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Building first language literacy in Aṉangu children

Ernabella Aṉangu School student Kellis Dare Lawrie holding the book she illustrated.
10 August 2022

A picture book for the Pitjantjatjara language illustrated by a teenage student has been launched by the Department for Education on the APY Lands.

Each sound in the Pitjantjatjara language is represented by a picture of a bird, bug or animal – similar to the way in which English language alphabet books are designed. 

The book is part of a suite of resources being developed to build first language literacy of Aṉangu children in the remote APY Lands, Yalata and Oak Valley.

SACE student at Ernabella Aṉangu School, Kellis Dare Lawrie drew the illustrations that are featured throughout the book.  

Aboriginal Education Director Bronwyn Milera said working with Aboriginal language communities to build local Aboriginal community capacity to lead long-term language maintenance and revival through education is an important component of the Aboriginal Education Strategy 2019 – 2029.

“The picture book developed at Ernabella Aṉangu School is an outstanding example of innovation and creativity to develop a resource to support our goal to build first language schools and to support connection and engagement to education within the school,” said Ms Milera.

“The illustrations provided by Kellis are a wonderful visual opportunity for bringing remote South Australia to life and providing an additional educational tool.”

“Language plays an important role in fostering a positive sense of cultural self-identity and helps to improve student engagement in the classroom.” 

Of the 500 copies printed, half have gone to the 10 Aṉangu schools (Pipalyatjara, Murputja, Amata, Ernabella, Kenmore Park, Fregon, Mimili, Indulkana, Yalata, Oak Valley) and the other half are being given to local families through the family centres, preschools and playgroups. 

The book was funded through the Supporting Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language and culture in Aṉangu Schools project, which is an ongoing initiative of the Aboriginal Education Strategy.