A first-of-its-kind Aboriginal language children’s book, Looking for Tucker, or Murru manilhuku yukarnda, has been launched in Birdsville.
Told and illustrated by Birdsville locals Joyce Crombie, Anpanuwa, and Jean Barr-Crombie, Aulpunda, who are known as Two Sisters Talking, and published by Red Ridge, it was launched by the Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud.
More than 50 people packed into Birdsville’s community hall for the event, with locals being joined by visitors from across Queensland and interstate.
Looking for Tucker is the first storybook in Wangkangurru, the language of the Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi people of the region, and continues the trailblazing work of the Two Sisters Talking, as they work to promote and share their culture and language through art and stories.
Minister Littleproud said the book launch was an important day for all the people of western Queensland and led the way in how Aboriginal culture was shared as a nation.
“We have an enormous opportunity to allow one of the most precious cultures in the world to be taught to all Australians, for this generation and for generations to come,” Minister Littleproud said.
“By creating this book, Joyce and Jean are doing just that, leading the way as custodians of their culture.
“A lot of energy and love has gone into this book, and I congratulate the Crombie family on their continued drive and passion to share their culture.”
For the Two Sisters Talking, Looking for Tucker carries on their parents’ vision to preserve and teach their language and culture, with important work started in the 1960s by their mother Linda and family friend Dr Luise Hercus of the Mobile Languages Team in Adelaide.
“There is a lot of emotion attached to the work we do – we grew up close to the land, learning the knowledge of country through Mum and Dad,” Joyce said.
“For decades Mum and Luise worked on recording and preserving our language and we are proud to be able to share that through our book.
“It’s been exciting to watch as our ideas come to life – we started with an alphabet book almost 10 years ago, and now when you walk around Birdsville you’ll see our art on interpretive signs and we’ll even have artwork in Canberra.”
Jean added that their love of country was at the heart of their work, which they hoped could be seen in the pages of the book.
“We want to share the beauty of country with everyone – for our family, our community, and the thousands of people who visit out here… and more.
“We’ve had great support along the way from our family as well as Red Ridge, the Mobile Languages Team and the Diamantina Shire Council.
“We have lots of ideas and look forward to more projects and keeping Two Sisters Talking.”
The Blackall-based regional arts development organisation, Red Ridge, has been working with Joyce and Jean for the last 10 years, promoting and connecting Two Sisters Talking to opportunities to share and promote Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi culture.
“It is fantastic to see how far Two Sisters Talking has come as Joyce and Jean have grown in confidence and recognised their talent as well as the significant role that they play in their community and beyond,” Red Ridge manager, Louise Campbell, said.
“From simple beginnings, the Two Sisters journey with Red Ridge is inspirational – from public art installations to publishing a simple alphabet book, and now to a story book, and we have plans to do more.”
The language book is based on childhood experiences with the iconic Simpson Desert landscape captured through Joyce and Jean’s artworks and photographs.
The book also includes a CD, where the sisters are joined by older brother, Jim Crombie bringing the story to life in Wangkangurru as well as English.
The Wangkangurru language is one of many traditionally spoken in the Lake Eyre Basin region, and it is also deeply associated with the Simpson Desert, the Kallakoopah Creek and the lower Diamantina.
The development of Looking for Tucker was supported through the federal government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program.
Red Ridge chairman, Andrew Martin, extended thanks for the marathon effort to launch the book.
“The successful launch will always be remembered as a very special occasion,” he said.
Copies can be purchased from Red Ridge’s online shop or directly from Joyce and Jean.