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Wongutha Tales

Bawoo & Badudu Stories

By May O’Brian

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

May O’Brian was one of Australia’s first indigenous school teachers and served for many years as community leader and on many committees. She was also a gifted storyteller. This little paperback contains four traditional teaching stories of the Wongutha people, plus some stories about May’s early life as a Mission child, collected here for a new generation of junior readers.
First published as individual titles in 1992, these stories were ground-breaking publications, presenting traditional Indigenous stories in a bilingual text and giving a unique insight into learning English as a second language from a First Nations perspective.
The Bawoo stories are ones handed down from generation to generation of the Wongutha people and unique to Wongutha country. They had a particular purpose e.g., Why the Emu Can’t Fly and were an important part of the children’s education. The Badudu stories illustrate the experiences of Australians whose first language is not English and how that plays out in the classroom setting.
May writes with great gentleness, simplicity and clarity. The words and events flow to reach wise and satisfying endings, each story a lesson in empathy and understanding. She has provided a guide to pronunciation but this is an approximation only as some Wongutha sounds do not have an exact equivalent in English.
Excellent Teaching notes highlight the themes and resources for cross curriculum study of  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.
Fremantle Press 2023


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