Page turns on new era of indigenous storytelling

By Alex Johnson
Updated November 7 2012 - 12:13pm, first published November 19 2008 - 11:06am
Kirrae Whurrong artist Debbie Austin reads the new indigenous children's books, backed by Warrnambool's Discovery Press, to Jayden Coghlan, 6. 081119AM01 Picture: ANGELA MILNE

DREAMTIME stories are coming to a bookshelf near you.Warrnambool's not-for-profit Discovery Press, launched by Community Connections, has unveiled its first books in a bid to ensure toddlers learn vital reading skills.The indigenous children's books are set to replace goblins and dwarves with indigenous creatures such as "nett netts" and "mimis".The first two books, Animals and People and Places, will be followed by Waterhole early next year. Artist and mother-of-five Debbie Austin has brought the symbols of her Kirrae Whurrong nation to life on the page using traditional dot-painting techniques. The books include a range of indigenous symbols. They are designed to introduce children to books and educate adults about the culture of the south-west's traditional owners. Commissioning editor Claire Jennings said the south-west had a rich story-telling history."It's important that everyone knows the Aboriginal culture," she said. "The two books have been designed to stimulate babies from birth, to stimulate their curiosity and attention skills. Then they grow up not knowing life without a book."Ms Jennings said readers would become familiar with nett netts - spirits of unborn children said to inhabit the Framlingham forest which bring "goodness" upon their birth.Community Connections chief executive officer Bruce du Vergier said Discovery Press would give a voice to local authors who might otherwise not be published."These books have a strong focus on helping indigenous children discover their own cultural background while also giving the mainstream population access to the symbols and storytelling of indigenous culture," he said.