Title: Sea Country
Author: Aunty Patsy Cameron
Illustrator: Lisa Kennedy
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Publisher: Magabala Books
Published: June 2021
Sea Country is a lovingly-made new picture book from Magabala Books that cherishes First Nations Culture – particularly the Culture of the Pairrebeenne/Trawlwoolway clan. Author Aunty Patsy Cameron and illustrator Lisa Kennedy are both descendants of Mannalargenna of the Pairrebeenne/Trawlwoolway clan and have created Sea Country together. Every single page shows a mixed-media fantastical depiction of living life on Flinders Island in eastern Bass Strait. Young readers are welcomed by the exciting and highly-detailed illustrations to learn about family, life, and traditions of the Pairrebeenne/Trawlwoolway clan.
Aunty Patsy Cameron has written a beautiful exploration of her cultural lineage where Language and traditions are passed within family. This picture book is lovingly dedicated to the author and illustrator’s children’s children, which further expresses how Sea Country is passing on tradition to a new generation of First Nations children through words and pictures. Sea Country also includes a statement by Aunty Patsy Cameron about how she continues the tradition of making shell necklaces as taught by her mother. Written in first person point of view, the unnamed protagonist explains their upbringing and rich quality of life:
We grew up on Flinders Island in eastern Bass Strait. The bush and the beach were our playground. There was freedom there. Freedom to practise our culture. To know who we were and where we came from.
This is accompanied by Kennedy’s illustrations of clothing hanging on a line between tree, looking out to the sea from rocks, a map of Flinders Island, and archival family photographs. Each page shows a different aspect of growing up on Sea Country; from collecting shells to make necklaces with Aunties, fishing on wooden dinghies with Uncles, to looking for shellfish with other children for cooking and eating. This picture book also shows how children learnt signs from Country. Like how a ring around the moon means that bad weather is coming or what it means when mutton birds fly away or when black cockatoos fly down from mountains. This is a wonderfully culturally-rich book.
Overall, this is a brilliant picture book that identifies the rich Culture of Pairrebeenne/Trawlwoolway people’s for generations to come and shares in the importance of keeping family traditions alive. If you loved Respect by Fay Stuart-Muir and Sue Lawson, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy then Sea Country should be your next picture book pick!