The inaugural Aboriginal Australian Kids Story Festival (or, the Woylie Festival, as we like to call it) was held 27 March – 3 April, 2018, in Fremantle to celebrate Aboriginal stories through languages, literature and the arts.
Since opening in February 2016, Paper Bird Children’s Books and Arts has been developing an Aboriginal literature program that reflects the need and desire expressed by families and educators in Western Australia for children to have better access to the wealth of Aboriginal stories, art and literature in our community.
Part of this initiative was to hold a national story festival dedicated to children’s Aboriginal literature and the arts. The Whadjuk people, on whose traditional land the festival will take place, refer to Fremantle as Walyalup, meaning place of the woylie. The woylie is a small marsupial otherwise known as a brush-tailed bettong, native to Fremantle and now endangered. It is a fitting emblem for connection to country and responsibility for conserving Indigenous languages and stories to be handed down to younger generations.
The City of Fremantle partnered with Paper Bird to organise and host this festival.
The event, held in the Moores Gallery, showcased a rich spectrum of different forms of Aboriginal stories through book displays, writers and illustrators presentations, exhibitions of artwork, oral story telling, dance, song, and film.
It was a free event that engaged people of all ages to connect with Noongar Aboriginal stories others from around Australia.
The Woylie Festival brought together the creative talents and wisdom of Aboriginal children’s book writers, illustrators and storytellers from across Australia to showcase here in Fremantle.
Over 500 kids from schools in Perth attended a schools program during the festival to learn about Aboriginal Australian culture through stories.
The Woylie Festival was promoted through schools, libraries and community channels to encourage all kids, parents and educators to get involved. Noongar Elder, Marie Taylor, and Dylan Collard conducted a smoke ceremony and welcomed festival attendees to Walyalup. Festival Patrons, Theresa Walley and Professor Kim Scott, both celebrated Noongar children’s book writers and storytellers, were part of launching the Easter weekend events. Other writers, illustrators and storytellers include, Festival Elder, Dr Noel Nannup (WA), Kerry-Ann Winmar (WA), Sally Morgan (WA), Ambelin Kwaymulina (WA), Josie Boyle (WA), Greg Dreise (QLD), and Dub Leffler (NSW).
This was a very important step forward in celebrating the diversity and richness of Aboriginal children’s literature and story telling through spoken word, dance, visual art and song.