Review Blog

Sep 20 2011

Yulu's coal : a story from Adnyamathanha country by the Adnyamathanha community with Liz Thompson

cover image

Sharing our stories (series). Pearson Australia, 2011. ISBN 978 1 4425 4690 5.
(Ages 8+) Recommended. Aboriginal folklore. Yulu's coal, a story of how the coal came to be at Leigh Creek in South Australia's far north, is a story told over and over again by members of the Adnyamathanha community in explaining their heritage to their children.
The story tells of a ceremony at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, where all the community was waiting for Yulu the Kingfisher Man to begin the ceremony. When he failed to appear, Wala the Wild Turkey Man was asked instead. But Yulu did not think that Wala could do this and lit a fire letting people know he was on his way.But two serpents also saw the smoke signals and came down to where Copley is today, curling around themselves forming the mountains now seen there. Arriving at the ceremony ground, the serpents made a lot of dust, and then ate many of the people, becoming so ill they needed to rest, and so formed Wilpena Pound. Yulu and Wala then formed the ochre pits near Copley and the coal now found at Leigh Creek.
The story itself tells people how the Flinders Ranges came to be and tells much about sites found in the mountains, Copley, Chamber's Gorge, Leigh Creek, Wilpena Pound, as well as giving much of the cultural detail about the Adnyamathnha people. It is a marvellous story, and is told by Noel Wilton, and illustrated by children from Leigh Creek Area School. At the end of the book the story is told in Adnyamathanha language and details are given about the elders and the children in this community. I appreciated the double page spread at the beginning introducing the Adnyamthanha community, detailing just where the people live, and the brief but very useful index.
All of the books in this series are similar, taking a story from one of the Aboriginal groups in Australia, having an elder tell the story, with children illustrating it, then adding much information about the community, the elders and the children. Bright, inviting illustrations round off a visually exciting range of books, sure to add much to the teaching of Aboriginal Dreaming stories in the classroom. But much more can be edduced from reading this with a class. The elders' stories give an insight into our shared history and what has happened to many Aboriginal people in the past, making these books an ideal springboard for class discussions not only about Dreaming stories but also the Stolen generation, Reconciliation and the Apology. For more about this fine series, go to this website.
Fran Knight

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