Ceremony, an illustrated children’s book to educate younger readers about Australia’s First Nation’s people and culture, went on sale on 12 April.
Co-written by Balgowlah author Ellie Laing and Australian Rules Football legend Adam Goodes, the second book in the five-part series Welcome to Our Country invites young readers to continue the journey established with Somebody’s Land, the best-seller released in November 2021.
Aimed at the 4-8 age group and written in rhyming sentences, publishers Allen & Unwin reveal the aim of the book series is “to celebrate the rich traditions of dance, family, community and caring for Country from the world’s oldest continuous culture.”
The Welcome to Our Country books are bi-lingual, using Adnyamathanha words alongside English, the language group of Goodes’ Indigenous ancestors.
Adnyamathanha, commonly pronounced Adya-mutna and meaning ‘rock people’ (adya = rock, matha = group of people), are an Australian Aboriginal language group consisting of Guyani, Jadliaura, Pilatapa and Bungarla clans who inhabit the rocky northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
Ellie Laing, a communications professional with Sport NSW and a former journalist and political advisor, told Manly Observer, “We are so pleased Adam’s traditional language is incorporated into Ceremony. I think you’ll see some more words popping up throughout the series. Adam and I sometimes greet each other now with ‘Nangga’!
“In Ceremony, it was really important to us that the story was a reflection of what you might see and experience on Adam’s Adnyamathanha Country, so there was a lot of consultation with family, which naturally took time. What we found was that by not rushing, the book became richer and richer for it, as more ideas came to us, like incorporating Adnyamathanha language.
“For Ceremony, readers will have the option to scan a QR code to hear Adam reading it aloud himself, so you can hear those Adnyamathanha words said how they’re supposed to sound.”
Footballer turned author
Co-author Adam Goodes needs little introduction. The dual Brownlow Medal recipient (the highest award in Aussie Rules football for ‘fairest and best’ player), was also 2014 Australian of the Year and a two-time grand final winner with Sydney Swans football team. (Goodes played a record 372 games in the national premiership from 1999 to 2015, all for the Swans).
After retiring from professional football, Goodes co-founded the GO Foundation, which educates and empowers Indigenous students with scholarships.
In an InstaGram post on 12 April, Adam Goodes announced, “Big day today as Ceremony goes on sale!! Huge thanks to @ellielaingnews @allenandunwin and our incredible illustrator, David Hardy, for getting our second book, part of the #WelcomeToOurCountry series, to stores.”
The children’s book series is illustrated by David Hardy, an Indigenous artist, animation expert and also a children’s author, who previously worked for Disney Studios as an animator on 12 cartoon feature films, including The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata and Return to Neverland.
Goodes continued, “It’s been a huge year off the back of #SomebodysLand hitting shelves in November 2021. I hope you enjoy learning some language from my Adnyamathanha culture and about a special Ceremony we have.”
After the first book, Somebody’s Land, was released, Adam Goodes said, “Ellie and I saw an opportunity to create something we could be very proud of – a resource for parents and their younger children around Indigenous culture.
“Somebody’s Land begins the series by introducing readers to the term ‘terra nullius’, a Latin term meaning ‘nobody’s land’ – applied to the colonisation of Australia by white settler…
“I’m incredibly hopeful. I choose to be positive, to help us heal as a nation…
“As a new father, with my daughter now approaching the age where she will start school, I’m so proud to be publishing a series of books about Australia’s Indigenous history.”
Inspiration for the series
“When I was growing up there was hardly any books about Indigenous Australians,” Laing told Manly Observer, “which is what inspired Adam and I to write the series in the first place. When my son Harvey came home a few years ago now, and recited an Acknowledgment of Country at the dinner table, out of nowhere, I was pretty emotional and wanted to try and find a book that I could read with Harvey to talk about why he was saying what he was saying. That’s when Adam and I had a chat, and here we are!
“For many years my husband worked at the Sydney Swans, and I worked as a news reporter,” she revealed, “which meant Adam and I came across each other on a number of occasions at events or media opportunities. So, when I called Adam to ask if he knew any good books for Harvey, or if he’d ever thought of writing one himself, he knew who I was, and was thankfully happy to chat!
“Adam, David and I having a fruitful working partnership, and the creative process is always so rewarding, but the creative process on all our books, and especially Ceremony, is actually really involved, and takes a lot longer than you might expect!
“For us, it’s so important that our books not only engage kids, but also help and educate adults too, who will be reading these stories aloud. We hope our books give them the support they need to have these conversations, because they never had the education or the books available themselves.
“We also partnered with Aboriginal education company Culture is Life, to develop some learning resources to go with the book, which have been really well received as they not only support teachers guide learning in the classroom, but also help to encourage further discussion at home too.”
Is there a likelihood the Department of Education may adopt their Welcome to Our Country series as core learning books for primary school children across Australia?
“Wouldn’t that be lovely!” Ellie said. “You never know! I do know that SO many teachers and librarians are so happy to have the book as a learning resource. We’ve had a lot of feedback from the school community which has been really positive.”
May we learn what the main topics are that feature in the next three books in the Welcome to Our Country series, or is that a surprise?
“I’m a fan of surprises!” Laing declared.
Are there plans to create an animated TV series, perhaps with the characters singing the rhyming sentences set to music?
“I think we both would love to see the books brought to life on the screen!” Laing considered. “Perhaps another nice surprise down the track!”
To order Ceremony or Somebody’s Land, visit publisher Allen and Unwin