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- author Jackie French

Friday 28 August 2020

Guest Post: Belle Alderman on the NCACL Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource









At KBR today we are pleased to introduce Belle Alderman, Emeritus Professor of Children's Literature and Director of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc (NCACL) in Canberra to tell us more about the recently launched Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource

Ms Alderman has been involved with the NCACL since its establishment in 1974 by Lu Rees who envisioned it as a national collection. Today the NCACL has 46,000 books, authors’ papers, illustrators’ artworks and more. The collection is valued at $10 million dollars. The Centre collects, preserves, documents, shares and inspires all ages to engage with their cultural heritage.

Recently the NCACL launched its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource, why this resource and why now?

The United Nations declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. They highlighted the consequences of the growing loss of Indigenous languages and sought to establish the link between language, development, peace, and reconciliation. Inspired, we wanted to contribute. The Australian Government provided a grant and made this project possible.

Who do you hope will use this resource?
Everyone, but especially those working with children.

Who was involved in the creation of this resource?
Over 30 people across Australia participated, representing varied cultural backgrounds including Aboriginal People. NCACL experts, Aboriginal ‘critical friends’, a reference group, project team and moderators all worked together to create this high quality resource.

Could you share some of what you consider the seminal works in the resource?
There are so many, but here are a few with special strengths: A is for Aunty by Elaine Russell; Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy; I Love Me by Sally Morgan; Alfred's War by Rachel Bin Salleh and Coming Home to Country by Bronwyn Bancroft.

What is the first entry into the resource and the latest at this time?

The ‘oldest’ book is Djugurba : Tales from the Spirit Time, written by Ralph Gumudul et al, published in 1974 and the most recent entry is Respect written by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson and illustrated by Lisa Kennedy.

The NCACL also has a Cultural Diversity Database and now an Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource, what distinguishes a database from a resource?
We want to emphasise that these books are resources to be shared. The database is simply a tool to easily find and share books with others.

What has been the role of Australian children’s publishers in publishing Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander voices?
Publishers have raised our interest and inspired us to appreciate Culture and Country. Magabala Books and Fremantle Press bridge cultures by bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal creators. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) inspires Aboriginal children to create stories. Allen & Unwin, Penguin Random House, Hardie Grant Egmont, Scholastic Australia and others offer high quality, culturally sensitive books. The field is growing in quality and diversity.

There has been an interest in the importance of own voices sharing stories, have you seen a change across the timeline within the resource to reflect this?
Publishers are aware of the need for ‘own voices’. There are several new awards and mentorships for emerging and unpublished Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander creators. Established creators continue.

How will the list be maintained and expanded on in the future?
We will update the Resource regularly with 20 new books waiting. We are keen to gain funding to expand the collection to include books for secondary aged young people.

And finally, what is your personal favourite in the resource and why?
Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe (Magabala Books 2019) offers an unforgettable story of truth, history and culture.

Thank you for your time, Dr Alderman. At KBR we recognise the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource and encourage young and old, parents, teachers, caregivers, librarians and more to make good use of this important resource.