Balgowlah author Ellie Laing and her co-writer Adam Goodes, the Aussie Rules Football legend, are back with Back On Country, the third book in their five-part Indigenous series, Welcome To Our Country, written for young readers.
Today (November 1) sees the release of Back On Country, which again invites young adventurers to continue the imaginative journey through a timeless land.
The series, illustrated by Indigenous artist David Hardy – also an acclaimed children’s author – began with Somebody’s Land, in November 2021, and was augmented with the second book, Ceremony, released on 12 April this year.
Written in rhyming sentences and including Aboriginal words from the Adnyamathanha dialect – the language group of Adam Goodes’ Indigenous ancestors – the series is aimed at the 4-8 age group.
Adnyamathanha speakers include the Guyani, Jadliaura, Pilatapa and Bungarla clans who inhabit the rocky northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
Adnyamathanha – pronounced ‘Adya-mutna’ – actually means ‘rock people’ and is derived from adya (rock) and matha (group of people).
Manly Observer caught up with Northern Beaches’ author Ellie Laing, a communications professional with Sport NSW and a former journalist, whom we first interviewed when Ceremony was released earlier this year.
Have there been any special developments since the release of the first two books ?
“The first two books have been incredibly well received,” she said, “and we are so grateful for the response we’ve got. Obviously, parents are the ones buying the books, but what’s most pleasing is the feedback we get about how KIDS are the ones pulling them off the shelves as a nightly bedtime favourite, or bringing them home from the library.
“We are all very keen to see the books come to life on the screen, especially because our illustrator, David Hardy, honed his craft at Disney as an animator, but you’ll just have to wait for more news on that!”
Did you and co-author Adam Goodes have a finished concept on how the storylines would evolve when you began writing this series, or have you devised new plots and characters as you began each new book?
“Well, we thought we had a plan,” she explained, “but things have certainly evolved from our initial thinking! Even though we thought we’d mapped out the five books, we’ve found ourselves reconsidering what’s next for the series as we embark on each new book, and going back to the drawing board.
“As a result, we’ve found the books flowing so nicely from one to the next! And of course we have David’s incredible illustrations tying them all visually together. The lead time for publishing kids’ books is much longer than you might expect, so with Back on Country coming out now, we’ve also just drafted book four, which will come out next year.”
After the Welcome to Our Country series has reached its conclusion, will you be working on other children’s books or publications (or a sequel?), and if so, might we get an insight as to what they may involve?
“Ha! Let’s get through the five book series first!,” she insisted. “I think we would all like to do more, and potentially create books for different age groups, but one step at a time!”
Are you tempted to write books utilising the Northern Beaches as a backdrop?
“Definitely,” she revealed. “In fact you can expect the northern beaches to feature in book four! One of the reasons for this is as part of my learning journey (I undertook a course in Aboriginal studies through TAFE), I took myself on my walk on Country up at North Head (Car-rang-gel).
“It was an incredible experience walking that landscape, focusing on the plants, animals, sounds, flow of water, and of course that magical view back over the Harbour. Book four will focus on us all connecting to the Country where we live, which is why we have a nod to the Beaches!”
Anything you’d like to add?
“It’s obviously been such an honour writing these books with Adam and David,” she considered. “We set about writing them not just for kids, but for adults too. The way they’ve been embraced by parents, grandparents, librarians and teachers is amazing and we are so grateful. Hopefully there’s a few more to be opened on Christmas Day!”
Publishers Allen & Unwin revealed the aim of the Welcome To Our Country book series is “to celebrate the rich traditions of dance, family, community and caring for Country from the world’s oldest continuous culture.”
Co-author Adam Goodes, 2014 Australian of the Year, is, as most people are aware, a distinguished athlete and two-times winner of the Brownlow Medal (the highest award in Aussie Rules football for ‘fairest and best’ player).
Goodes played a record 372 games in the AFL national premiership, from 1999 to 2015, all for the Sydney Swans football team. During that time, the team won two Grand Finals, with Goodes a major contributor to the goal scoring.
After retiring from professional football, Goodes co-founded the GO Foundation, which educates and empowers Indigenous students with scholarships.
To order Back On Country, or the previous two titles in the five-part series, visit:
Or publisher Allen and Unwin: