griffiths.

‘Words Make the World Go Round’, a song written especially for the Indigenous Literacy Day, was performed by the Gawura Choir, Josh Pyke and Justine Clarke.

‘Words Make The World Go Around’ for Indigenous Literacy Day
Singer-songwriter Josh Pyke and Play School host Justine Clarke have joined forces with soprano Deborah Cheetham and students from Sydney’s Gawura Indigenous school to create the song ‘Words Make The World Go Around’ for Indigenous Literacy Day.

During the launch, Dame Quentin Bryce announced the gifting of 50,000 Indigenous books to remote communities by the end of 2016, stating the importance of children to having books at home, as well as at school.

 “Children in remote communities need books that reflect their own way of life, and where possible, their own language. It’s vital for them to have books that tell their stories and celebrate their culture,” she said.

Indigenous publishing: telling and owning our stories
As we recognise Indigenous Literacy Day today we celebrate the many Indigenous publishing houses that have played a vital role in launching our voices into the Australian writing scene.

‘The Goanna Was Hungry’ was published by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) and is a collection of stories from Tjuntjuntjara Community School, Mt Margaret School, Menzies and Firbank Grammar.

The children’s individual stories were inspired by a 5-day ILF writing camp. The camp saw them spend some time in Tjuntjuntjara at an informal writing and illustrating workshop, before heading out bush to Ilkurlka to get their creative juices flowing.

“Logistically it was quite challenging. To actually hold the workshops on country in one of the remotest communities in Australia was quite interesting,” Tina Rae, Program Manager at Indigenous Literacy Foundation told NITV.

The ILF then returned to Sydney and compiled the stories into ‘The Goanna Was Hungry’, which is now a published book, and available in bookshops across the country. The children told NITV this made them "very proud".

“One of the challenges that Tjuntjuntjara kids face is that Tjuntjuntjara is their first language, so there’s immediately a different capacity to make certain sounds in the English language that aren’t in the Pitjantjatjara language,” Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School Principal Charlie Klein said.

“It’s the oral language development and making sure that kids have every building block in developing and understanding the capacity to use English.

“It’s not about teaching standard Australian English; it’s about maintaining both languages and supporting both.”

At the end of the launch, the seven tiny authors then had the opportunity to read their own story from the book, finishing up to the thunderous applause of a very impressed audience that kept going, and going.

Author Andy Griffiths then took the stage to entertain the children as group by group they participated in a book swap.