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CBCA SA Book Week Dinner 2022 Speech by The Honourable Natalie Charlesworth (Patron of the CBCA SA)

In a telephone call with Kathryn about tonight’s dinner, she said “Keep it short Nat”. And as if to subtly reinforce the point, she has kindly provided me with a running sheet.  At my item it says Nat - brief talk.  I’m told I have five minutes.

Well, that presents me with something of a challenge because I do love being the centre of attention.  It has got me where I am today.  

I am stoked to be the patron of this chapter of the Children’s Book Council of Australia.  It captures three things I love - children, stories, and this country.  If I had more time, I would talk of all three, but as I have five minutes, I will have to confine myself and pose a short simple question about only two of them. 

The question is this; What is the story of Australia? Let’s tackle that question. In the four minutes twenty seconds we have left.  

I have been travelling in the last four weeks, in and out of capital cities.   There is a little window on the plane.  It gives me a glimpse, a bird’s eye view, over the land below.   Let me describe what I see through that little round portal, especially when the plane descends below the clouds.

I see peach toned sand, sage green salt bush, pink lakes.  Sometimes I see oceans that turn from turquoise to cobalt to Paynes grey.  Sometimes I see dry creeks, their tracks and tributaries curling Iike loose brush strokes across the flats.   I see valleys sluiced into granite hills, russet cliffs, milky rivers.  I see, from up there, looking down through that little oval, slithers of struggle, survival and beauty.    

The land is vast, its edges curve and fall away way off in the misty distance.  It is everchanging.  For a single mind it is too much to take in, let alone convey.  Despite my profession, I cannot do it justice.

The thing is, when you ask, what is the story of this place recently named Australia, there is not a single person who can truthfully answer the question.  Because there is not a single person who can experience the whole of it, who can speak for the whole of it, who is entitled to speak for the whole of it.

One part of my work is the conduct of Native Title matters.  That means that as a white Caucasian descendant of the first settlers in this State, I have the undeserved privileged to hear stories told to the Court by Aboriginal people.   Those stories are about land, time and space, all at once.  They explain the features of the land and the inextricable relationship of ancestors to it. They are maps.  They are clocks.  They are rules for living.  And sometimes they are all of those things.

When Aboriginal people ask who can speak for Country, they convey by that question something that I think is critically important.   To say one speaks for Country is not an assertion ownership or dominion over the land in a European way of speaking.  Rather, it conveys an intimacy, a connection that a person has with a particular part of the country.  And it is usually cast in terms of a responsibility.  As I have come to understand it, with my limited European upbringing, speaking for Country and caring for Country are one and the same thing.  You can’t speak for more than you are responsible for, that you are capable of caring for.  If you are telling a story about something other than that, you may not be speaking the truth.

To learn the story of Australia, perhaps it is better that we stop talking for a while, and just listen.  Listen to each other, and especially to stories told from the perspective of First Nations people.

And so, if I ask the question “What is the story of Australia?” the true answer is, it’s not for me (or you) alone to say. All I can do describe what I think I know as if looking through the porthole of a plane, from the tiny perspective of my own lived experience.   Others will look through other windows on other flights over other parts of the land at a different time, and they tell a different story.  

I think is what children’s books do.   They are tiny windows to the world.   They do not purport to know everything or to say everything there is to be said. You can’t say everything in 8 or 16 or 32 pages, and you shouldn’t try.  But you can tell a small part of the truth.  The same applies when you have but five minutes to speak.  And my five minutes is up.

Book of the Year Awards Winners 2022

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CBCA Shadow Judging

CBCA Sun Project: Shadow Judging 2022 is finished for 2022. To check it out, drop into our website (https://shadowjudging.cbca.org.au/) to hear what young voices said about the 2022 CBCA Book of the Year Award Shortlist.

Here were our winners for 2022

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The May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust is delighted to 


Applications are now open for the

2023 Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship

The Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship was established to support emerging children’s authors and illustrators who explore Australian voices and themes. 

The May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust provides the successful applicant with accommodation, local support, and travel to Adelaide providing creative time away from home for 21 nights in March 2023. This Fellowship aims to be a gift of time and support, to enable the Fellow to concentrate intensively on the development of new work, and participate in networking opportunities and professional development.

Visit www.maygibbs.org.au to find more information, provided under ‘Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship’     

N.B. This information is most effectively viewed on a computer screen rather than on phones or tablets.

For application details, contact Samantha Rubenhold, 

Fellowships Coordinator: contact@maygibbs.org.au

Completed applications must be received by 11.59pm on Friday 30th September 2022.

We all love a good story!

​13 leading associations join together to advocate for the power and pleasure of literature in the development of literacy. Starting on June 8th.


Stories enable us to envision alternative possibilities and different ways of knowing, doing, being and becoming. It is well established that literature nurtures empathy and helps us understand ourselves and others. Every learner must have easy access to a rich diversity of literature in their lives and learning.
That’s why thirteen Australian professional associations, organisations, foundations and councils, together representing thousands of English and literacy educators, authors, artists and community members, have collaborated to develop a series of online presentations that celebrate the power of literature and form a free Literature Symposium for 2022. The series begins in June and concludes in mid-November. 
With sessions on everything from conversations with authors, artists, educators and young learners, to short keynotes to panel discussions, the symposium explores literature from all angles – and highlights how story should be incorporated into learning and development across the curriculum.
‘In 2022, it is more important than ever that we all understand and celebrate the power of literature to help us imagine, question, interpret, understand, laugh and heal. We need to see ourselves in stories. Sharing stories enables us to come together as a rich and diverse community,’ said Professor Robyn Ewing.
Each free, online event will be useful for teachers, librarians, school leaders, early years educators, parents and carers, and all interested in ensuring there is rich literature in every home, preschool, classroom and library.
We all love a good story. Let’s share the joy and wonder with future generations.
The organisations are:   

  • Australia Reads 

  • Children’s Book Council of Australia

  • Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation

  • Indigenous Literacy Foundation 

  • Australian Council of TESOL Associations​

  • Primary English Teaching Association Australia 

  • Australian Literacy Educators’ Association 

  • Australian School Libraries Association            

  • Reading Australia      

  • Australian Theatre for Young People 

  • Sydney Theatre Company

  • Foundation for Learning and Literacy 

  • WestWords

Thank you to our sponsors