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Indigenous Language Publishing - Black Ink Press | Books, Black, Language, Press, Indigenous, Publishing, Students, Mungkan | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
Indigenous Language Publishing - Black Ink Press PDF Print E-mail

Black Ink Press is a community-based Indigenous publishing company based in North Queensland, specialising in contemporary illustrated books for young readers. Black Ink Press has a strong commitment to publishing in Indigenous languages.

So far, Black Ink has published in Gudjal, Mamu, Mitakoodi, Gamilaraay, Wadja, Wik Mungkan, Wiradjuri, Kalaw Kawaw Ya, Torres Strait Creole and Nywaigi. They have new books in Kunjen and Djambarpuyingu, and are developing projects in Warrgamay, Yidinj, Waluwara, and others. Some of these only have a few words ‘in language’ but they do give readers a taste. Others are fully bi-lingual.

A speaker and writer of Wik Mungkan herself after living at Aurukun, Black Ink Press coordinator Jeanie Adams has long dreamed of more books in Indigenous languages and books with characters, images and language styles that young Indigenous readers can identify with. When her own books, ‘Pigs and Honey’ and ‘Going for Oysters’ were published she pursuaded Omnibus Books to provide illustration blanks for translation into Wik Mungkan.

Jeanie recognised a wealth of Indigenous talent to create books, but realised that people are often constrained by lack of confidence and lack of knowledge of the publishing industry. So, driven by the need for reading materials amongst the Indigenous students at partner organisation Shalom Christian College, the school’s umbrella organisation CCDEU (Congress Community Development and Education Unit Ltd) enabled Jeanie Adams to establish a publishing arm, Black Ink Press, with a program to find and mentor Indigenous writers and illustrators.

Those students include young adults who are barely able to read at all. And many of the students speak English as a second (or third) language. The boarding college counts among its students many youngsters from Galiwin’ku and a language program began around Yolngu-Matha. Black Ink Press is about to publish a bilingual book, Northern Territory Animals, illustrated by a group of students in a project initiated by cultural studies teacher Pam Wallace.

The desire to produce works in language for school children began with the set of four Gudjal language word books (Gudjal Language Dictionary, Gudjal Book of Birds, Gudjal Book of Animals, My Country) by William Santo. His quest to reclaim his own language from around Charters Towers, Queensland, led to his creation of small picture word books containing his own lively paintings of animals, birds and the environment. The pictures were first produced as posters to teach children in the local schools.

Following a language-recording skills workshop in Townsville at which William’s daughter read his books, the books were included as ‘virtual books’ on the State Library of Queensland’s website.

Junjardee and The Red Bank
Boat-ang mp'pul (Two in a Boat)
Minh Nga'an Wichan (Catching Fish)

Now Black Ink Press has begun to develop a whole set of ‘virtual’ and ‘talking’ books with the authors and other native speakers reading the books. This makes the meaningful reading of bilingual books a real possibility.

The development of the books always involves local people. To develop ‘Mitakoodi Bush Tucker’ linguist Cassy Nancarrow worked with the late Margaret Ah Sam in Mount Isa, using the photos taken by Dale Rackham, with the Mayi-Thakurti language work of Gavin Breen, and botanical lists of proper plant names, to create a beautiful and useful book.

‘Junjardee and the Red Bank’ by Janelle Evans has a few words of Wadja from Woorabinda. ‘Turtle Egg Day’ by the late Ruth Thompson has a few words of Mamu. Most recently, the book ‘Down to the Pond’ by the late Vi Sirriss continues the tradition in Nywaigi.

‘Aukam’ arose from a single painting of a traditional Saibai Island story, made into a beautiful series of pictures by Belinda Kabai, written in Kalaw Kawaw Ya by the late Ezra Waigana and designed into a book at Black Ink.

The cute Little Black Books series by young people includes two bilingual Wik Mungkan books, ‘Two in a Boat’ (Boat-ang mo’pul) and ‘Catching Fish’ (Minh Nga’an Wichan).

Community development principles drive all projects. Black Ink Press has run mentoring programs in which successful published artists mentor new writers and illustrators in community groups or schools, as well as residencies at Black Ink Press to work on projects. Black Ink Press is open to approaches from writers and illustrators and offers support and advice to those seeking information about publishing.

Jane Karyuka and local linguists have made Aurukun Shire Council’s Koolkan Childcare Centre into a Wik Mungkan language nest. To support this, funds were obtained to re-publish a number of small books created in the school in the late 1970s. This project means that there are books for children to read in their language, which is still very much a part of their lives.

For more information about Black Ink Press including new titles and projects go to their website at