Title: Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country
Authors: Adam Goodes and Ellie Laing
Illustrator: David Hardy
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication date: November 1, 2022
RRP: $24.99 (AUD)
Teaching resource: A comprehensive teaching resource is available to download from Allen and Unwin.
Back On Country: Welcome to Our Country by Adam Goodes, an Adnyamathanha and Narungga man together with Ellie Laing, a communications professional, illustrated by David Hardy, a Barkindji man and published by Allen and Unwin is a story about a mother from the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia taking her children, Lucy and David, back to Country to meet family, learn from Elders, listen to stories (oral as well as those stories told in artworks on rock walls and from the stars) about their Aboriginal culture and history. This story highlights the deep connection First Nations people have to Country and how Country is inherent to identity. Country is a teacher (of culture, language, traditions and history) and exploring Country with Elders is an opportunity for them to pass on knowledge, lessons and family lore that are tens of thousands of years old. This is the third book in the Welcome to Our Country series, the first being Somebody’s Land and the second, Ceremony.
In this story the reader has the privilege of joining David and Lucy as they take a road trip back to Country. As soon as they arrive, the warmth and joy that radiates from the pages when they meet their Nanna and Uncle is palpable. The children are exposed to their Aboriginal kinship structure and Adnyamathanha words which are embedded throughout the book (a visual glossary is provided on the endpapers with the English meaning). As night falls, a Welcome to Country ceremony occurs and involves singing, participating in a smoking ceremony and listening to stories under an inky star filled sky.
A new day sees Lucy and David explore Country, the land, waterways and sky, with their Nanna, Uncle and cousins. They visit sites that are significant to their family and learn about the art on the rock walls and the ochre pits. A cave provides respite from the sun and is an opportunity to learn about the drawings in the cave and the stories they tell. The children also learn about traditional First Nations foods. The night sky illuminated with stars is another storyteller and the Elders explain to the children how the stars inform them of the seasons and are used to assist with navigating journeys.
David’s vibrant and lively illustrations deftly capture the joy and connection Lucy and David feel back on Country and were inspired by his own personal experiences travelling on Country. A QR code is included at the beginning and end of the book to scan to listen to a reading of the story and the glossary on the endpapers.
This, as are the earlier two books in the series, is a vitally important story, one which makes learning about the diversity of First Nations histories and cultures engaging and accessible for younger readers (ages 4-8).