First Nations Languages

July 3, 2024
‘What na’ is an Aboriginal English greeting from the Kimberley. I am an Aboriginal Kimberley author, educator and coach. I speak Aboriginal English, Standard Australian English and traditional language.
In this blog post I wanted to yarn with you about the importance of language.
My first co-author book, written by Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler, illustrated by Dub Leffler and published by Magabala Books- was originally only contracted for 500 copies. We were stoked because that was just enough to reach kids in Halls Creek and the Kimberley. The children we wrote the book for. The book has Standard Australian English, Aboriginal English and Jaru words throughout- standing in their own strength, showing young people what it is like to code-switch and be two ways strong.
Black Cockatoo went on to be shortlisted for a range of awards, and won the CBCA Honour book in 2019. It was studied in classrooms all over Australia… and is still studied in new classrooms each year even to this day.
It sparked my writing career. And stories flowed from that moment. And opportunities opened up. My other books were made possible including those with First Nations language: Dirrarn (Magabala 2023), and Tracks of the Missing (Magabala 2022).
So why is representation and recording of Aboriginal languages in books important?
  • Young people see themselves, their language, their culture represented in literature
  • Young people see the diversity of First Nations languages and cultures
  • The opportunity to teach and share languages – that are deeply connected to place
  • The opportunity to strengthen languages
  • The opportunity to value and recognise languages and diversity
  • The opportunity to capture languages for the future
What other books show First Nations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, languages?
Did you know I have a new book out in July? Backyard Tennis celebrates the sense of friendship and community in many remote outback towns- the fun, joy and celebration of sports through an adventure across yards to share in a game of tennis. You can pre-order it now at your local bookstore or at Booktopia.

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