Unearthing Secrets of Termites in Gurindji Country

21 March 2024

The Gurindji children’s picture book Tamarra: A Story of Termites on Gurindji Country has been shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards.

Published by Hardie Grant, the book takes readers inside the life of termites through Indigenous Knowledge, Western Science, storytelling and art.

Produced in 2021 and written in traditional Gurindji, Gurindji Kriol and English, this was a collaborative project involving University of Queensland linguist Professor Felicity Meakins, microbiologist Dr Gregory Crocetti, and artist Briony Barr, who worked alongside Leah Leaman and other Gurindji artists and Elders through Karungkarni Art and Culture Aboriginal Corporation.

The story and artworks explore how termites and their mounds connect different parts of Country, from tiny Gurindji babies and their loving grandmothers, to spiky spinifex grasses growing in the hot sun.

Ms Leaman said termites have had a really bad reputation with non-Indigenous people but they are actually  really important.

“They have a really big role to play in our society. We use termite mound as bush medicine for our children so they grow up strong and healthy,” she said.

“The book brings together Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science to talk about the role of termites in caring for Country and people”.

Professor Meakins sees this book as a part of the reconciliation process where people listen to one another, show mutual respect for each other’s knowledge systems and create together.

“Every part of the project was collaborative from the design of the project to the writing and the beautiful artworks,” she said.