AUTHOR Helen Milroy’s Indigenous ancestry links her to an aeon’s-long tradition of storytelling and connection to nature, but her children’s books also touch on up-to-the-minute issues.
“We have an opportunity to have value in place and purpose; we have things that we need to look after, and make sure that they are safe and protected for future generations,” Milroy said.
“And then at the end of our days, we go back into that never-ending cycle once again.
“I think that’s a nice philosophy to life in a way, particularly for children; and particularly during this Covid period where we’ve had this awful pandemic that’s affected us all, even though it’s made our world smaller, and we’ve had to stay home a lot.
“I think my purpose for writing stories was really to make sure that children can see themselves reflected in stories and can find a character that they might identify with… and a place and a purpose.
“I think that that gives children a great opportunity to feel connected and safe in this world.”
Milroy’s day job is as a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at UWA, and she brings her concern for children’s welfare to her writing and illustrating.
“For me, the story has to involve sort of who you are and how you are in the world.
“And that allows you to then explore issues around the emotions and challenges that you may face and how you develop your own sort of resilience.
Milroy’s books, including her latest Backyard Beasties, have a familiar feel to them
as they explore nature and stories of connection. She has five published with Fremantle Press, and another five through Magabala Books, but says there’s another 20 or so stories waiting in the wings.
Her upcoming book, Bush Birds, is due in April and has beautiful illustrations drawing on her Indigenous background.
“I grew up on Indigenous storytelling, and Aboriginal storytelling is about everything being in relationship with each other and being in balance,” says Milroy, whose mother came from the Pilbara.
“Most of my stories are through animal characters. It might be a bird, or a or a dingo, or even a crocodile.
“It’s about how we understand people and communities, in relationships through our animal characters, and their relationship to the rest of the universe.
“Everything is in relationship with each other, including the stars and the earth and the rivers and the oceans, as well as the trees and the rocks, and the animals and the birds.
“And that’s what they’re really based around – how do we all fit together? How do we look after each other? And how do we understand how to look after each other as well?”
Backyard Beasties Bush Birds
By Helen Milroy
Fremantle Press fremantlepress.com.au