Murdoch student pens children’s book on Aboriginal culture

October 21, 2013

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Murdoch University student Alton Walley is sharing Aboriginal culture and knowledge through the publication of his first illustrated children’s book, Chunyart and the Cheeky Parrot.

The Tourism and Indigenous Studies double-major student said the project’s genesis was a trail he helped design and build in the State Botanic Garden, titled Boodja Gnarning, as part of a four-year cadetship at Kings Park.

“I created a self-guided trail that has information panels at different points about how Aboriginal people have used Kings Park’s plants and trees for medicine, shelter, food and tools for over 40,000 years,” Mr Walley said.

“I wanted young children to be able to access this information in a meaningful way. The Boodja Gnarning trail proved a fantastic resource for school kids. So we felt the need to create a resource to share this information with younger kids in a fun and suitable way.”

Mr Walley said he worked on the project with the Kings Park staff for over a year, juggling it with his university work.

The result is a 32-page full-colour picture story book with beautiful illustrations by Sandy Fordham, Rosalie Okely and his father, Richard.

“The book follows a young boy, Chunyart, who sets out for his first day of hunting with his father and the other men. He learns katitjin (traditional knowledge), such as using Marri gum to heal wounds, and gets into some trouble along the way,” Mr Walley said.

“It’s educational, and we were keen to have Noongar language be a strong focus of the book, though we also wanted the story to be entertaining for kids.”

From the enthusiastic response to the book’s launch at Kings Park’s Kulunga Katitjin Festival, it would appear Mr Walley has succeeded.

“We had 2500 kids listening to readings and taking part in Aboriginal cultural activities throughout the day, and they were very enthusiastic. I’d like to see Chunyart become an integral part of the education stream for pre-primary students, and Kings Park shares that desire,” he said.

Kings Park Education Coordinator Charlotte Vaughan stated that, “Children and teachers are thoroughly enjoying learning about how the Noongar people used the native plants for their survival.”

Chunyart and the Cheeky Parrot is currently the most popular lesson being delivered by Kings Park education staff for pre-primary to year 2 students and is linked to current curriculum outcomes for that age group.

The book is available through the Aspects of Kings Park centre or via its website.

Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre will be holding a University launch for the book in late October.

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