First Nations Role Models

June 19, 2024
This week I’m gonna chat about the importance of role models- real and fictional- for children and teens.
For those of you just joining, I am Carl Merrison, a remote outback Jaru and Gija man from Halls Creek in the Kimberley. I am an award-winning author, an educator and a sports coach. In everyday life I’m humble, stay in my lane, just do my job and care for kids without needing recognition or thanks. It’s weird to have to flip my own script on these kinds of platforms. But I do it to prove a point and raise awareness. I do it because I have seen the impact of role models, the types of role models kids in schools need, and because I believe in the books I write and the work I do.
But thankfully for me- there are lots of deadly role models leading the way for First Nations youth, and for non-Indigenous kids to see. Because “if I can see it, I can be it”! Kids can imagine themselves into new roles and dreams, they can see the paths that their role models took, and the challenges they overcame.
Here are some role models:
In sports 🏅: Ash Barty, Patty Mills, Eddie Betts, Cathy Freeman, Evonne Goolagong, Adam Goodes, Andrew Krakouer + many more.
In politics 📃: June Oscar, Josie Farrar, Linda Burney, Lidia Thorpe, Neville Bonner + more
In art: Rowena Morgan, Vincent Namatjira, Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, Dub Leffler, Jade Goodwin, Samantha Campbell, Teejay Worrigal + so many more
In education 👩🏾‍🏫: Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, Michael ‘Tucker’ Merrison, Cassandra Wilson, Sophia Mung + so many more.
In science🔬: Bart Pigram for Two Way Science, Corey Tutt with Deadly Science + many more.
In music🎵: Baker Boy, Jessica Mauboy, Emma Donovan, Ziggy Ramo, Miiesha, Dan Sultan, Barkaa + so many more.
In books and publishing📚: Anita Heiss, Jared Thomas, Lucas Proudfoot, Bronwyn Bandcroft, Kirli Saunders, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Tara June Winch, Melissa Lucashenko + so many more.
And that’s just a taster in a small handful of industries.
I contributed to this poster set about deadly First Nations role models here. Wingaru also have some deadly role model resources: Elders Who am I? CardsFirst Nations Change Makers postersElders Posters Pack.
There are also many books about deadly First Nations role models:
  • ‘This book thinks ya deadly’ by Corey Tutt is full of amazing First Nations role models from around Australia. Buy it here.
  • ‘Heroes, Rebels and Innovators: Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from history’ by Karen Wylde. Buy it here.
  • ‘Backyard Footy’ by Carl Merrison- a picture book with real life AFL and AFLW players from the Kimberley WA. Buy it here.


This year I also have two books coming out that might be the perfect books to show deadly role models:
🎾Backyard Tennis (Lothian)
Tennis looks a little different for kids in the outback: the red dirt, the animals in the bushes and trees, the courts and net and grandstand. As the children hit around the ball, more and more neighbours pop their heads over to see what all the excitement is about, before taking the game to the whole community. This book shows the importance of friendship, community and sports. And serves as a great opportunity for young readers to learn about diversity, difference and First Nations lived experience. Each of the characters is a real life person from the outback- and one of my little relatives. This book can be read as a stand-alone text, or as the sequel to Backyard Footy. It is available for pre-order now for release in July. AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER at your local bookstore (I always advocate to support local or Blak first) or HERE.


🏉Kimberley Kickers: Jy goes for gold (Harper Collins)
This is the first middle reader book in the Kimberley Kickers series with Harper Collins that showcases the real-life outback First Nations AFL and AFLW talent from Kimberley Western Australia. Best bit? This book is perfect for those who love AFL and those who don’t! The books are fun biographies of life growing up in the Kimberley: the bull-rides, camping trips, bush walks, swimming in ancient waterholes, hunting, fishing, rodeos, mustering and more. We get an insight into where these deadly players got their skills and edge. But also the challenges they had to overcome to play AFL and AFLW at an elite level. This book will be perfect for bookshelves in homes with readers aged 7-12, as well as primary libraries and classrooms.  The first book follows Gold Coast Suns star Jy Farrar and is available for pre-order and is released in September. AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER at your local bookstore (always support local first) or HERE

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