Come Together: Things Every Aussie Kid Should Know about the First Peoples by Isaiah Firebrace, ill. Jaelyn Biumaiwai (Hardie Grant Publishing)
Isaiah Firebrace is a Yorta Yorta and Gundit Jamara man whose formative years were spent on the banks of the Murray River.
He grew up singing in church and sprang to fame when he won The X Factor Australia TV show in 2016. He then represented Australia in Eurovision 2017.
Isaiah Firebrace’s book Come Together: Things Every Aussie Kid Should Know about the First Peoples is a 2023 CBCA shortlisted title in the Eve Pownall information book category. It is an impressive outline of many things that are important to our First Peoples. All children will learn much from this guide.
Isaiah Firebrace explains the book’s genesis:
“Last year I launched a petition on Change.org arguing that Aboriginal culture and history should be taught in all primary and secondary schools. It got, like, 300,000 signatures, and I presented it at Parliament House and met with [now Minister for Indigenous Australians] Linda Burney and Tanya Plibersek. The book grew from that. It’s aimed at primary school kids, but it will also spark conversations if parents are reading it to their kids.”
The author also states in the book’s preface, “I want everyone who reads this book to understand more about First Nations people and the true history of our country. The more we can learn about each other, the more we can understand each other and love together in harmony … Let’s come together and go on this journey of discovery.”
The refrain “come together” is highlighted and repeated throughout the book to reinforce the book’s title and hope.
The book is set out with (generally) each double page spread focussing on a topic with a concise explanation and at least one illustration.
The topics include:
Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country It is helpful to have the difference between these two ways of recognising the land and paying respect to the Traditional Owners explained so clearly.
First Inventors It would be interesting to read this section in conjunction with Heroes, Rebels and Innovators by Karen Wyld and Jaelyn Biumaiwai and The First Scientists by Corey Tutt and Blak Douglas.
Caring For Country & The Dreaming The ideas in these sections are amplified in Our Dreaming by Kirli Saunders and Dub Leffler and Open Your Heart to Country by Jasmine Seymour.
Songlines are portrayed as “a musical map of the land”.
Elders are referred to as ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’ and Aunty Lois Peeler, who was part of the original Sapphires singing group, is showcased. Other Elders featured at PaperbarkWords blog in books for children are Uncle Bruce Pascoe and Aunty Fay Muir.
Clans and Languages It is important that we appropriately use the language of First Nations People for our places. Naarm and Meanjin are often used for Melbourne and Brisbane respectively but Warrang for Sydney less so. When should we use which name?
Other important and interesting topics are the Stolen Generations, Totems, Flags, Seasons, Food, Art and Culture and Marngrook (AFL). There are several other books written for children about Marngrook worth discovering.
The illustrator of Come Together: Things Every Aussie Kid Should Know about the First Peoples,Jaelyn Biumaiwai is of Mununjali and Fijian ancestry. She employs a clear style that complements the direct words. She fittingly features the colours black, yellow and red, the colours of the Aboriginal flag. She also illustrated Heroes, Rebels and Innovators.
The book’s design by Waanyi and Kalkadoon woman Keisha Leon facilitates the book’s integrated flow from beginning to end.
On a final note, it is interesting how this book intersperses the terms ‘First Nations People’ and ‘First Peoples’. The latter is used in the book’s subtitle, signalling how much more prevalent and accepted it is at the moment. We can be guided by this terminology in our own words.
Come Together: Things Every Aussie Kid Should Know about the First Peoples at Hardie Grant