Our Birds: Ŋilimurruŋgu Wäyin Malanynha by Siena Stubbs

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Our Birds: Ŋilimurruŋgu Wäyin Malanynha (Magabala Books) is written by 15-year-old Yolŋu girl Siena Mayutu Wurmarri Stubbs. She introduces herself by saying, “my malk, or skin, is Gutjan, I am a Gumatj girl from the Yirritja moiety.” The book is set in Arnhem Land, where she lives, and its creation enabled her to combine her interest and skill in bird photography.

The book is well designed, with a clear layout which features a variety of birds and their habitats on each page.

There is a video of Sienna giving the correct Yolŋu Matha pronunciation of the bird names at the Magabala Books website.


The Pronunciation Guide is also explained at the end of the book. It is fascinating to learn that six letters in Yolŋu Matha are not used in English.

“We speak Yolŋu Matha, the language of the Yolŋu people. There are six letters in Yolŋu Matha that don’t exist in English, this is because some sounds in Yolŋu Matha are unlike any in the English language.” As it has become a written language new letters have been included to symbolise these sounds: e.g. ŋ pronounced ‘ng’ as in sung

Using the book with students:

Bird Photography As Siena takes photos of birds, children also try to take bird photos, particularly in the local area. Also photograph their habitat. Print one from each student for display. They identify the birds and label them and also write a personal piece in first person about the bird like Siena does. Include some factual information.

Bird Song Phones or other recording devices could also be used to record bird song.

Read Online Yolŋu dictionary Charles Sturt University http://yolngudictionary.cdu.edu.au/ ; the CBCA shortlisted novella Black Cockatoo; Wilam: A Birrarung Story set at the Yarra River and told using some Woiwurrung words/language.

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