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You can't be what you can't see: Our Yarning visits UC

Elly Mackay

23 September 2022: Members of the University of Canberra community – including the University’s very youngest students at Kirinari Early Childhood Centre – were lucky enough to host a group of visitors from Library For All (LFA) who shared their ‘Our Yarning’ collection.

The collection, a series of books written by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aims to embed Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing in the classroom.

“The LFA books are designed to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to learn to read, and the books in the Our Yarning collection are mostly ‘mirror books’,” said Stirling Sharpe, University of Canberra Lecturer and LFA Our Yarning advisory board member.

“Mirror books allow the reader to see themselves within the story, which heightens their desire to continue reading.”

During the week-long visit to the University, LFA hosted two ‘write a children’s book in a day’ workshops for Indigenous staff and students, a public lecture, and visited three childcare centres – including Kirinari Early Childhood Centre on campus – to do book readings from the Our Yarning collection.

The books written in the staff and student workshops will also contribute to the collection, which has an end-goal to house over 500 mirror books.

“The writing workshops were led by Dr Julie Owen, a Nurrunga and Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia, who has over 30 years’ experience in health, education, and community development,” Mr Sharpe said.

“Participants in the workshop didn’t need any creative writing skills or experience to join, so it was really nice to see what they came up with and how well they embraced the challenge. We received some amazing drafts and can’t wait to work with the authors to finalise their manuscripts.”

Wrapping up the LFA visit was the public lecture where Dr Owen was joined by adventurer Huw Kingston, to discuss the importance of a project like Our Yarning and Huw’s very recent Alpine Odyssey adventure.

“To have Huw – who is not only an adventurer but a speaker, entrepreneur, environmentalist, and writer – present at the public lecture and back what we’re doing was really special,” Mr Sharpe said.

“His perspective and story really reinforces how important it is to prioritise the education and visibility of First Nations children within literature and the schooling system. We are thrilled that Huw chose Our Yarning as his fundraising recipient for his 700km Australian Alpine Odyssey – on Wednesday evening he presented Dr Owen with a $63,000 cheque!”

The Our Yarning collection enforces the importance of having role models who share Country, culture, values, and strong community connections within children’s books.

It is a free, digital library of culturally relevant education resources created by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and is available for free as an Android app on the Google Play Store.  An Apple version will be launched in November.