Skip to main content


Birrarung Wilam

A Story from Aboriginal Australia

Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrew Kelly, Lisa Kennedy (Illustrator)

Hardcover

List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

Travel along Melbourne’s twisting Yarra River in a glorious celebration of Indigenous culture and Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

As ngua rises, Bunjil soars over mountain ash, flying higher and higher as the wind warms. Below, Birrarung begins its long winding path down to palem warreen.

Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly and Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri people Aunty Joy Murphy join to tell the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s beautiful Yarra River — from its source to its mouth and from its prehistory to the present day. The writing dazzles with poetic descriptions of the trees, plants, and wildlife that thrive in harmony along the iconic waterway. Lush and vibrant acrylic paintings from Indigenous illustrator Lisa Kennedy make the mighty Yarra come to life — coursing under a starry sky, drawing people to its sunny shores, mirroring a searing orange sunset. Jewel-like details in the illustrations offer opportunities for discovery on every page. As gorgeous and powerful as the river itself, this stunner invites all to come to Wilam: home.

End matter includes an authors' note and a glossary of the Woiwurrung words used in the story.


Praise For Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia

This text perfectly captures the intersection of culture and science, making this an excellent text for an elementary-level unit on animal habitats, artistic portrayals, and cultural depictions of ecology. Wilam, home, takes many forms for a plethora of animals in this striking Aboriginal story.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The animals are painted naturalistically, framed by tapestries of texture and pattern that contain aboriginal elements. As the river approaches the city, buildings appear, but always in the background. It’s a lovely, immersive introduction to a language, and a closely observed view of the Australian natural world.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Kids who would normally snooze through a travelogue will find this inviting, and those already interested in ecosystems may be encouraged to similarly document their own. It’s also a book that offers many possible approaches...However you use it, it’s a dazzling literary journey. (See p. 489 for publication information.)
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

A necessary purchase, and co-written by a senior Aboriginal elder and the Yarra riverkeeper, this is one small step toward depicting a culture that is likely underrepresented in most collections.
—School Library Journal

“Me no leave it, / Yarra, my country. / There’s no mountains / for me on the Murray.” This 1874 quote from William Barak, Wurundjeri Ngurungaeta (who was a leader of the Aboriginal Australian nation of the Woiwurrung language group), opens this dynamic celebration of Australia’s Yarra River Valley...A distinct and introspective reflection on time, place, creatures, and people.
—The Horn Book

Candlewick, 9781536209426, 40pp.

Publication Date: August 4, 2020



About the Author

Aunty Joy Murphy is a storyteller and writer who is passionate about using stories to bring people together and as a conduit for understanding Aboriginal culture. She is an Officer of the Order of Australia. She previously collaborated with Lisa Kennedy on Welcome to Country. Aunty Joy Murphy lives in Victoria, Australia.

Andrew Kelly is the Yarra Riverkeeper, part of an international organization of Riverkeepers. He has written numerous books for children and adults. He lives in Victoria, Australia.

Lisa Kennedy is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway people on the coast of Tasmania. Her work is marked by her experiences of both cultural and natural loss and reclamation. She lives in Victoria, Australia.