New Indigenous Children's Book Helps Kids Connect with Culture and Country

Indigenous Children's Book The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale. Courtesy of Allen & Unwin Book Publishers, 2022.

The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale is a beautiful new children's book written by Gumbaynggirr Elder, Aunty Shaa Smith in collaboration with Yandaarra, a research project by the University of Newcastle. The gorgeous picture book is a special resource that will help kids connect to the landscape of mid-north coast New South Wales. The book spreads a welcome message of care and understanding of Country and culture with children and the wider community (Allen & Unwin Book Publishers, 2022). 

For Aunty Shaa Smith writing is a way of expressing her culture as a ceremony of re-creation. In her new book, she shares stories from the NSW coast about how to care for Country - stories tailored to Indigenous children. 

The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale paints a picture of Gumbaynggirr Country and the importance of Gumbaynggirr stories. Smith told NIT (2022) that “What’s happening in the story of the Dunggiirr Brothers is there was wrongdoing against the sacredness of life, and something had to be done to set it right again.”

The book - written in a combination of English and First Nations languages - aims to teach children about Indigenous ways of doing things. It’s important that Indigenous children are able to grow up reading books in their own language, as it can help them feel supported in their own culture. Smith made this point to NIT (2022): 

“The stories we share are important for Aboriginal children, to ground them in their strength and identity, to maintain their connection with Country, and so they can awaken to their expression of who they are.”

Aunty Shaa SmithAunty Shaa Smith. Courtesy of Gumbaynggirr Jagun Aboriginal Corporation, 2022.

Aunty Shaa Smith is an artist, cultural facilitator and Aunty to many. She is a Gumbaynggirr story holder and has led camps, workshops, ceremony and yarning circles with an array of people working and living on Gumbaynggirr Country. Most recently, her work has been focussed on education and mentoring young Indigenous people. Smith is the co-founder of Gumbaynggir Jagun, and sits on the Board of Directors as Chairperson and lead cultural facilitator. She also leads Yandaarra, a research collaboration with the University of Newcastle, whose work is about honouring Elders and custodians of the past, present and future (Gumbaynggir Jagun, 2022). 

We absolutely love to see a growing number of Indigenous authors being acknowledged, and Indigenous children's books being published. As we know only too well here at Yarn, words and art are incredibly powerful. Both of these creative forms have the ability to cross cultural barriers and make learning more inclusive for young Indigenous kids. 

If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our previous posts about Indigenous books, authors and illustrators: 

David Hardy: The Incredible First Nations Walt Disney Animator and Children’s Book Illustrator and Author

Adam Goodes to Publish First Picture Book 'Somebody's Land'

The Words of the Mibiny Peoples immortalised in New Dictionary