Children's 'innocence and wisdom' inspires book about being a happy, healthy Ngarrindjeri

A picture book launched by the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in Murray Bridge draws on local kids' imaginations.

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Layla Trevorrow launches I’m a Happy, Healthy Ngarrindjeri with help from grown-ups Jean Waddington, Diana Murphy, Georgie Trevorrow and Aninna Tarasenko. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

A new picture book illustrated by local schoolchildren has been launched by the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

Titled I’m a Happy, Healthy Ngarrindjeri, the book offers lifestyle tips for children and their parents.

Each is accompanied by a painting or drawing by a child living in Murray Bridge or elsewhere on the traditional lands of the Ngarrindjeri people.

Embedding a happy, healthy message in emerging minds will lay the foundation for a stronger future for everyone, the book’s foreword says.

At a launch event in Murray Bridge on Friday, Moorundi CEO Steve Sumner said that message was already present in the imaginations of all nragi po:rlar, or deadly children.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that children never lose sight of these ingredients, so they have no need for chronic disease management in later life,” he said.

Researcher Catherine Chamberlain said that while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than white Australians to have health problems today, that had not always been the case.

“Prior to colonisation (in 1788) all of our kids were far healthier and happier than the European kids at that time,” she said.

“That wasn’t an accident – that was all because there were cultural, rich practices that enabled social and emotional wellbeing, the establishment of connectedness and all of those things that make our kids healthy and happy.”

Storytelling had been one of those cultural practices, she said.

The new book would help that practice continue, to the benefit of both children and their parents.

The first thousand days of a child’s life were the most important time in his or her development, Professor Chamberlain said; but they were critical to growth and healing in new parents, too.

The book was the result of a collaboration between Moorundi, mental health agency Headspace, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and students in Murray Bridge, Mannum, Strathalbyn, Goolwa, Raukkan and Meningie.