Somebody’s Land by Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing, illustrated by David Hardy. Courtesy of Allen & Unwin Book Publishers, 2021.
Elite former AFL player, anti-racism advocate and community leader Adam Goodes will be releasing his first children’s book this November. The Adnyamathanha and Narungga man co-authored the book with political adviser and former journalist Ellie Laing. Illustrated by Barkindji artist David Hardy, the picture book will be the first of a five-part series called Welcome to Our Country. Somebody’s Land invites young families and primary educators to imagine themselves in the past, living traditionally as First Nations Australians. The book acknowledges that our country was never ‘terra nullius,’ never ‘nobody’s land;’ and provides readers with an understanding of what ‘welcome to country’ truly means (Allen & Unwin, 2021).
Despite having several highly commended achievements, accreditations and awards under Adam’s belt for his sport, community and activism dedication, it was fatherhood that prompted Goodes to write his first children’s book (Sydney Morning Herald, 2021).
“I love reading to my daughter Adelaide,” Goodes said. “I hope the series gives readers the opportunity to learn something new and have more conversations because of it. This book is a reflection of me. I’m incredibly hopeful. I choose to be positive, to help us heal as a nation.”
Adam Goodes, Board Member of ALNF taking some time out to connect with a group of inquisitive kids in Taree. Courtesy of ALNF Facebook, 2021.
Allen & Unwin publisher Eva Mills (2021) explains that this book is being released during a time where there is an explosion of interest in the genre of Indigenous stories for children by Indigenous Australians. This interest has been prompted by the global Black Lives Matter protests, which has seen people turning to books to educate themselves and better understand the movement. As a result, Australian publishers and booksellers are rushing to keep up with the surge in demand for books about race and racism. For example, rapper and comedian Adam Briggs’ book Our Home, Our Heartbeat, which was published in May 2020, has become a bestseller and shifted 25,000 copies. Others include, Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu which has collected a swathe of literary awards, musician Archie Roach’s Took the Children Away has sold 10,000 copies, and actor Miranda Tapsell’s Aunty’s Wedding won the Longlisted Childen's Picture Book of the Year and ABIA Awards 2021 (Sydney Morning Herald, 2020).
“It seems all Australians are interested in First Nation stories – whether they are left or right leaning, live in the city or country, or whichever country their families originally came from. These stories are bringing us together as a whole,” says Eva Mills about this book trend.
“Teachers and parents love them because talking about First Nations history and culture may be something they weren’t taught about when they were at school, so there can be nervousness about getting it right.”
We hope that this momentum of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and publishers continues to grow, prosper and infiltrate further into the future. We must remember that education is the key to learning, understanding and parting away from prejudice and the wrongdoings of the past. So, with these educational books we can keep making progress towards reconciliation for generations to come.