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A 'literary hug' for fire and flood affected communities

Rachael Knowles -

Award-winning author Kirli Saunders has created an initiative to bring Blak books to fire and flood affected communities.

A Gunai woman and writer of poetry, picture books and plays, Saunders created Re[ad]generate to bring stories by First Nations authors to Aboriginal communities who have suffered through fires and floods.

Raised on Gundungurra Country, with ties to Biripi Country and Yuin Country, Saunders said the cause was very close to her.

"Re[ad]generation was sparked from a conversation with a teacher from Biripi Country, we were yarning about her young people, the kids in her school ... she said that there is obviously inconceivable damage post-fire and flood," Saunders said.

"It is close to my heart because Biripi Country is my grandfather's Country, Yuin Country is the place that birthed my Mum, Gunai Country is my Country and I was born on Gundungurra Country â€" all that coast up and down has been affected by bushfires."

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A post shared by Kirli Saunders (@kirli.saunders)

Re[ad]generate puts "Blak books in the hands of kids who need it most" whilst supporting First Nations writers and authors, according to Saunders. The initiative is being fuelled by a GoFundMe campaign.

"The power of bringing communities Blak books is that we get to share stories for kids who will be able to understand them, especially given that one quarter of our Aboriginal communities are in fire and flood affected areas," said Saunders.

"I think kids can't be what they can't see, so if there are Blak books in hands then we are providing them a literary hug.

"[We are] letting them know that their stories matter and that we are there with them in solidarity during this hard time and always."

Broome-based publisher Magabala Books is supporting Re[ad]generate.

"Magabala have come onboard as a supporter ... They are going to organise the delivery, packaging and sending of these books and they will also chip in some books on top of the amount fundraised for," said Saunders.

"I am deeply thankful to Magabala, they are an incredible publisher of First Nations authors and illustrators."

Saunders recently took home the 2021 Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Small Publishers' Children's Book of the Year for her verse novel Bindi.

Bindi, published by Magabala Books, hit shelves in November 2020 and was the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards winner and winner of the inaugural Daisy Utemorrah Award.

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A post shared by Magabala Books (@magabalabooks)

"[There is] Blak excellence in the literary scene at the moment, there are a lot of First Nations writers being celebrated for ABIAs, Miles Franklin Awards and Stella awards â€" all kinds of things!" Saunders said.

"I feel so lucky I get to be a part of that storytelling .... It is nice to see those yarns, ideas and threads of story, song and poem being celebrated in the way they should."

"I am constantly in awe of our mob, our resilience and strength, but also our intuition, our awareness, grounding and deep love for the land ... I think if anyone can heal Country, we can."

To support Re[ad]generate, click here.

By Rachael Knowles

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