Annie’s Story keeps lost language and local culture alive

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By Gretel Sneath

An Aboriginal elder from South Australia’s Limestone Coast is reviving the lost language and culture of her ancestors by launching a unique ‘talking book’ for children.

Annie’s Story; Growing up Strong on Boandik Country honours the incredible life of Annie Brice, the great-grandmother of the book’s author, Aunty Michelle Jacquelin-Furr.

Born around 1849 at an Aboriginal campsite in Penola, Annie was the daughter of a Boandik woman from Mt Gambier.

Her father was a freed convict from Van Diemen’s Land who worked for Penola founder, Alexander Cameron, on his sheep station.

Taught to read and write by Cameron’s niece, Mary MacKillop – who went on to become Australia’s first Saint – Annie’s life was also richly-coloured by dreaming stories, hunting, gathering, cultural protocols and other traditional ways of living.

Michelle wears a possum skin cloak she made with her family. Symbols on the cloak’s underside show the life of Annie using universal symbols common to many Aboriginal nations throughout Australia.

Michelle Jacquelin-Furr first recorded Annie’s fascinating story with symbols burnt into the soft skin of a striking possum fur cloak similar to those once worn by the Boandik people.

Her new book adds another chapter to her family’s fascinating geneaology; written in English and translated into Bunganditj by Michelle’s daughter, Brooke Joy, readers can also listen to an audio version spoken in the native language by scanning the QR codes that appear on each page.

Michelle says it is important to hear words once used fluently by Boandik people brought back to life.

“The isolated communities in Central Australia and WA have kept their language, but here it all stopped (after European settlement) and they lost their culture,” she says.

“It’s important that we start reviving the language, so that we can make the young ones more confident and proud of their past.”

Michelle would like to see Annie’s Story used in every SA school as part of the curriculum, and she has been sharing her book in classrooms across the Limestone Coast since it was launched as part of NAIDOC Week 2018.

Michelle shares stories with local school students.

This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Because of her, we can!’, recognising the essential role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in communities, families, and the nation’s rich history.

Mother of 13 children, Annie Brice, is part of this incredible legacy.

“This proud Boandik woman grew up on the land, cared for country, and passed on cultural knowledge and stories while also working and bringing up a family most of her life as a single parent,” Michelle says.

“Without her strength, resilience and fighting spirit, her descendants would not be here today to share her courageous story and keep Boandik culture alive.”

To order Annie’s Story, anniebricestory.wordpress.com

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