Author Jasmine Seymour and artist Leanne Mulgo Watson have teamed up to release Cooee Mittigar this month, a beautiful book that aims to teach children about Aboriginal songlines. While the book was written with primary school children in mind, it’s also a great tool for introducing Aboriginal words and culture to preschool children.
A songline is a map of Country and helps one feel like they belong.
In Cooee Mittigar, meaning “Come here, Friend”, the reader is greeted by Mulgo (the black swan) who welcomes you to yana (walk) on Country and walks the reader along one of the Darug songlines; she shows us its path. Journeying through the seasons, Mulgo describes the land, skyscape, birds, plants, animals and totems. It’s a gentle guide to how Darug people read the seasons, knowing when it is time to hunt and time to rest. It’s a beautiful exploration of what you might see along the songline as you walk through Nura (Darug Country).
Jasmine and Leanne are both Darug mob and are thrilled to keep their culture alive through books. Says Jasmine, “The Darug mob were the first in Sydney, and all school children deserve to know the true history of the place in which they live.”
With Darug language interspersed with English and an extensive glossary throughout, Cooee Mittigar presents a great tool for learning and understanding Aboriginal culture.
“I wrote Cooee Mittigar because I wanted Darug language on children’s tongues. Many of the most common Indigenous words that Australians use come from the Darug language,” says Jasmine.
Jasmine explains that Cooee is the call of the whip bird – Gaawii. It means come here. Cooee is an iconic Australian word, one that International visitors instantly recognise as being Australian.
When asked why she thinks that language is such an important part of introducing and creating an appreciation for Darug culture, Jasmine explains, “Language is the path of our Dreaming. Language is often tied to experiences and events and places and is used in a different way to European Language. Aboriginal language describes Aboriginal geography both in the now, the past and the present. While this can be a difficult concept it is one that greatly enhances learning about Darug culture.”
According to Jasmine, there are many ways for preschool aged students to explore Aboriginal landscapes through language, using the book Cooee Mittigar as a guide.
For example, many of the words within the text can be used to teach young children the Darug names of animals. Jasmine says that this could be delivered by making a small world type of play area for students to act out a scene from the book.
“A hot landscape could be used for Buru. You could have students act out walking on Country by keeping time with clapping sticks (yaban) to the beat of their boot boot (heart).”
Jasmine also suggests introducing young children to Darug Culture by inviting a Darug Elder or Custodian to have a conversation with the students or teaching children how to do an Acknowledgement of Country.
Play School recently aired an episode that featured a clip of preschool students learning how to do an Acknowledgement to Country. VIEW THE EPISODE
“It was a wonderfully rich example of respectful and inclusive learning that could be easily adapted to any Aboriginal group across Australia,” says Leanne of the episode.
Pairing it back to its simplest form, Leanne believes that an appreciation of Indigenous culture can be brought about by encouraging children to develop a relationship with the natural world. She believes that many children don’t get enough opportunities to be ‘out on Country’ and experience nature. “If we can help nurture a love for Country early on then appreciation of its beauty and history will surely continue to grow.”
Leanne believes that acknowledging and recognising Darug history is important for reconciliation.
“Our culture deserves to be championed by all people who live on Darug lands. We all belong to this beautiful country and I hope this book teaches young ones how to belong and feel at one with Country.”
Cooee mittigar. Tread softly on our lands.
Know that this dreaming was here. Is still here.
Will be forever.
Cooee Mittigar was released on November 1 through Magabala Books. Find out more via their website.
About the Author
Jasmine Seymour is a Darug woman and descendant of Maria Lock, who was the daughter of Yarramundi, the Boorooberongal elder who had met Governor Phillip on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in 1791. Maria was the first Aboriginal woman to be educated by the Blacktown Native Institute. She was married to carpenter and convict, Robert Lock and their union resulted in thousands of descendants who can all trace their Darug heritage back past Yarramundi. It is Jasmine’s wish that through her books, everyone will know that the Darug mob are still here, still strong. Jasmine is a primary school teacher in the Hawkesbury area of NSW. Baby Business was published by Magabala Books in 2019.
About the Illustrator
Leanne Mulgo Watson is a Darug artist-educator and is the daughter of Aunty Edna Watson. She has been a director of the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation for many years. Cooee Mittigar is her first book. She says “I had always wanted to create books to share our knowledge, as education is the key to our culture staying strong”.
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