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Elder’s debut book Winthali passes down stories for future generations

Emma Ruben -

Elder and Bunuba leader Joe Ross first heard the Traditional Dream Story of Winthali from his mother.

Mr Ross was motivated to put the sacred history, an oral history passed down through the generations, into writing.

With the help of his partner Stacey Bush and their two children, they were able to document the story in the form of a children's picture book - Winthali.

"I'm using the oral story to turn into a written story in a book to be accessed by not only our Bunuba children, but all children around Australia," Ross said.

"As we do in Bunuba, I think it's very important we start documenting a lot of this knowledge so we don't lose it.

"There are less than 50 Elders who speak Bunuba now and it's important to keep our language, culture and stories alive for the next generation."

Winthali is an adaptation of a Bunuba Dreamtime Story about how fire came to be shared within the community.

The book contains a QR code with an oral reading in Bunuba and English by both Ross and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar.

Author Joe Ross, book designer Lee Burgemeestre (red hat), author Stacey Bush and in front, illustrator Remi Ross at the book launch of Winthali in Fitzroy Crossing. Photo supplied.

Ross wrote the story alongside his partner and their two children who illustrated the book.

"It was a real family affair with our extended family too and we got people excited about learning the language," he said.

"My children Remy and Bo did all the illustrations and all the drawings and I just want to show young people that they can do these sorts of things.

"Bunuba is a big language project at the moment...and we think it's a great thing that we're going to keep doing this for the next decade."

Keeping the Bunuba language alive is one reason Ross was inspired to establish the history.

But he also wanted to ensure non-Bunuba speaking readers could learn about the story of Winthali too.

"We want to share this not only for Bunuba people, we want to share it for all people throughout Australia, black and white people," he said.

"It's a great story and a great bedtime story about our culture, our history and our language.

"We wanted to share this story with everybody so it's better to write it in English also."

In the future, Ross said this story will be passed down to the next generation of Bunuba kids who will share this story.

"We wanted to help with reconciliation and help people to understand Aboriginal people in our country," he said.

"Also this story is valuable for our families here.

"We have a lot of stolen generations and children so they will become the custodians of this story."

Winthali is available to be purchased from the Indigenous Literacy Foundation from July 11.

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