The Dunggiirr Brothers and the caring song of the whale by Aunty Shaa Smith with Yandaarra

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The Dunggiirr Brothers and the Caring Song of the Whale is a stunningly presented picture book that encompasses different creative mediums to enhance the important story being shared. Included in the visual representations are full page scenic photographs of Country, snapshots of significant people and sculpture, hand drawn images as well as a map of the local area of Ngambaa Country on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. This is where the story takes place. The author and illustrator Aunty Shaa Smith is a proud Gumbaynggirr woman and story holder for her Country. Aunty Shaa Smith leads the Yandaarra Caring for Country community group who worked together to create this beautiful book for all people especially children, to learn the stories of the mid-north NSW coast.

The story focuses on the Dunggiirr (koala) Brothers, who saved people in the east who were trapped when the sea water rose. The Brothers built a bridge using “their insides, their gut strings”. However, there was a mischievous Baalijin, (eastern quoll) who scared the people and threatened to chop down the bridge as they were crossing. Baalijin also called the Yanggaay (shark) and Gurruuja (whale) to frighten the people, but Gurruuja came in peace with the rising water to check out the new Country. Gurruuja sang a song to the people about respect and love for all living things.

Where this story takes place is a place of ceremony and Aunty Shaa Smith and the Yandaarra take the reader on this journey to learn and live this story. There are many strong messages in this story with the most important one being the connection to, and respect of, Country and its peoples. The use of traditional language is an important component throughout the story.

An excellent story to be shared in a home, school or public library.

Themes: Aboriginal Peoples, Traditional Stories, Dreaming, Family, Connection to Country.

Kathryn Beilby