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New children's book to examine tale of the Torres Strait Islander Flag

Dechlan Brennan -

A new children's picture book examining the story of the Torres Strait Flag is to be released next week, featuring the words of Bernard Namok Jnr and Thomas Mayo and the illustrations of award-winning artist Tori-Jay Mordey

‘Our Flag, Our Story’ tells the tale of the Torres Strait Islander Flag — a symbol of unity, shared identity and pride for all Torres Strait Islander people. 

The book shares an essential part of both Torres Strait Islander, and Australian, history. It is accessible to all and told by Torres Strait Islander creators. 

Mr Namok Jnr’s father, the late Bernard Namok, designed the flag.

Asked how he felt to share his fathers legacy, he said: “To quote my mum (Bakoi Namok) in the film documentary Carry the Flag – 'Carry on the legacy, where your dad left off...'”

“I feel very honoured and privileged to be able to continue on the legacy,” he said. 

Mr Namok Jnr said Torres Strait Islanders were natural storytellers, and it was important to continue to share “our stories".

“I believe if we start educating our younger generations, they will grow up knowing and understanding our way of life,” he said. 

Thomas Mayo, who spearheaded the Yes23 campaign during the Voice Referendum last year, said working with Mr Namok Jnr gave him a new connection to the Torres Strait Islander Flag.

“We love the flag and all it represents and we are proud to share it with all Australians,” Mr Mayo said. 

The book is filled with bright illustrations from Torres Strait Islander artist Tori-Jay Mordey - who previously illustrated Cathy Freeman’s portrait for the ‘Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women’ in 2018. 

Her work shares the connection to the Islands through vibrant colours and symbolism like the ‘Dhari’ - a traditional headdress used in cultural ceremony and dance and which appears on the Torres Strait Islands flag - which readers can learn from.

“With every story an Indigenous writer shares with Australia, the nation becomes a little more accepting,” Mr Mayo said, “a little more connected, and increasingly ready to embrace our culture.”

“Indigenous stories are one of the ways we will finally see justice.”

Editor of Magabala Books - who are releasing ‘Our Flag, Our Story’ - Melena Cole-Manolis, said the book tells a piece of Australian history which is “long overdue".

“We felt it was important for this story to be told by Torres Strait Islanders, it’s about their values and their culture," Ms Cole-Manolis said.

It’s their story to tell that all Australians should listen to." 

For those wishing to use the book as a teaching tool, the text will also include teacher support material linked to the Australian curriculum.

‘Our Flag, Our Story releases May 1 from all good bookshops and online from Magabala Books — RRP $27.99.

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