Author and illustrator, Gregg Dreise, bounced into view and began his Welcome to Country so the gathered members attending the Book Links AGM could join him in paying respect to the traditional custodians of the land.
Before we knew it, he had Tess Rowley flying like a sea eagle and Sandy Driessens bouncing like a kangaroo as Gregg himself animated the whole room with his passion and energy.
He peppered his stories with snippets and antidotes and we all hung on tight for the ride of our lives though some of the oldest stories in the world to the stories of Greg's parents and his own generation. Gregg pointed out gleefully that we are still teaching in schools today what his ancestors 55,000 years ago knew, that to tell a good story you need to have an introduction, body and conclusion!
We replied with gusto to his communal storytelling, singing back, clapping and ‘tsking’ in mostly the right places! The stories of more recent times, The Stolen Generation “savages to be civilised” can be hard to hear as a white Australians, however Gregg is about joy and happiness and he shares stories to bring awareness and to ensure we look after each other and the world, so the world can look after us.
Gregg spoke to us of the power of tradition especially with art and storytelling and how we can change perceptions and increase diversity without stereotype. Something as simple as the revised edition of Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas. The text hasn’t changed but in the illustrations Jessica is now in a wheelchair. It can be as simple as blending skin tones in illustrations so that children could be of any ethnicity that connects with the reader. That is what diversity is about, books that connect with every child because they are about people like them.
Gregg agreed that changes like the above are simple to do but as a non-indigenous person if you wanted to write a story about an indigenous group it was important to connect with that group for their guidance and approval.
In the true spirit of inclusion, I asked other members of the Write Links group to share their reflections, resources and their favourite inclusive books and picture books for this blog:
Write Links attendees were fortunate to hear Gregg Dreise talk about his heritage, his stories and how we can all include greater diversity in our work. I was extremely grateful for this opportunity as I have always wanted to be more inclusive in my work, however I have been concerned about the possibility of inadvertently causing offence through potential cultural insensitivity or lack of knowledge. Gregg clearly and concisely explained the way forward. It would be wonderful if all authors could hear Gregg speak. Thank you so much Gregg, you are a brilliant ambassador. – Emma Middleton https://emmamiddleton.com/
I think it's really that Gregg is encouraging respect. It is more than inclusive literature it is raising up diverse voices, through mentoring to also tell their own stories. So, it is everyone reading beyond their own immediate experiences who may be used to always being mainstream.
It is also about deconstructing stereotypes of others and keeping them out of our writing
So, for the inclusive list you wrote, it is also about adding authors of experiences often offered as well, not just as friends, but as a new world for some readers, but a well-researched one.
Dr Who on Rosa Parks was great episode, for instance. Also thinking of Indigenous and Migrant authors just telling stories they want that are great books for all.
Dr June Perkins https://magicfishdreaming.com/
Here are some links to check out for more information:
And here are some books suggested by our members
Karen Tyrrell, a Write Links member has written …. Ready, Set, Discover Logan
Cecilia Adams 'The Day War Came' - Author, Nicola Davis. Illustrator, Rebecca Cobb. www.walker.co.uk - Amnesty International UK endorses this book because it shines a light on children's rights to be safe and have an education. Walker Books donating one pound to Help Refugees for every copy sold. My very best purchase from London trip this year!
Justine Lawson "My Two Blankets" Irena Kobald, Illustrator, Freya Blackwood
Hayley Jackson Gus the asparagus! and Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern
This one is a beautifully illustrated, rhythmic exploration of difference in an Indigenous/non-Indigenous context https://www.goodreads.com/.../17236136-same-but-little...
For your advanced Yr 6 readers, Inheritance by Carole Wilkinson is thought-provoking. A time-slip looking at the massacre of original occupants of a pastoral lot, but really sensitively done, with a gripping mystery at the heart.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40660553-inheritance...
I love this as a non-patronising look at a non-Anglo family & the different ways families express love. Unique & powerful use of language too.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2962372-so-much...
Lucy McGinley – My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins
Gregg Dreise is the author and illustrator of Silly Birds, Kookoo Kookaburra and Mad Magpie. These stories are about teaching morals. Silly Birds is based on the saying, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys”. Kookoo Kookaburra is based on the saying, “Kindness is like a boomerang - if you throw it often, it comes back often. If you never take the chance to throw it, it never comes back”. Mad Magpie is based on the words of wisdom, “Stay calm like the surface of the water, yet strong like its current. And know that there is a song out there for you.”
A descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. He was born and raised in St George, Queensland and moved to Noosa during high school. He is the youngest of eight in a family that loved sport, music and poetry (one of those families where everyone sings, and passes guitars around at get-togethers). Gregg’s mother (Lyla Dreise-Knox) has always inspired him to write. Her poetry has entertained the family (as well as the odd magazine and newspaper readers) for many decades.
Gregg is currently a teacher in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. He has completed writing four more picture books waiting their turn for publishing; and is also working on a chapter book for upper primary. For Gregg, the most exciting part of writing, is going to schools and libraries with his didgeridoo and guitar, with the aim to educate an audience filled with smiles. He was very excited to take his books to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy this year. His book Silly Birds was on the 2015 Premier’s Reading Challenge year 1 to 3 booklist and was shortlisted and then won the 2015 Speech Pathology Australia - Book of the Year award.
Gregg has been an artist most of his life, following in the footsteps of many family members. His paintings have been sold all over the world. His recent international art award was for the last painting in the book Silly Birds.
Lucy lives in a house where dinosaurs roam the bathroom, chess pieces invade the dinner table and drawings of the weird and the wonderful carpet the floor. Words wrap around her like possums clinging to telecom lines, plop onto pages steadily like koala droppings and dart into the grass like blue tongue lizards! She spends her days captivating kindergarten children and her afternoons marvelling over birds feathers, seedpods and occasionally snake skins, with her son.
French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.
This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June's interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.
Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.
June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.
June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created - Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.
Herald Angel, John Perceval, Queensland Art Gallery
June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friends from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.
‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds:
‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge,
Feel the breezes, through the sedge’
in an enticing invitation to adventure and travel, lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.
Hot Air balloon, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Queensland Art Gallery
On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ ’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says:
‘Listen to the music of landscapes
through the portal of Australia’s artists’
One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’
Lamp Lit, Rosie Gascoigne, Queensland Art Gallery
And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Sprit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid Echuca Landscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.
Woman with blossoms, Ray Crooke, Queensland Art Gallery
Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.
The gift (from 'Argonauts of the Timor Sea'), Michael Stevenson, Queensland Art Gallery
June’s verse reads:
You can do anything, be anything
The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.
Kudusur, Alick Tipolti, Queensland Art Gallery
Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses. You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.
June's final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information). You won't regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.
Poems are available as pdfs until the end of November https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/australian-collection/quiet
Renee Hills 2018-11-06
Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial Pacific, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.
Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted, Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.
Lucy McGinley blog editor and coordinator