Binjari Community Aboriginal Corporation actively supports the Binjari Book project, a community-based project which has been going from strength to strength. The project involves a collaboration between women participants from Binjari and Denise Angelo, a linguist based at the Australian National University.
The Binjari Books project has a strengths-based approach which builds on the the Binjari women’s existing extensive talents and skills. Most are multilingual, speaking Kriol and English, often with knowledge of other traditional languages too. The Binjari Book project has tapped into this pool of language expertise and developed other skills, such as Kriol literacy, computer skills, kids story writing and book illustrating. It is hoped that this line of work will develop into a self-sustaining local enterprise.
The Binjari Books are written in Kriol and English. This combination of languages has been chosen because Kriol is the first language (or sometimes second) of most Binjari residents. Kriol is also the most widely spoken contemporary Aboriginal language in Australia today. It is spoken across a huge area of northern Australia including most of the Katherine Region, as well as the Kimberleys of Western Australia and into the Gulf country of Queensland. Binjari Books in Kriol will be accessible to many Aboriginal people in northern Australia.
Using Kriol in the Binjari Books is an authentic language choice, as it suits the local language landscape in Binjari. Kriol, as the everyday language of most community residents, is vibrant and contemporary, and able to capture the real voices of the community. For most Binjari children, Kriol is the language in which they learn about the world.
A further reason for using Kriol in the Binjari books is that research shows that children who experience literacy in their first language learn much faster than if they have to learn literacy plus a whole new language like English all at the same time. For many Binjari children, Kriol is their first language, so when Binjari Books are read to them, the stories make good sense because they’re written in the language the children already speak. It’s much more engaging for young Kriol-speaking children to talk about what they’ve been reading if it is in their “family language”.
In 2016, the Binjari women had the opportunity of attending two Kriol literacy workshops. In these workshops they worked on reading and writing stories in Kriol. One critical aspect of this work involved learning how to spell Kriol and developing confidence with using this spelling system. Most of the women speak Kriol fluently, but had not had the opportunity to read and write in their own language before.
In these 2016 Kriol Literacy Workshops, the women produced a number of texts, using laptops, powerpoint and image manipulation software. These Kriol texts were displayed around the community office and attracted a lot of positive feedback from residents and visitors.
Also in 2016, the women attended a workshop which brought together Aboriginal speakers of Kriol and other contact languages in the Northern Territory. The women participated in presentations, training, research and informal discussions alongside Kriol speakers from other areas.
Australian National University
Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Roper Gulf Shire Council
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) agreed to sponsor two workshops at Binjari for the purpose of writing and illustrating up to nine children’s books.
In the first workshop of the year in February, the women studied the features of different kinds of children’s books: board books, story books and early chapter books. They wrote a number of texts from which 9 were selected for publication, 3 of each type:
- Olkainawan kalawan loli. Milly Raymond
Lollies of all different colours.
- Yakai! Beibigel! Maureen Hodgson
Baby girl! Stop!
- Ola kala en namba. Bernadine Booth
Colours and numbers.
- Moli det bigibigi. Karen Manbulloo
Molly the pig.
- Tudei en longtaim. Stella Raymond
Now and then.
- Fishing – lenimbat ola biginini. Marilyn Frith
Fishing know-how – teaching children
- Roki det kenggurru. Maureen Hodgson
Rocky the kangaroo.
- Hanting gada biliken. Maureen Hodgson
Hunting with billycans.
- Hanting gada trekta en treila. Maureen Hodgson
Hunting with a tractor and trailer
In the second workshop held in June, the artist and illustrator, Julie Haysom, assisted the women with drawing and pianting the illustrations for the 9 Binjari Books. The women learned a great deal from Julie and produced amazing illustrations for all their books.
- Indigenous Literacy Foundation
- Harper Collins Australia
- Australian National University
- Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
- Roper Gulf Shire Council