Over the weekend I had the absolute pleasure of attending the launch of Grandfather Emu and How the Kangaroo got her Pouch which is Book 1 in the Spirit of the Dreaming Series by Rhonda Collard-Spratt, a Yamatji-Noongar woman and Jacki Ferro, published by Boolarong Press. This title is the first of a five-part series. At the end of the story it is explained that “the Spirit of the Dreaming series takes Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime stories from the past and creates new Dreamings for future generations”.

Aunty Rhonda Collard-Spratt and Jacki Ferro at book launch
Aunty Rhonda and Sharron “mirii” Bell performing a contemporary Emu dance at the book launch

This story is also available as an audiobook. The audiobook features Rhonda Collard-Spratt reading the story which transports the reader to the bush as they hear the calls of the different bush animals, the creek flowing, a fire crackling and a didgeridoo playing. This version of the story also allows the readers to hear the Aboriginal words from the Noongar Language of Western Australia that are included in this book.

As an inky starlit sky hovers over the bush, a Kangaroo family come together by a crackling fire to share stories. The wise Kangaroo, Yonga Koomba, shares a story about The Great Spirit of the Dreaming, the creator of all and the test that The Great Spirit devised for the animals. The Great Spirit can take on any living form and transforms into an old emu named Grandfather Weitj. The elderly emu suffers from deteriorating eyesight and a painful leg that causes him to limp. Unable to source water or food, he hobbles along in a desperate attempt to quench his thirst and source food to stave off his hunger. He walks through the bush and encounters several bush animals, Mother Numbat, a crow called Mr Wardong and Kaarda Goanna. Grandfather Weitj explains to each of them that he comes peacefully and is very hungry, but needs assistance getting to the creek. He asks the animals if they will help him. Each of the animals are distracted with attending to their own needs and so grandfather Weitj grows weaker as he continues to look for water and food with no animals coming to his aid.

A kangaroo, Mother Yonga, spots grandfather Weitj and asks if she may be of assistance. Mother Yonga compassionately responds to his request and with her joey in tow helps grandfather Weitj to the creek. Upon learning that the old emu was also hungry, Mother Yonga decides to place her joey in a safe place, away from the threat of harm so that she can continue to help the old emu find food. When Mother Kangaroo returns to the creek  she is surprised to discover the Great Spirit who informs her of the whereabouts of Grandfather Weitj and offers a reward to Mother Kangaroo for being the only animal who helped Grandfather Weitj. Mother Kangaroo remains selfless when choosing her reward, one that benefits all female marsupials.

This Dreaming Story which includes Aboriginal words from the Noongar Language of Western Australia has a beautiful lesson about being kind and helping our Elders. It highlights that we are all part of one community and working together, showing compassion and cooperation is vital. Being too busy, apathetic and selflessly driven causes divisions, isolation and unnecessary suffering. Central to the teaching is that we are at our strongest when we help each other and work together.

The story is visually driven as vibrant and colourful illustrations painted by Rhonda Collard-Spratt illuminate the pages. There are striking images of bush scenes, featuring unique Australian trees such as the Balga trees (grass trees) and flowers. The illustrations include dot painting, patterns and stunning details to complement this story.

At the end of the story is a song titled ‘Take the Time To Help’ as well as a list of Aboriginal words from the Noongar Language of Western Australia and their English translations.

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